Here’s Part 2 of my coverage of Taylor Swift’s excellent Guardian interview. I have to applaud the Guardian journalist for asking a lot of direct questions, and credit to Taylor for choosing to answer some of those direct questions honestly. Some of Tay’s answers were her regular “I’m the biggest victim in the world” stuff, but it sort of felt like she was only giving it a half-effort at times. The best part of the interview is the section we’ll discuss in this post, where Taylor goes more in-depth about politics and why she never spoke about candidates or political parties before 2018, and why she’s speaking now. She really does not want to be associated in any way with Donald Trump. Some highlights:
Why she’s more political now: “The things that happen to you in your life are what develop your political opinions. I was living in this Obama eight-year paradise of, you go, you cast your vote, the person you vote for wins, everyone’s happy! This whole thing, the last three, four years, it completely blindsided a lot of us, me included.”
She was surprised that people couldn’t see that she made her political beliefs clear: “I did, and I hate to admit this, but I felt that I wasn’t educated enough on it. Because I hadn’t actively tried to learn about politics in a way that I felt was necessary for me, making statements that go out to hundreds of millions of people.”
She didn’t want to become the Dixie Chicks: “I come from country music. The number one thing they absolutely drill into you as a country artist, and you can ask any other country artist this, is ‘Don’t be like the Dixie Chicks!’ I watched country music snuff that candle out. The most amazing group we had, just because they talked about politics. And they were getting death threats. They were made such an example that basically every country artist that came after that, every label tells you, ‘Just do not get involved, no matter what.’
Feeling voiceless in 2016: “And then, you know, if there was a time for me to get involved… The worst part of the timing of what happened in 2016 was I felt completely voiceless. I just felt like, oh God, who would want me? Honestly.” She would otherwise have endorsed Hillary Clinton? “Of course. I just felt completely, ugh, just useless. And maybe even like a hindrance.”
Whether she thought about whether endorsing Hillary Clinton might have made people like her. “I wasn’t thinking like that. I was just trying to protect my mental health – not read the news very much, go cast my vote, tell people to vote. I just knew what I could handle and I knew what I couldn’t. I was literally about to break. For a while.” Did she seek therapy? “That stuff I just really wanna keep personal, if that’s OK.”
She feels remorse about not speaking in 2016: “It was just me and my life, and also doing a lot of self-reflection about how I did feel really remorseful for not saying anything. I wanted to try and help in any way that I could, the next time I got a chance. I didn’t help, I didn’t feel capable of it – and as soon as I can, I’m going to.”
On Trump’s election: “It was the fact that all the dirtiest tricks in the book were used and it worked. The thing I can’t get over right now is gaslighting the American public into being like” – she adopts a sanctimonious tone – “‘If you hate the president, you hate America.’ We’re a democracy – at least, we’re supposed to be – where you’re allowed to disagree, dissent, debate.” She doesn’t use Trump’s name. “I really think that he thinks this is an autocracy.”
On Tennessee’s attempts to ban abortion: “I mean, obviously, I’m pro-choice, and I just can’t believe this is happening,” she says. She looks close to tears. “I can’t believe we’re here. It’s really shocking and awful. And I just wanna do everything I can for 2020. I wanna figure out exactly how I can help, what are the most effective ways to help. ’Cause this is just…This is not it.”
The only thing I’ll point out about her non-endorsement in 2016 is that it doesn’t sound like it even occurred to her to endorse Hillary Clinton… because it would have been the right thing to do, or because Taylor wanted to truly be honest with her fans. Even now, Taylor’s explanation for why she didn’t say anything (beyond a general GOTV) was all about how she would be perceived, or what kind of backlash she would get, and maybe a slight concern that her endorsement could hurt Hillary. At some point – perhaps when facing down a racist, white supremacist fascist and sexual predator – she could have just said “this is how I feel, I don’t care what the reaction to this is, this is me being honest and I believe in Hillary.”
Left unsaid: in 2016, Katy Perry (Tay’s then-enemy) was Hillary Clinton’s biggest celebrity surrogate, and Kim Kardashian and Kanye attended the big Hillary Clinton fundraiser at Scooter Braun’s house. That was why I always assumed that Taylor avoided endorsing Hillary back then – she didn’t want to be associated with her celebrity enemies. Which is an assy reason to not speak up.
I know I’ve devoted a lot of space to nitpicking Taylor’s words and motives, but at the end of the day, I’m genuinely happy that she’s now on the progressive bandwagon, and we truly need all the allies we can get. Taylor’s not a perfect ally, but she never claimed to be (and perfect allies don’t exist). She’s messy and she fully admits that she’s still learning about a lot of these issues. So let’s encourage her and all of the snake fans to keep going, to keep educating themselves, to keep voting and to keep paying attention.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.