Country singer turned pop star Taylor Swift has historically never been vocal about her political views. Preferring to retain conservative audience members’ respect by remaining silent, Swift remained nonpartisan even in what is arguably the most politically divisive climate in the modern United States.
During the 2016 presidential elections, the singer-songwriter hinted at her political activity with an “I Voted” sticker selfie posted to Instagram. She left her own political views out of the equation, captioning the image with the nonpartisan comment, “Today is the day. Go out and VOTE.” The benign image made its inoffensive rounds to her 93 million followers on the social media site.
Swift’s image has shifted considerably since then. She discarded her sweet, universally-likable “Tim McGraw” roots for a weapon-wielding, leather-wearing, angry and dangerous persona that debuted in her latest — and edgiest — album, “Reputation.”
While Swift’s personal life has long made headlines — mostly through her rollercoaster of a love life featuring a string of A-list boyfriends from Harry Styles to Jake Gyllenhaal — Swift in recent years has been involved in her fair share of feuds, most notably with rapper and outspoken Trump supporter Kanye West. The longstanding antagonism between the two began at the 2009 Video Music Awards, when West notoriously interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech. West reignited the longstanding grudge in his 2016 album “The Life of Pablo,” in which he references Swift through an oft-repeated refrain that he “made that bitch famous.”
Swift quickly accused West of using her name and likeness without permission in a move many observers saw as self-victimization. West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, released tapes of Swift giving the rapper express consent to reference her in his album, contrary to Swift’s claim. Critics were quick to spot Swift’s actions as a racist attempt to demonize a black male for good publicity.
Swift became silent for several months before the 2017 release of “Reputation.” When she returned, it was with a new attitude, rebranding to embrace the dangerous snake-like image bestowed upon her by her critics. The controversial feud with Kanye West became a catalyst for Swift’s transformation from girl-next-door to edgy pop diva.
While general support favored West following the “Famous” blowout, both stars have undergone major transformations since then. The pop culture climate has completed yet another reversal of favorites. Taylor Swift is back to topping the charts, while the always eccentric West has alienated a number of fans through his unwavering support of President Trump, and his increasingly erratic behavior. His impromptu pro-Trump speech to the Saturday Night Live studio audience following his season premiere performance in September and a rant in defense of Elon Musk delivered standing on a desk to a stunned class of Detroit College students in October left fans genuinely concerned for his mental health.
Swift seems to be using this moment to her advantage, careening into public approval by placing herself in opposition to Kanye West yet again. As the once widely-respected rapper dives deeper into conspiracy theories, with sound bites circulating the internet in which West discusses slavery as a choice, the newly redeemed Swift has publicly professed her support for the Democratic party.
The singer has amassed 112 million followers on the site as of this year, and the quip in her bio, “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now,” doubles not only as an iconic line from her music but also an announcement of her blossoming political presence. The only other present feature at the top of her page is a link for citizens to register to vote.
Swift’s recent Instagram posts seem to be as much pastel as personal, a stark contrast to her dark social media presence leading up to “Reputation’s” release. Gazing demurely in a sepia-toned Polaroid, Swift calls back to her roots in the image accompanying her announcement.
“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now,” Swift writes in the photo’s caption. “I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love.”
Another image several days later of a red, white and blue painted toenails Polaroid picture was posted to Swift’s account. The caption is another call to vote, only briefer.
It seems as though Taylor Swift is on an upswing in her career, and the decision to “come out” politically seems devised solely for good PR. The timing of her political change of heart matches a bit too perfectly with Kanye West’s fall from grace to give the impression of pure coincidence. However, ulterior motives aside, if Taylor Swift can rouse people to get out and vote, it is vital for our country’s sake that she continues.