Home A project of States Newsroom
Susan J. Demas: Taylor Swift doesn’t belong to you


Susan J. Demas: Taylor Swift doesn’t belong to you

Feb 05, 2024 | 3:35 am ET
By Susan J. Demas
Susan J. Demas: Taylor Swift doesn’t belong to you
Taylor Swift performs. | John Medina/Getty Images

Back in 2016, there were all sorts of clumsy fake memes claiming various celebrities were secretly voting for Donald Trump, including Taylor Swift.

It was a not-at-all subtle way of telling folks that it’s OK to be for the crude alleged billionaire who called Mexicans rapists and bragged about grabbing women “by the pus—” because your faves are.

Apparently, some Republicans really bought it — no doubt assuming that a blonde, blue-eyed, pop-country star who tradwife influencers model their looks after would naturally be one of “theirs.” And so anger has been boiling up against Swift ever since she endorsed Democrats in 2018 and President Joe Biden two years later.

“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 to her fans in 2018.

By 2020, Swift was far sharper in her political messaging, blasting Trump for “stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency” and “threatening violence.”

Swift is literally everywhere now, from her “Taylor’s Version” album rereleases to her sold-out Eras Tour (which sparked actual legislation regulating online ticket sales) to NFL games where she’s cheering on her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (which has attracted just a wee bit of attention).

Susan J. Demas: Taylor Swift doesn’t belong to you
Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift after the Chiefs secured a spot in this year’s Super Bowl. | Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Trump is reportedly preoccupied with Swift endorsing Biden again (which doesn’t seem like it would be a big surprise), muttering that he’s “more popular” than the megastar, while aides are chest-beating that they’ll start a “holy war” against her. The hope seems to be to intimidate Swift into silence or make the whole thing seem cringe to dampen excitement if she does become a Biden surrogate. 

But it gets weirder. 

The MAGA Swift hate seems to have reached a bizarre tipping point as she and Kelce have been hailed as the All-American couple, a veritable Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Real Americans are Trumpers, so the lore and Rust Belt diner-fed punditry goes. This simply cannot stand.

“I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month,” former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy posted. “And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall.”

And lo, this election’s wackiest conspiracy theory was born. Kelce and Swift, you see, aren’t two rich, crazy kids in love. No, they’re integral parts of a Deep State psyop to ensure Biden’s reelection.

Uh, sure. 

But when a not-insignificant part of your base believes the COVID vaccine contains microchips to control us and you’d be better off drinking urine or ingesting horse dewormer, these are the sort of hallucinations that pass for actual political analysis.

Republicans also have been increasingly (and sometimes creepily) obsessed with young women, who have been voting against them in droves since Trump’s 2016 victory and the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022. 

Republicans also have been increasingly (and sometimes creepily) obsessed with young women, who have been voting against them in droves since Trump’s 2016 victory and the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022.

– Susan J. Demas

Tudor Dixon helped lead the charge during her failed GOP gubernatorial campaign where she slammed her opponent, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying her “dream for women” was “single women working. Last time I checked, that was a pretty lonely life.” (The oddest part is that the governor, who trounced Dixon in 2022 by 11 points, is a married mom of two). 

Republicans steadfastly refuse to abandon unpopular policy positions that might help them win over Gen Z and Millennial women, like opposing abortion rights, birth control and even no-fault divorce. And so attacking Swift, the embodiment of successful young women in total control of their destiny, is just an extension of this right-wing fixation.

Even some conservatives realize what a massive political blunder this is, with former Republican National Committee Chair Reince Preibus pleading that it’s a “powder keg of stupidity.” 

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote an entire column that the right has an “abnormality problem” with its Swiftboating, as it were (look it up). But he couldn’t help descending into ickiness himself by musing that Swift and Kelce are “maybe the last best hope for America, we need them to marry and procreate.”

I wonder how surreal it must be for Swift, who, first and foremost, is a real-life person, to contend with so many people trying to stake ownership of her, what she believes and what she owes the world — especially when she’s devoted these last years to rerecording her greatest hits with her own vision.

To be clear, I don’t claim to have encyclopedic knowledge of Taylor Swift. I’ve been watching all this unfold as an outside observer, as neither my Zoomer kids nor I are Swifties. (Thankfully for you, Dear Reader, that means this column isn’t chock-full of lyrical puns, unlike Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State speech this year).

Susan J. Demas: Taylor Swift doesn’t belong to you
Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign event at the Orpheum Theater on October 29, 2023 in Sioux City, Iowa. On Saturday, Trump joined other Republican presidential candidates when he addressed Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual conference where his one-time vice president, Mike Pence, announced he was suspending his campaign. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

While some analysts may choose to turn their noses up at the Swift controversy, you can’t fully understand American politics while ignoring the impact of celebrity culture. Look no further than Trump, who wouldn’t have become president without being a staple in the New York tabloids and mounting his carefully crafted comeback with “The Apprentice.”

Hopefully, the right’s silliness over Swift will start to dissipate, perhaps after Kelce plays in the Super Bowl — although it almost certainly will be replaced by an even more outré conspiracy.

It remains somewhat unbelievable that the woman causing these unhinged meltdowns gave such innocuous advice during her first foray into politics six years ago:

“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.”

To be honest, we could probably use a little more of that brand of normie earnestness this election.