I realize this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but it needs to be said anyway.
It needs to be said because after decades of it actually being effective, too many people still believe that the political landscape is not affected by the culture. One of the main missions of Andrew Breitbart, God rest his soul, was to point out that “politics is downstream from culture.”
So you can imagine that when Taylor Swift made her announcement that she’s endorsing a Tennessee Democrat over a Republican for all the reasons you’d hear your standard identity politics driven leftist say, it irked me to see many on the right start asking why it matters, who actually cares, or more annoyingly, asking who she is.
You know damn good and well who Swift is because she currently has the attention and unnatural adoration of millions of fans all over the globe. Obsession over her music, or anything she does for that matter, isn’t as uncommon as it should be.
When Swift, who hitherto was mostly silent about politics, steps forward with the essential message that bakers should just bake the damn cake, that racism is indeed systematic, and that the wage gap is real, millions of people who worship Swift like some sort of pagan deity will feel the immense pressure of both their leader and fellow fans to agree and embrace this kind of thinking.
Then, perhaps inspired by Swift’s urging, they go out and vote based on these values they suddenly have.
This isn’t an unrealistic scenario. It’s been happening for decades now, and don’t think that just because Hollywood huffed and puffed yet still failed to blow President Trump’s house down that it’s suddenly going to become less effective. Swift is no D-lister like Alyssa Milano, or unfunny hacktivist like Amy Schumer, who ruined their reputations and careers a while back.
Swift is more than just a celebrity, she’s a lifestyle brand. Something that many people, especially young women, model themselves after. Her songs are more than entertaining for many, they’re an instruction booklet or a pardon for their neuroticism and bad luck. Swift puts into words what many feel but can’t express, and they love her dearly for it and go out of their way to show it. Her songs have made them do everything from sob uncontrollably to maniacal dancing. They sing her songs in the car alongside their friends at the top of their lungs.
Swift taps a part of people’s psyche that causes them to become tribal, and to love being in that tribe.
Thus, what Swift says about politics isn’t something that can easily be brushed off. Believe me, minds were changed and ideological momentum was gained with that Instagram post.
Those likely reading this post probably frequent news sites, listen to opinion and analysis and take part in the public conversation on websites like Twitter. We’re familiar with the news cycle, and if we’re familiar enough, can oftentimes see behind the curtain thanks to our knowledge of the facts, patterns, and tactics used by everyone in the media or Washington.
But we’re a small group of people compared to the millions who don’t participate in in-depth political observation. Most don’t listen to Ben Shapiro or weigh the opinions of Charles Cook, or read Erick Erickson. They have no idea who Ed Morrissey is, and couldn’t care less about what Rand Paul has to say.
They listen to Taylor Swift, though. They love reading Perez Hilton’s coverage of her dating life and talk about her goings on with their friends. They know all of her song lyrics by heart, who they’re about, and why she wrote them. They follow her on Twitter and Instagram and read every word she’s ever written on either of those platforms twice. It’s all part of being in Swift’s tribe.
When you’re not getting your news and opinion from anyone but a tribal leader like Swift, you get an awfully lopsided view of things that you’re much more tempted to immediately believe without question. As far as you, the tribe member, is concerned, Swift has brought you through hard times and good. You’ve bonded with people over her. You’ve been pardoned — maybe even encouraged — for letting go of your calm, rational self to celebrate her and her work, and it felt really good.
Suddenly, the person who has done all this for you says that certain things about the world are true. With nothing else mattering as much, and with very little in the way of contradicting her claims entering your view…
…well, politics really is downstream from culture.