Taylor Swift finally makes a political intervention – will it sway voters?

By Hannah Jane Parkinson

Not in my wildest dreams did I think Taylor Swift would make a political intervention. The singer has been criticised in the past for her reticence in this matter, in contrast to her former rival, Katy Perry, who toured with Hillary Clinton in the runup to the 2016 election. There were a lot of theories around why Swift demurred, including her popularity in red states (thanks to her country roots) and even her friendship with Karlie Kloss, the fiancee of Jared Kushner’s brother.

But now a Swift endorsement has come out of the woods in an Instagram post the singer made to her 112 million followers. She shared her intention to vote for two Democrats in the crucial midterm elections. “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,” she wrote, calling out LGBTQ prejudice and “systemic racism”.

It is possible that her message will carry greater weight given her previous silence, but also debatable whether she will sway voters. But she may connect with millennials, who barely turn out – in the past four midterms, just 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted. Swift told people to vote according to their values, as young people statistically lean left.

Swift isn’t the only pop superstar to voice her political views this week. Lady Gaga appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and made an emphatic, emotional statement on the issue of Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the supreme court and the testimony of Dr Christine Blasey Ford: “It was one of the most upsetting things I have ever witnessed.”

Social media has certainly extended the audiences of pop stars – Eric Clapton should be thankful his racist rant during a 1976 concert was pre-phone camera. Now, mass audiences know that Trump could barely scrape together a lineup for his inauguration, and that Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler sent a cease-and-desist letter to the president about using his songs at rallies.

It is also true that celebs are more inclined to be open about their learning experiences. When Lorde was criticised for a proposed concert in Israel, the singer reversed her decision and said on social media: “I pride myself on being an informed young citizen … I made the wrong call on this one.” There is more sincerity in that than Oasis chumming about with Tony Blair in the Britpop era.

Perhaps not all pop stars will have the effect they anticipate (how many votes did Gary Barlowsecure when he backed the Conservatives in 2015?), but the growing influence of stars can be seen in the backlash against Kanye West’s flirtation with Trump, resulting in his fellow musicians chastising him. John Legendtexted him: “Your words and actions have consequences.”

The UK grime scene, which backed Labour, was said to have motivated younger voters (though concrete evidence is scant). Stormzy’s Grenfell verse at the Brit awards caught widespread attention. Political advocacy, then, has gone cross-genre. It’s not just Thom Yorke writing songs about Dr David Kelly now: it is Macklemore performing his same-sex anthem in Australia before its marriage referendum; Green Day yelling “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” at the 2016 American Music awards.

It is not totally unfathomable why pop stars would hesitate in speaking out – Lorde was called a “bigot” over the Israel boycott. So I applaud Swift for her intervention. I just wished she had done it over the past two years. Her influence in other matters – her sexual harassment suit and her stance toward streaming companies – nod to what a useful campaigner she might have been.

Dogs know that Brexit will not be good for them

As the internet trope goes: “What did we do to deserve dogs?” This past weekend saw a “Wooferendum” protest, in which hundreds of dogs (including Alastair Campbell’s cavalier king charles spaniel), turned out against Brexit. “It’s barking!” signs exclaimed. I can’t tell you how heartening it was to see poodles wrapped in EU flags and pugs wearing berets. In fact, dogs not only raise the spirits, but, quite frankly, should be promoted to government.

The entire snafu that is Brexit sees politicians chasing their own tails and expecting others to clean up their own shit, so there would be similarities. But there are key differences: many breeds of dog are almost certainly smarter than Dominic Raab, and the ones that are not so clever would not be able to cause the kind of trouble that the European Research Group is intent on.

Dogs know that Brexit will not be good for them. The UK already has a shortage of vets; animal medicines would be subject to increased checks and holdups; and Michel Barnier has warned that pet travel will become complicated.

It is also true that dogs basically love everyone. They will sniff any butt. Accept any stroke. If dogs had social media, all their time would be spent on cat gifs and none on hurling insults.

There is precedent for dogs in office – and not just the Obamas’ “first dogs”, Bo and Sunny. In a Minnesota town, a nine-year-old great pyrenees, Duke, has been elected honorary mayor for a third consecutive term. In California, Maximus Mighty Dog Mueller II, a golden retriever, is mayor of Idyllwild. There are also two deputy dogs – Mikey and Mitzi. Politics is a dog-eat-dog world, but there are clearly pooches up to the task. Paws for thought.

‘Life starts all over again’ in the autumn

Speaking of dogs, I spent yesterday watching lots gambol along in my local park, as I also gambolled along in my local park, because autumn is here and autumn is a most excellent season. I am like a bull towards red leaves, and a sucker for the cooling air that is like a hit of Olbas Oil. And don’t get me started on the joy of roast dinners, and games of Scrabble by a fireside in a pub. F Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” He was absolutely right.

This article provided by NewsEdge.