Portrait | Who is Taylor Swift?


Portrait | Who is Taylor Swift?

In a bitterly divided US, even a hyper-popular pop star isn't going to change many people's minds when they must choose between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. So why is everyone looking for her endorsement, asks WILLEM KEMPEN.


IT'S hard to know how many Americans are convinced that Satan himself is behind Taylor Swift's upcoming marriage to Pfizer Prophet Travis Kelce so that she can give birth to the Antichrist and unleash the long-awaited apocalyptic war against All That Is Good in general and Christians in particular.

Perhaps it is only an unnamed “televangelist from Arkansas" who believes this, as a meme on Facebook this week would have it, or perhaps there are millions such people.

But rest assured, by the end of next week someone will have done a poll to give us the answer. In the US, there is a poll for everything. (When is someone going to do a poll on the percentage of Americans who always chooses the most far-fetched options when approached by pollsters?)

Like the one just conducted by Monmouth University in New Jersey: it shows that more than 18% of adult Americans believe Taylor Swift is part of a secret plot to get Joe Biden re-elected. Almost three-quarters of this 18% believe Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2020.

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The conspiracies gained momentum when The New York Times reported at the end of January that the Biden camp was eager for Swift to endorse its candidate again. Equally keen to block such an endorsement or at least dilute its impact, the Trump camp began a counter-campaign. Someone even used the words “holy war against Swift".

The hysteria peaked in the weeks leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl, as the MAGA mob began to fear that Swift would use the opportunity to show her support for Biden.

They upped the ante: the romantic relationship between America's biggest pop star and one of its biggest football heroes is fake; it's orchestrated by the Pentagon so the two of them can together convince the masses not to vote for Trump. The result of the game itself was fixed. Taylor is a man, just like Michelle Obama. Swift sometimes lip-syncs on stage. Her sets are adorned with an abundance of occult and Satanic symbolism, but only the few know how to spot these. She wears padding under her outfit to make her bum look bigger (because she's actually a man, of course.) X disabled searches for “Taylor Swift" (way too late) due to the wave of deep fake porn in which “she" was the target.

All is fair in love and holy war?

Trump's response was slightly bizarre, even by his standards. He said last week that there is “no way" Swift will be “disloyal" to him because she owes all her wealth to the Music Modernization Act that he signed into law. Swift was already rich and famous long before he became president, however, and she officially endorsed Biden in 2020. She even made it known on Twitter back then what she thought of Trump:

So how did we get to the point where someone like Taylor Swift finds herself at the centre of America's Culture Wars?

Swift is now 34. She started writing songs and performing professionally at 14, initially in country but then also in many other genres before her own style began to take shape. She turned a bitter feud with her first record label, Big Machine Records, into a triumph by systematically re-recording all her music so that she would once again own all the rights herself.

Swift and her parents, who initially managed her career, grew her reputation with masterful marketing and a keen sense of what her fans wanted. The Swifties watch her every word on Instagram and elsewhere for “easter eggs", hidden messages with news about her next album or release, or just comments on the latest gossip. (Read what Fred de Vries has written about her.)

Early in her career, Swift did not make overt political statements, but that changed in 2018 when she publicly took a stand against Trump. This decision was despite her father's fears that she could lose half of her fans or that there could be physical attacks on her, as shown in this excerpt from the Netflix documentary Miss Americana:

Swift was already a superstar then, but she has since become a phenomenon. Her Eras Tour is the biggest money-maker in music history and is not even halfway over. By all indications, it has made her at least a dollar billionaire. Economists use the term “Swiftonomics" to describe her impact on American consumer spending. The University of Melbourne in Australia this week even held a “Swiftposium" where her influence was discussed. Her estimated personal fortune compares with that of even national economies.

To quote a poll again, this one by Morning Consult from last year, which shows that 53% of Americans consider themselves “fans" of Swift. Of this group, more than half consider themselves Democrats, with 23% Republicans and a further 23% who consider themselves independent. Similarly, an NBC News poll shows that 40% of registered American voters have a favourable view of her — higher than anyone else, including Biden and Trump. Even among Republicans, more than 28% view her favourably.

Most research suggests that voters don't let public figures guide them when deciding who to vote for. What does make a big difference is when such celebs encourage their fans to register or to go out and vote, something Swift is particularly successful at doing. When she encouraged her fans on Instagram last year, more than 35,000 new voters registered at Vote.org the same day. Not only are these new voters but many are in one of American politics' most sought-after demographic groups: white suburban women — and their mothers.

Compare that, for example, with the 11,000 votes that Trump wanted “found" in Georgia in 2020 in his desperation to win, and you begin to understand why Swift may be the single most important person in American politics, at least until November.

♦ VWB ♦

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