As Donald J. Trump creeps (literally) closer to the Oval Office, some democracy fans have become increasingly desperate to shut him down once and for all. Many have called on Republican Party leaders to denounce the candidate, while others have beseeched a higher power: Taylor Swift. It is impossible to calculate how many Americans are depending on Swift to solve this election, but their numbers include at least two working journalists.
Adding to the chorus of Twitter eggs who beg Swift to make a political endorsement each day (“@taylorswift13 please use your power and influence to dissuade white people from voting for Donald Trump”; “@taylorswift13 who are you voting for? As a self proclaimed feminist, how have you not spoken up yet?”), the Daily Beast’s Amy Zimmerman decried the pop star’s “loud election silence” this summer. And last week, Fusion reporter Kelsey McKinney made the more explicit, tortured argument that “it’s time for Taylor Swift to say something about Donald Trump.”
Since Swift is a self-proclaimed feminist, McKinney wrote, she has a duty to speak out against the candidate who has bragged about groping women. (Swift reportedly also experienced a sexual assault, which McKinney argues makes Swift somehow more obligated to provide the public with her political opinions.) “To remain silent is to remain complicit in every hateful statement” Trump makes, McKinney insisted.
Whatever your feelings about the political responsibilities of pop stars or assault victims, this argument is not going to work here. If you think you can shame Taylor Alison Swift into dropping a surprise political endorsement three weeks before the election, you have bought all the way in, my friend. Two years ago, Swift began to embrace feminism as a marketing strategy, announcing in The Guardian her realization that being a feminist doesn’t mean that you “hate men.” Now, she parades around a squad of Victoria’s Secret Angels and Blake Lively and occasionally Lena Dunham because it makes her look fun and cool and supportive of other women, regardless of whether she is any of these things. Promoting girl power is good business. Denouncing a candidate who still has the support of 42 percent of Americans is not. To expect Swift to come to her senses and speak out against Trump is to misunderstand what she’s been selling all along.
Since she first rose to country stardom in the mid-2000s, Swift has studiously avoided issuing political opinions. During the 2008 election, she told People that voting was “really, really beautiful” and “so completely American,” but she declined to reveal which candidate, if any, she supported. In 2012, she told Time, “I follow [the election], and I try to keep myself as educated and informed as possible. But I don’t talk about politics because it might influence other people. And I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for.”
Swift knows plenty. She only attempts to influence public opinion, however, on issues that directly affect her. In 2014, she wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal lambasting streaming music services like Spotify for underpaying artists. (“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.”) Last year, she wrote an “open letter” to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking him to further compensate the artists on Apple Music. Swift has no trouble speaking up about a political issue, if the political issue is making more money.
Plus, because Swift’s interest in empowering women has been erratic over the years, aligning herself with Hillary Clinton could be a public-relations challenge: Katy Perry, the object of Swift’s derision in her mean-girl anthem “Bad Blood,” is a prominent Clinton surrogate.
If, in the next three weeks, Trump decides he wants to make pop music illegal (you never know), perhaps Swift will make a statement about that on her Notes app. Otherwise, Taylor Swift will speak publicly about an American election when Taylor Swift is on the ballot.