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Can Taylor Swift Move the Political Needle?

Taylor Swift
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Taylor Swift arrives at the American Music Awards on Oct. 9, 2018, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. 

Her first serious comment on politics may have a wide-ranging effect -- one that could extend well beyond the midterms.

On Oct. 7, one day after ending the North American leg of her Reputation World Tour, Taylor Swift made headlines not for her music but for her politics. In an Instagram post to her 112 million followers, Swift, who is registered to vote in Tennessee, endorsed Volunteer State Democrats Phil Bredesen for U.S. Senate and Jim Cooper for U.S. House of Representatives in the Nov. 6 election. She also condemned Bredesen's opponent, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), saying Blackburn's voting record "appalls and terrifies me." Swift then encouraged anyone 18 or older to register to vote.

While Swift has taken positions on issues before -- in March, she posted her support for March for Our Lives -- she had never taken so strident a stand. And her passion could drive voters to the polls, says Andy Bernstein, executive director of HeadCount, a nonpartisan voter-registration organization.

"It's going to have an enormous impact," says Bernstein, predicting that Swift's post could lead to "tens of thousands" of new people registering to vote, based on the response HeadCount has seen in tracking voting patterns from social media posts by other artists. "She did more than tell people to register. She went into why it's so important. When you speak from the heart, people notice, and there are millions of people whose hearts beat with Taylor Swift."

Another result of Swift's actions could be getting other superstars to speak up. "All too often, artists at that level play it close to the vest," says Bernstein. "They will have us register [voters], but they don't make statements as eloquently and forcefully as she did. Her post could impact not only an election but how artists use social media as leaders."

While Swift has received criticism, notably from President Donald Trump, Bernstein expects backlash to be minimal. "For every fan that theoretically Taylor might lose, she might gain two more. Her message has always been about empowerment and charting your own course."

Swift did not inform Bredesen or Cooper of her endorsement in advance, nor her current record label, Big Machine Label Group. But Big Machine president/CEO Scott Borchetta applauded her move. "She is raising the conversation to a new level for a generation that needs to act," Borchetta told Billboard. "Agree or disagree, the underlying message here is 'Stand up and be counted.'"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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! ------

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This article originally appeared in the Oct. 13 issue of Billboard.