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by Billy Nilles | Mon., Oct. 8, 2018 2:45 PM
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Taylor Swift and politics haven't always mixed.
In fact, they never have. In the 12 years since she released her debut, self-titled album, setting her career on a superstar trajectory, she's remained a purposefully apolitical figure. It had been a shrewd move, one that served her well. After all, you can't alienate half the country if you keep your mouth shut.
Not even the contentious 2016 presidential election, a time when all of her contemporaries were making their opinions heard and she faced withering criticism from just about everyone for not joining in, could prompt the "Delicate" singer to take a stand one way or the other. Instead, we simply got a photo of her in line at her polling place on Election Day, with a caption that merely implored folks to exercise their civic duty and vote. If Taylor had strong feeling one way or the other about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton—and it stands to reason that, like everyone else, she probably did—she wasn't sharing them with the rest of us.
But that was then and this is now. And to paraphrase a line from the singer's hit single "Look What You Made Me Do," the old Taylor can't come to the phone now. Why? Because she's fed up.
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I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. 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 Reauthorization 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! 🗳😃🌈
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In a seemingly innocuous Instagram post on Sunday—seriously, if you didn't look at the caption, you might just scroll by the simply black-and-white Polariod of Taylor staring directly into the camera—she treated the world to its first major insight into where her head's at, politically, issuing an impassioned plea for voters who've earned the right since 2016 to make sure they're registered for next month's midterms while explaining why she won't, can't support Marsha Blackburn, a Republican member of the House of Representatives running for a seat in the Senate.
"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," Taylor explained. "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."
Throwing her support behind Blackburn's Democratic opponent, Phil Dresden, as well as endorsing a Democratic candidate for the House of Reps, Taylor explained that, despite her desire to support women running for office, it was Blackburn's voting record—one that "appalls and terrifies" the singer—that made her impossible to support.
"She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization 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," she wrote. "These are not MY Tennessee values."
Reaction to the post has been decidedly split—which is to be expected considering the state of, well, everything in America right now. Those on the left have welcomed her to the resistance, while the right has issued their age-old retort of "Shut up and sing," which is ironic considering their full-throated embrace of Kanye West and his MAGA hat, but we digress. In one standout tweet, former Gov. Mike Huckabee graciously permitted Taylor "the right to be political," but declared that she'd have no impact on Blackburn's Senate race "unless we allow 13 yr old girls to vote." Seems like a grave underestimation of Taylor's impact and reach, but you do you, Mike.
Of course, the question remains: Why now? What was it that prompted Taylor to break with protocol and take stand? The easy answer to that question, it seems, would be a matter of timing. As she notes at the end of the post, October 9 is the last day for citizens in her home state to register to vote in time for the November midterms. And you can't encourage your fans to vote, or hope to influence the way in which they vote, if they've missed that all-important deadline.
But, as Taylor herself alludes to in her post, there's more to it than just that. "In the past I've been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions," she conceded, "but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now."
So what were those events? The obvious answer would seem to be her assault and battery suit countered against disgraced radio DJ David Mueller, who had been fired from his job after groping her in 2013 and had the audacity to sue her and her mother Andrea for ruining his career, seeking millions in damages. The trial came to an end a little over a year ago, with the jury awarding Taylor a symbolic $1 and the singer dedicating herself to helping those who might not be able to fight in court as easily as she had.
"I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard," she said in a statement released to E! News immediately following her victory. "Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves."
And as she told a crowd of adoring fans during a stop on her reputation tour held on the one-year anniversary of the victory, her thoughts remained with all those victims who hadn't been believed. "I just think about all the people that weren't believed and the people who haven't been believed, or the people who are afraid to speak up because they think they won't be believed," she told her audience. "And I just wanted to say I'm sorry to anyone who ever wasn't believed because I don't know what turn my life would have taken if people didn't believe me when I said that something had happened to me. So, I guess I just wanted to say that we have so, so, so much further to go, and I'm so grateful to you guys for being there for me during what was a really, really horrible part of my life."
And for Taylor's first political declaration to come a day after Brett Kavanaugh, a man accused of two sexual assaults by women who much of the country and half of the Senate chose not to believe, was confirmed to the Supreme Court in a rushed process by the very party she's now advocating against? That feels like no mere coincidence.
"Huge congratulations to whoever finally convinced Taylor Swift to get on the right side of history," writer Kara Brown tweeted, prompting a quote-tweet from Taylor's longtime music video collaborator and close friend Joseph Kahn, who made clear who deserves the congratulations.
"Herself," he wrote.
Just as Taylor never buckled under pressure from those crying out for her political opinion over the past few years, there's little reason to believe that she'll kowtow to those now demanding she shut up, alt-right trolling be damned. She's always had a voice. And regardless of what she's saying, it's nice to see her finally using it.
Welcome to the world of political activism, Taylor. It's been waiting for you.