Kudos to singer Taylor Swift for getting political this week and urging young people to vote during her “artist of the year” acceptance speech at the 2018 American Music Awards and in an earlier Instagram post. Her words are credited with prompting thousands between the ages of 18 and 24 to register online at vote.org. (Maryland’s last day for online and mail registration is next Tuesday, though you can also register in person during early voting, Oct. 25th through Nov. 1.)
While the rest of us don’t have the same kind of sway as Ms. Swift — with her 112 million Instagram viewers, 84 million Twitter followers and 69 million Facebook fans — we should take a page from her playbook and hound the millennial and 18-and-up gen Z folks in our families to do the same. After all, this is their world now, and if they don’t speak up, large portions of it will likely be under water by the time they reach middle age.
That’s according to a sobering report released this week from a United Nations panel detailing dire results — rising sea levels, massive food shortages, coral reef die-offs — as early as 2040 if we don’t do something significant about climate change now. Of course that’s only terrifying for those of us who believe in science, which, as we know, doesn’t include our president. When asked about the report, he expressed skepticism over the credentials of the 91 scientists, representing 40 countries, who wrote it. Or, as he said “drew it.”
“It was given to me, and I want to look at who drew, you know, which group drew it,” he told reporters, giving us a clue as to how information is generally presented to him: in pictures, likely color.
But back to Ms. Swift. On Instagram Sunday, the singer endorsed two Tennessee Democrats along with basic decency.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
She followed her post up a few days later at the AMAs by pointing out that the awards there were given out based on votes by the public — as are the positions up for grabs in the midterm election Nov. 6. “Get out and vote, and I love you guys,” she said.
Combined, the comments made a huge splash, both because of her popularity and her earlier reluctance to share her personal views. She famously avoided talking politics in her younger days, saying at 18 she wouldn’t reveal her political views, because music was her forte, and at 22 that she didn’t want to influence the votes of others because, she said, “I don’t think that I know enough yet in life.”
She has spoken out on topics she’s feels strongly about before, however — including sexual harassment and assault, gun violence and music streaming services that are unfair to artists. And now, on the horizon of 29, she’s apparently ready to take on politics.
Ms. Swift’s Instagram post has been liked more than 2 million times since Sunday, and at least four of her albums have coincidentally begun to move back up the sales charts. But some conservatives who had co-opted her for their cause — like the right-wing white supremacists who imagined her an Aryan Goddess — lost their mind over the statements.
“What I used to love about Taylor Swift is she stayed away from politics. She was all about music, all about, you know, female empowerment,” Charlie Kirk, founder of the campus conservative group Turning Point USA, whined on “Fox & Friends” this week, questioning whether the mega star and highly successful businesswoman was even capable of writing the post.
“I wish you would not have done this,” he added, as if she were watching. “Stay away from politics.”
A few days earlier, as The Daily Beast points out, he was on the same show singing the praises of singer Kanye West, which whom Ms. Swift has famously feuded, for being a courageous, black conservative willing to support the president. “What I love about Kanye West is that he has been blazing this trial, saying it’s OK to think freely,” Mr. Kirk gushed.
Hmmm, so which is it, Charlie: Should all singers shut up and stick to entertainment — or just the women ones?
And is what she said really so shocking? Take away the Dem endorsements, and she simply urged others to get involved, to pay attention, to make informed decisions and to make sure their voices are heard.
“Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values,” she wrote on Instagram. “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.”
We should all be able to support that.
Tricia Bishop is The Sun's deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @triciabishop.