MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Taylor Swift and Kanye West Divide American Politics Again

Imma let you finish, but the Tay and Ye beef is the best political lesson of all time.

|||GARY HERSHORN/REUTERS/NewscomGARY HERSHORN/REUTERS/NewscomWhen she isn't singing about her long list of ex-lovers, Taylor Swift is staying quiet about politics. Indeed, her decision to remain silent on the 2016 election inspired lengthy "think pieces" and bizarrely angry complaints from observers who accused her of quietly supporting Donald Trump.

Until yesterday. Swift put the old Taylor to rest on Sunday with an Instagram post endorsing Tennessee Democrats. "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," Swift wrote. Her support for the LGBT community, opposition to systemic racism, and support for the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act meant that she would be backing Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen over pro-Trump Republican Marsha Blackburn for the U.S. Senate.

The Washington Examiner's Siraj Hashmi then weighed in:

Back up to 2005. During a live fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Kanye West famously claimed that George W. Bush didn't "care about black people." The moment became a staple of both pop and political culture. Now fast-forward to West's second infamous public outburst, which occurred at MTV's 2009 Video Music Awards. Swift, who was still in her country-singer days, was accepting an award for "You Belong With Me" when West jumped on the stage, took the mic, and said that it was actually Beyoncé who had the "greatest music video of all time."

West's previous condemnation of a sitting Republican president had already made him a foe of the right; his sex-laden lyrics didn't endear him to the traditional-values crowd either. And now he seemed to be attacking Swift, whose damselish looks and country-pop style seemed to represent a sweet innocence that Middle America easily embraced.

The rivalry was exacerbated in 2016, after West rapped: "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous." Swift responded with a speech at that year's Video Music Awards, saying "there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame." Swift's supporters embraced the idea of West as a villain; West's supporters accused Swift of white privilege.

But this year West declared his love for Trump and even showed off a MAGA hat. He also told TV host Jimmy Kimmel that someone needed to be "fearless enough to break the fucking simulation," and break it he did when he later paired a custom MAGA hat with a Colin Kaepernick sweatshirt—Kaepernick being one of Trump's bêtes noires. Meanwhile, Swift turns out not to be as conservative as some of her fans imagined.

So how does the political world act when the "fucking simulation" falls down? The responses to Swift's Instagram post would indicate that there is still a church in the wild.

Chalie Kirk, president of young conservative organization Turning Point USA, appeared on Fox and Friends on Monday to encourage Swift to stay "away from politics." Needless to say, that wasn't how he reacted to West's Trumpian turn. Like many other pundits, Kirk's knee-jerk reaction was to support the artist who shared his politics (West) and ask the artist who didn't (Swift) to remain silent. The left did something similar after West wore his MAGA hat in public.

The simulation turns out to be pretty resilient. The politics of the West-Swift feud may have reversed itself, but the knee-jerk nature of politics remains the same.

Photo Credit: GARY HERSHORN/REUTERS/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    It is so very easy not to care one bit about either of these people.

  • Don't look at me!||

    I do it every day!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Not only have they not divided America. They've barely gotten America's attention.

    I understand Taylor Swift's last record sold more than 2 million units in this country alone!

    That means 348 million Americans didn't buy it.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    What if Taylor moved to Macedonia along with all her 2 million fans and they applied for refugee status? It could be the start of a great media empire.

  • Dillinger||

    they'd tip Guam.

  • Eddy||

    I'm sure their politics are just as good as their songs.

  • Eddy||

    (That's right, you need to get off my lawn)

  • sharmota4zeb||

    :)

  • Don't look at me!||

    They are supposed to some sort of entertainment, or so I have heard. Who cares about their political opinions?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    I am so proud of Taylor Swift for courageously voicing her opinion. Like her, I am an opponent of systemic racism, which is one of the main reasons I always vote Democrat. I look forward to hearing her endorse more Democrats in the future.

    #BlackLivesMatter

  • Don't look at me!||

    Hmmm, no orange hitler reference. C+

  • Woody Chip Hurrrrr?||

    #BlackLivesMatter

    So you support Kanye West and Trump?

    /confused at parody account parodying itself.

  • M.L.||

  • Hugh Akston||

    Real Americans don't listen to popular songs.

  • Don't look at me!||

    That's right. We listen to cheap imported music.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It's Mozart or nothing, dude. :)

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Close, but Falco's song was actually Amadeus.

  • Curly4||

    Well that is Taylor Swift's right but then it is the right of the people who have bought her albums to decide if they want to continue to do that.

  • Jgalt1975||

    I don't think Reason would take a contrary position regarding people's right to boycott her over this.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Anyone who buys music based on the political opinions of artists is a fucking moron.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Entertainers are paid to feel.

    Lots of people vote their feelings.

    I can't say that I find it persuasive.

    If I refused to every artist who was foolish, I'd have a very short playlist.

    Worst haiku ever.

