Before the hotly contested 2018 midterm elections, when even Oprah was canvassing door-to-door, Taylor Swift broke her long silence on politics to endorse Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for the House of Representatives. But did it matter?
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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! 🗳😃🌈
The always-strategic Swift wielded her online influence to drive fans to register to vote right before Tennessee’s voter registration deadline (and, conveniently, after the end of her North American Reputation Tour). Vote.org reported a surge in voter registrations in the 24 hours right after her post. Some argued that registrations were simply increasing naturally as the deadline approached, but Vote.org CEO Debra Cleaver begged to differ. “Generally voter registrations mirror a state’s population, and we were wondering why Tennessee was even in the top 10 for a week because, population-wise, there’s no way to account for that,” Cleaver told Billboard. Tennessee ranks 17th in population. Vote.org’s voter registrations from Tennessee residents rose from 341 in January to 14,017 in October.
The “Look What You Made Me Do” singer’s plea seemed to resonate among her young fan base beyond Tennessee as well. In the five days following her post, Vote.org saw more than 434,000 new registrations, with about 65% of those coming from people under 30.
Ultimately, Swift’s candidate Phil Bredesen lost his Senate race to Marsha Blackburn by a nearly 11-point margin. But experts from both sides of the aisle agree that celebrity endorsements like Swift’s increase voter turnout by elevating the profile of an election. Midterm elections historically have lower turnout, but the 2018 midterm saw a clear bump in voter engagement, with a 49 percent participation rate as compared to 36.4 percent participation in 2014.
Whether weighing into politics hurts or helps her sales numbers remains to be seen, but Swift was able to use her reputation to drive young people to the polls who may have otherwise been too disillusioned with politics to participate. “For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100 percent on every issue, but we have to vote anyway,” she said. And the young Tennesseans did.
Featured Image: Instagram (@taylorswift)