Following the backlash she received for remaining quiet on most things political during the 2016 election, Swift has become more publicly active, taking stands for LBGTQ+ rights and endorsing a candidate in the 2018 midterms.
Swift told The Guardian that speaking up to support a candidate in 2016 felt like a lose-lose situation at the time: she’d get hate if she spoke up, and she’d get hate if she didn’t. She also worried that she might tank Hillary Clinton’s chances with an endorsement, since she felt toxic and hated after her very public spat with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West over his song “Famous.”
Soon after, however, the personal became too political to ignore. There were two significant turning points for Swift: her 2017 assault trial — where she sued DJ David Mueller for groping her at a live event — and the erosion of LGBTQ+ rights under President Donald Trump. She also said she’s concerned over restrictions on reproductive rights across the U.S.
“I mean, obviously, I’m pro-choice, and I just can’t believe this is happening,” she told The Guardian. “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.”
Swift’s political awakening was coupled with the realization that she didn’t know how best to speak up at first. As she came up in the country music industry, the Dixie Chicks’ blacklisting after speaking up against the Iraq War in 2003 was a formative lesson for Swift not to engage with politics.
But since 2016, the singer has slowly but surely been making her way into the conversation. During the 2018 midterms, Swift endorsed Democratic Tennessee candidate Phil Bredesen for Senate, denouncing incumbent Marsha Blackburn for her record of supporting racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ causes. Swift name-dropped the LGBTQ+ rights organization GLAAD in her single “You Need To Calm Down” and called for the passing of the Equality Act, which would prohibit sex and gender-based discrimination in the U.S.
Her efforts are coupled with understanding that the Taylor Swift effect is real. When Swift told fans to head to the polls, there was a notable spike in voter registration nationwide, especially among young women. After mentioning GLAAD in her lyrics, donations to the organization also went up, The Guardian reports. Swift said that now, for 2020, she wants to pitch in responsibly, knowing she has a powerful platform before hundreds of millions of people.
“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!” Swift said. “This whole thing, the last three, four years, it completely blindsided a lot of us, me included.”