It’s time for young voters to pay attention to politics.
With the upcoming midterm elections on Nov. 6, pop artist Taylor Swift chose to endorse two Democratic candidates running in her voting state of Tennessee.
Although this endorsement may be coming from an unexpected source, breaking the silence is an important political action that has a potentially significant impact on voter registration rates and the mobilization of young people—two things the United States is in desperate need of right now.
Swift has, up to this point, not been known for her politics. She caused a stir in 2016 for encouraging fans to vote without letting anyone know who she was voting for. “I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for,” Swift told Time in 2012.
“I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives,” Swift wrote in an Instagram post on Oct. 7. “Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values.”
She also criticized Republican Senate nominee Marsha Blackburn, the candidate running against Bredesen. “Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me,” Swift said. She cited Blackburn’s opposition to equal pay, the Violence Against Women Act and gay marriage as reasons she will not support her in the election.
Although some fans disagree with Swift’s decision to share her political opinions, many responses have been positive. One fan on Twitter called her a “political activist queen.” Another said they are, “so glad she’s using her huge platform for good and speaking out.” Increased engagement among her fans is undeniable, and this is a good thing.
Political figures are paying attention, too: candidate Phil Bredesen has begun quoting Swift in his campaign, speaking out against his Republican opponent. President Donald Trump has weighed in on the social media controversy as well. He told reporters on Oct. 9, “I like Taylor’s music about 25 percent less now, OK?”
What impact does all of this really have? Should Taylor Swift endorsing Democratic candidates mean anything to anyone who isn’t a fan? Statistically speaking, yes, it has meant something.
Spokeswoman Karmari Guthrie for Vote.org, a voting registration tool, told The Washington Post they saw a significant increase in traffic, going from an average 14,078 visitors to around 155,940 visitors in the 24 hours after Swift spoke out. Although it’s difficult to directly credit Swift for the registration increases, more than half of the 169,000 new registrations after Swift’s post were in the 18–24 and 25–29-year-old voter category. This surge in young voters is part of Swift’s demographic.
Political apathy, complacency and avoidance have been a problem in the U.S. in the past; just look at the 2016 presidential election. According to FairVote, historically in the U.S. only 60 percent of eligible voters vote in presidential elections, and only 40 percent vote in the midterms.
Fans and followers of Swift have often wondered why she so staunchly refused to share her views in the past. When white supremacists claimed her as their so-called Aryan goddess, and during her groping case against radio DJ David Mueller, she still remained frustratingly silent.
Since 2014, Swift has openly identified as a feminist, but has done little work in this area aside from making a few public statements in interviews. However, those were statements and statements only. This post, on the other hand, is not just a statement; it is a concrete political endorsement.
For some time now, it has been increasingly difficult to stay silent. Following the 2016 election, Harvey Weinstein and the hearing and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it’s not an option to remain complacent. This is Swift finally breaking the silence in a meaningful and productive way. By putting her views out into the world in hopes of making a difference, she is showing her followers that it is important to take a stance.
This may seem like a small victory, but it’s a step away from political complacency. Right now, that is exactly what the U.S. needs.