  • Dillinger||

    Showman feels for dough
    Peeps use suffrage for feelings
    Bubba is not moved

    fify

  • perlchpr||

    *applause*

  • DiegoF||

    So Miley and Taylor are both progs. I wonder if, in the future, decisions of Nashville insiders of whether or not to "go pop" will be driven heavily by political opinion (as at least one of several marketing factors). Because it sure isn't being driven by any artistic or stylistic considerations these days.

    And it works out well enough. Today the artist and his/her personality is the product for sale that can be marketed to generate revenue, of course, rather than the artistic content which can be enjoyed for free.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    To be fair, Miley was never country or even "country" like Tay-Tay. She's always been a pop singer, even if she has a thick hick accent from growing up in Tennessee. Swift's bread-and-butter, even in her early years, has been teenage girls, who are probably the last demographic in this country that will still buy entire albums from their favorite singers. It's why she's the last pop star that can consistently move multi-platinum numbers in the era of streaming.

    Swift revealing that she's a prog shouldn't be a surprise. 1) She hangs out with other post-teen pop divas of her generation, along with that walking potato sack Lena Dunham; 2) she hasn't been shy about invoking appeals to female solidarity, especially when other women target her for ridicule or criticism. If she's bringing up politics now, it's because she's determined that doing so will only help her sales figures with her primary demographic, and perhaps branch out to the childless wine aunts that previously made fun of her for brazenly airing out her dirty laundry in her songs.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>"fearless enough to break the fucking simulation"

    yes.

    >>>later paired a custom MAGA hat with a Colin Kaepernick sweatshirt

    hat/shirt combo falls shy of breaking the fucking simulation. respectfully.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    He was also wearing Juicy Couture short-shorts.

  • Dillinger||

    nobody said that. simulation broken.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Systemic racism?

    The Democrats sure do a great job in perpetuating that.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Both parties do it equally.

  • ||

    Does this remind anyone else of the scene in The Jerk where Steve Martin is writing out a check to fight the evils of cat juggling?

    Celebrities live in a bubble and continually demonstrate that they are almost universally driven by anecdotal evidence and self-interest. Why would any sane person ever believe that any celebrity had an opinion based on logic and reason? And why would any non-entertainment media outlet ever report on any celebrity's opinion?

    Or is this one of those click-bait things I have heard exist?

  • CDRSchafer||

    That and they are hopelessly out of touch. Celebrities are ridiculously insulated to the real world.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It must be difficult being Taylor Swift, what with all those complete strangers watching her every move and freaking out if she so much as gives the "OK" sign, but after a certain point, one needs to gird one's loins and stop being delicate. The key to freedom of thought is the realization that no one can cause harm with thoughts or speech. Without that conviction, there is no escape from the slavers.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    and support for the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act meant that she would be backing Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen over pro-Trump Republican Marsha Blackburn for the U.S. Senate.

    ...

    West's previous condemnation of a sitting Republican president had already made him a foe of the right; his sex-laden lyrics didn't endear him to the traditional-values crowd either. And now he seemed to be attacking Swift, whose damselish looks and country-pop style seemed to represent a sweet innocence that Middle America easily embraced.

    The rivalry was exacerbated in 2016, after West rapped: "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous." Swift responded with a speech at that year's Video Music Awards, saying "there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame." Swift's supporters embraced the idea of West as a villain; West's supporters accused Swift of white privilege.

    Ummm ... Do you guys remember the last time Southern Democrats promised to protect sweet innocent White women from sexually aggressive Black men who supported Republicans?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Indeed, her decision to remain silent on the 2016 election inspired lengthy "think pieces" ...

    I'm not sure I'd use the term "think pieces" to describe articles about what some pop start thinks about politics. More like "mental diarrhea."

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Why don't you point us to some of your well laid out opinion pieces so we can judge you as well? Lots of people don't appreciate opinion pieces, they'd rather be spoon fed by left wing and right wing media and talking heads.

  • damikesc||

    Odd. Michael Jordan was notoriously apolitical in public and his shoes sell better than NBA shoes do now...20 years after his last game.

    I guess that is something we should ignore. Alienate a nice chunk of your audience.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I appreciate that he even made it explicit. What did he say "Republicans can buy my shoes as much as Democrats" or something akin to that.

  • damikesc||

    Yeah, "Republicans buy shoes too". I dont get the point of a entertainers alienating half of the potential audience.

  • vek||

    In 99% of cases it's a bad move. There are some people, especially musicians, who make it "a thing" by being political. But I really don't see that working much at all for any actors, just musicians. It's basically just a dumb move on there part.

    Nobody really cares if somebody doesn't say anything either way... But as soon as you take a position, you will be attacked by one side or the other. Master Sun advised people to remain "formless and inscrutable," and I will take Master Sun's advice over any PR rep who works in the entertainment business...

  • Wise Old Fool||

    It's called freedom of speech. Some people will sacrifice a few bucks to get their message out. Not everything is about dollar signs.

