Taylor Swift is a most unlikely political firebrand, and yet the 28-year old pop singer is stirring up voters in her adopted home state of Tennessee like no one else.
In an Instagram post to 112 million of her followers (yes, that’s right, one-third of the country!), Swift writes movingly about who she is voting for and why.
“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.
“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. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.
“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.
“Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives.
“Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.
“So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting!”
Swift’s post has received more than 2 million “likes” on Instagram.
Celebrity endorsements have always come with some controversy and many have come with the real risk of losing fans. According to opinion writer Margaret Renkl (Oct. 14), in 2003, The Dixie Chicks, spoke out against the U.S. invasion in Iraq and “never recovered.”
Nonetheless, “…less than 48 hours after [Swift] posted her exhortation on Instagram, more than 166,000 people across the country had registered to vote. And while there is no hard evidence, no way to measure how much Swift’s post had to do with the bump, some details were telling: Roughly 42 percent of the newly registered are between the ages of 18 and 24, right in Taylor Swift’s wheelhouse. ‘We have never seen a 24- or 36- or 48-hour period like this,’ a spokeswoman for Vote.org told The New York Times.
Tennessee is one red state that is especially hard to flip. As presidential historian Jon Meacham observed (Oct. 12) from a recent debate, the contrast between Democrat Phil Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn “could not have been starker.”
The response to the last question in the debate by both candidates “shed light on first principles,” Meacham writes. “[both] were asked if the state would be in ‘good hands’ if the other candidate were to win.
“Mr. Bredesen, a former governor, was gentlemanly, saying that he’d rally around a Senator Blackburn in the event of defeat. ‘When it’s over, it needs to be over,’ he said. If his opponent prevailed, ‘it’s important for all Tennesseans to gather around and support her so she can be the best senator she can be.’
“Ms. Blackburn, a United States representative, declined to return the favor, denouncing ‘Washington Democrats’ and linking a Senator Bredesen to what Republicans see as a ‘Star Wars’ cantina scene of liberals: Dianne Feinstein, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Patty Murray. …
“For Tennesseans,” Meacham opines, this election “…is about something more than a Senate seat. Its outcome will shed as much light on the culture of politics as it will on the raw calculus of power. Is public life to be a perpetual Hobbesian war of all against all? Is partisan passion, stoked by cable news and aimed at keeping a reliable base energized and enraged, to overwhelm reasonable debate?”
(Hobbesian choice owes its origin to Thomas Hobson, a 17th century English stable owner who offered his customers a take it or leave it approach: take the horse stall closest to the door or none.)
“These questions may seem naïve,” Meacham adds, “for the age of Trump has been nothing if not Hobbesian.”
As for Swift’s message: it remains to be seen if her fan base will vote for Hobson… (excuse me)… Blackburn, or the more gentlemanly moderate, former Governor Bredesen.