Editorial: Taylor Swift: voting champion, politically ignorant



Taylor Swift performs on Dec. 10, 2017, in London. (Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment/Abaca Press/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Taylor Swift is well-known for her catchy music, flashy performances and sold-out concerts — but Sunday, her name made headlines for her political affiliation as well. The 28-year-old pop star took to Instagram Sunday, telling her fans to register to vote, championing progressive causes and denouncing the Tennessee Congressional candidate, Republican Marsha Blackburn.

But while encouraging her fans to vote is a certainly a sound decision, Swift isn’t quite the progressive champion her recent social media posts make her out to be. In fact, her championing of liberal causes reeks of hypocrisy given her racially insensitive past.

“I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country,” Swift wrote. “I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.”

But Swift is part of the problem. A culture and politics blog reported that a white supremacist groups were fans of Taylor Swift in 2017. Instead of denouncing white supremacist groups, Swift threatened to sue the blog for reporting the connection.

Swift also culturally appropriated black people in her “Shake It Off” music video in 2014 — wearing large hoop earrings and twerking, a dance move common in black culture. And the cover for her “Look What You Made Me Do” single drew criticism for its similarities to Beyonce’s “Formation,” a black empowerment song. During all of these controversies, Swift remained suspiciously silent.

Championing progressive causes is easier said than done. So before we praise swift for her liberal beliefs, she should acknowledge and apologize for the racial insensitivity present in her own work.

While it may seem unfair to criticize Swift so harshly for her hypocritical political positions — few rappers have denounced their misogynist fan bases and not many country singers have called out their white supremacist fans either. Swift commands a much larger following than most celebrities. She has 100 million followers on Instagram, millions of them rabid fans, so her insensitive words can rub a lot of people the wrong way — it’s understandable she’d want to avoid the controversy.

But on the other side of that coin, her good posts can have an enormously positive effect on people’s behavior. Her post on Sunday motivated thousands of her fans to go out and register to vote. According to Vote.org, there was a significant increase in voter registration after Swift entered the political fray — 65,000 new registrations in one day, compared to 190,000, in all of September last year. And most of these new voters are in the 18-29 age range — who had the lowest turnout of all eligible age groups in the 2016 election.

Celebrities like Swift have a tremendous amount of influence over the general populace, but that’s both a promise and a pitfall. If she’d made this announcement months or even years ago, she could have steered a generation of fans away from those which might use her music to promote harmful ideologies.

She may have swayed thousands of fans to vote, but her responsibility is to millions more — a fan base which could prove vital in defending America’s principles at the polls in November.