  • vek||

    Fair enough... I often forget that some leftists are so stupid they actually think they're morally in the right with their positions. LOL I would give up my life for my political positions if it came down to it, and suffer economically as well.

    I guess the thing of it is that there used to be somewhat of a social code that these types of people didn't really go out of their way to make a point of their politics. That slowly but surely faded over the decades, until we have what we have now, where everybody basically shills for their political views. They tend to be leftist, but some right wingers do it too.

    I just like the idea of actors/musicians not pushing politics in general.

  • Conchfritters||

    I was always partial to the Grateful Dead.

  • MarkW201||

    There is no "Swift-West feud." There's just Kanye West shooting his mouth off, and Taylor Swift trying to handle the ensuing brouhaha with dignity.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    When it comes to music, if it doesn't involve insanity, clowns, or a posse, I'm really not interested.

    That said, I expect entertainers to entertain me, not share their political opinions. Even if they are libertarians, like Clint Eastwood or Kurt Russell, I'm there to see their work, not listen to what's on their minds. If they insist on making me listen to their steam of consciousness, they can pay me $200 per hour, just as they would a psychologist.

  • vek||

    LOL So true.

    I must admit, that like any person, I do find myself liking some people more when I find out their political beliefs are akin to mine... And disliking those that have dumb views. But it really doesn't stop me from taking pleasure in the works of shit libs.

    For some strange reason, a ton of my favorite actors have ended up being conservative or libertarian though, even before I found out about their political beliefs. I read an article once that basically quantified that male action movie stars tend to be conservative, so I guess liking badasses is probably why it turned out that way for me. LOL You can't beat Clint!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Lagging music sales requires something to gain attention.

    Who is Taylor Swift again?

  • CDRSchafer||

    No one compared to Swift Tail.

  • vek||

    Honestly, the world would be a far better place if all these musicians and actors shut their mouths about politics. I work in the entertainment business, and the vast majority are little more than idiot savants at either music or acting... Assuming the have a talent in those even, which half the most famous ones don't!

    Just as the political opinion of an 18 year old barista is most likely worthless, so it is for famous people.

    Also, it's just bad business. I would suspect with Swift she was either INTELLIGENTLY told to keep her views quiet by somebody... OR she may have been a moderate this whole time, and just finally been broken by all the TDS in the media, and fallen into believing Trump is LITERALLY HITLER, which made her feel like she HAD to "take a stand" for justice or something.

    She never really reeked of being a hardcore leftist from anything I ever saw, so even if she's been left this whole time, she was probably center left, not extreme nut balls crazy.

  • CDRSchafer||

    It would be bad business for a celebrity to endorse anyone other than a Democrat. Why alienate the majority of the industry? Besides, Republicans might run a small boycott. Antifa Democrats will literally try and kill you. Plus if you have any skeletons in the closet, the media will out them if you're a Republican. If you're a Democrat, they will help you lock the closet door and threaten anyone who comes close to it.

  • Lester224||

    "Antifa Democrats will literally try and kill you."

    I suppose Clint Eastwood, Vince Vaugn and Jessica Simpson and are shivering in their boots while the "Antifa Democrats" are banging down their doors. I'm just waiting for the report in Fox News.

  • vek||

    Uhhh, you are aware there are videos of conservative celebrities being shouted at by lefties on YouTube right?

    Even if they're not being gunned down just yet, I wouldn't be surprised if the harassment steps up. I'd bet my ass that if Clint Eastwood came out and started making a point of pushing his politics, he would end up with more people going after him too. It is known that he's a right leaning libertarian, but he's not CONSTANTLY pushing things either. If he were, I bet he'd be getting a far different response.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    KKK and white aryans and alt right are much more likely to kill someone than a bunch of 20 something bros who just want to beat up people at protests.

  • vek||

    Really? Because right wing people have gone and shot at the Democratic congressional baseball team right?

    The KKK basically doesn't exist anymore. There are various tiny neo-Nazi groups, but their numbers are pathetic too. There are probably 200 ANTIFA thugs for every white guy that's a member of such a group, if not more.

    And excusing POLITICAL VIOLENCE at protests is bullshit. If right leaning people were doing 1/100th the violence, people would be shitting bricks. ANTIFA regularly assaults innocent people, and nothing happens... For now. But violence begets more violence, and ANTIFA will likely only step up the severity of their violence. So I would suspect it won't be long before it turns into more outright killings.

  • Robert Zeurunkl||

    What strange days these are when the black rapper goes conservative, and the white, country girl from Tennessee goes all liberal progressive up in this biatch! Strange, strange days. ;-)

  • Wise Old Fool||

    If you listened to more than two of her songs you would realize she's liberal since the beginning. 99% of hollywood is left.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    She should speak her mind just Kanye Pest.

  • gordo53||

    Who cares really? Collectively, celebrities account for one of the larger intellectual wastelands.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online