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Understanding the impact of Taylor Swift’s politically-charged speech and Instagram post

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Susan Devaney
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Taylor Swift is continuing to persuade people to vote - and it’s working. 

When Hillary Clinton was running for presidency in 2016, an extensive list of around 30 high profile celebrities publicly backed her. To name but a few: Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Meryl Streep, Amy Schumer and Elle DeGeneres.

But Taylor Swift – arguably one of the most influential and successful women on the planet – stayed silent.

Until now, that is.

During last night’s American Music Awards, after accepting Artist of the Year award, Swift – for the second time in recent days – asked people to go out and vote in the midterm elections on 6 November. 

“Thank you so much for this. And I just wanted to make a mention of the fact that this award, and every single award given out tonight, were voted on by the people,” she said. “And you know what else is voted on by the people? Is the midterm elections on November 6. Get out and vote, I love you guys.”

The move comes after the singer took to Instagram on Sunday 7 October – two days before voters’ registration in America closed – sharing her political stance for the first time.

Not only did she reveal that she will be voting for “Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives” in her home state of Tennessee, but she also hushed the haters by disclosing that she, too, was on Clinton’s side back in 2016 because she’ll be voting Democrat this month. But, more importantly, she wants her fans (and 112 million Instagram followers) to follow suit, by urging them to register to vote. 

And her persuasive powers are working. According to Kamari Guthrie, the director of communications for vote.org, there were 65,000 registrations in the 24-hour period after Swift’s Instagram post went live. Of the 5,183 voter registrations in Tennessee this month, at least 2,144 occurred after Swift posted her statement to Instagram on Sunday. And an increase in voter registration nationwide was recorded, too.

The post, which has now clocked up nearly two million likes – including from other celebrities, Katy Perry, Chrissy Teigen and Reese Witherspoon – revealed that Swift had previously refrained from stating her political voting habits but “several events in the world in the past two years” had led her to change her mind.

In 2012, Swift told Time Magazine that she didn’t publicly discuss politics “because it might influence other people”.

“I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for,” she said at the time. 

But what a difference a few years make because Swift has now made one thing very clear: she wants to see political change, and she’s going to use her power to make it happen.

Of course, her move into the political arena has been met with both praise and fury – especially from Donald Trump who told reporters that he likes “Taylor’s music about 25% less now” because she won’t be voting for Republican Marsha Blackburn (whose voting record both “terrifies” and “appalls” Swift).

Charlie Kirk, president of conservative group Turning Point USA, tweeted: “You just endorsed a Democrat in the Tennessee senate race with a ridiculous statement saying Marsha Blackburn, a woman, is against women. You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Your career has never recovered since Kanye ended it.”

However, When Harry Met Sally director Rob Reiner showed his support for Swift, tweeting: “A big shout out to Taylor Swift for speaking out. You can single handedly change this country. Impress on your fans how critical and powerful their voices are. If you get them to the polls on Nov 6, everything you care about will be protected.”

But, the thing is, Swift’s silence drew just as much vitriol as her current decision to speak out. And if the past two years have proven anything, it’s that influential and persuasive powers are needed more than ever for the current political climate to shift.

Images: Getty / Instagram 

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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