Taylor Swift Democrats
Conservatives are losing the "don't be weirdos" contest
Conservative losses among the upper classes have not been balanced out by gains elsewhere. Republicans have lost the popular vote in 7 of the last 8 presidential elections, showing themselves to be broadly unappealing to most Americans while nonetheless staying competitive due to the unusual quirk of us picking our head of state through the electoral college, which gives disproportionate power to rural areas. Conservatives used to be able to rely on their voters being higher in conscientiousness and more willing to show up during midterm and off-year elections, but that advantage now goes to the Democrats, particularly after Dobbs.
I can’t resist commenting on how the ongoing freakout over the Kansas City Chiefs making the Super Bowl perfectly encapsulates everything that has gone wrong. Taylor Swift may have endorsed Biden in 2020, but as Max Meyer pointed out after attending one of her concerts, everything about her aesthetic and place in the culture is implicitly conservative. Her fans want to be attractive and meet men. They’re not interested in changing their sex or cheering for urban mobs looting the local supermarket. If you simply give them some semblance of normalcy, they’ll be on your side and vote in opposition to the left and what it has become. But instead of that, they get conspiracy theories about the Super Bowl being rigged so Swift can then endorse Biden, along with whatever this is:
Taylor Swift at least has taken some liberal positions. In the case of Travis Kelce, the rage is simply over him cutting commercials for Pfizer and Bud Light.
We can understand Taylor Swift Democrats as men and women comfortable with their birth sex, eager to play the roles traditionally assigned to it, not racist but not feeling particularly guilty about the sins of their country, and who will naturally gravitate towards whichever political coalition comes across as the most normal, willing to let them go about their lives watching football or buying makeup from Sephora. People like this used to be natural conservatives, and especially given the Great Awokening, they still should today. They’re not, mostly because Republicans were able to overturn Roe and went out and created a cult of personality around perhaps the least normal politician the country has ever had.
When you point this out to conservatives, my experience is that they will respond that the left has freaks too. They don’t know what a woman is, worship criminals, and support crazy slogans like defund the police. The key difference, however, is that Democrats did not pick the worst caricature of everything their party stands for and make them their leader. Also, while no Democratic legislature abolished the police, state Republican parties are ensuring that women have to risk their lives and health to deliver doomed pregnancies. Each side has freaks. But the problem with the current Republican Party is that the most unappealing members of the coalition, in this case Trump and pro-lifers, are the ones in charge. Taylor Swift Democrats want to be mothers, but on their own terms, without being forced to destroy their health or give birth to children with horrifying medical problems against their will because they’re unlucky enough to live in the wrong state.
One way to understand the different dynamics here is to notice that when conservatives complain about liberals, they’re often picking on academics like Ibram Kendi or intolerant college students as the worst representatives they can find of the other side. Most people don’t even notice the material that makes the rounds on right-wing media. In contrast, when liberals attack their enemies, they’re better able to make their preferred issues salient by telling the stories of relatable women who have undergone difficult pregnancies, or focusing on Trump himself, as an individual who embodies everything that seems abnormal or defective about conservatives. And no, it isn’t “Trump Derangement Syndrome” to notice he is a uniquely flawed individual, an outlier in the degree to which he is crude, dishonest, and corrupt. The fact that conservatives often won’t admit even this shows what being part of an oppositional culture has done to their brains.
I think that if you asked a typical Republican partisan why smarter and more successful Americans have shifted left, they’d say something about woke colleges indoctrinating people. The problem with this view is that the kind of wokeness that has taken over the Democratic Party remains broadly unpopular. College graduates overwhelmingly oppose reparations and affirmative action, and believe sex is assigned at birth rather than something you choose. It’s true that a college degree is correlated with liberal attitudes on such policies, but Democrats aren’t winning more educated suburbs by running on Critical Race Theory or bringing trans into women’s sports. These positions are hinderances to leftist domination, but Trump and the Dobbs decision have pushed them into the background. Abortion is now far and away the issue that Democrats talk about most in their campaign ads, and they’ve as a result been piling up victories since the Supreme Court sent that issue back to the states.
What many analysts seem not to understand is that most people are paying a lot less attention to politics than they are. If you’re the type who closely follows right-wing media, you will see that Twitter and Fox News provide a nonstop stream of profiles of liberal weirdos. You see the 6’5 man with the receding hairline dominating girls basketball or whatever, and think why can’t everyone else realize how insane liberals have become? Yet, I think for your average voter who’s not paying attention, they’re not necessarily noticing the craziest leftists and connecting them to the Democratic Party. Or maybe they are, but the connection is a lot less clear than the association that Republicans have with their worst elements.
In addition to Trump and abortion, conservatives have created a broader culture of conspiracy thinking that involves a need to politicize everything. Leftists are the side that can find white supremacy in breakfast cereal, but conservatives have somehow managed to make their opponents look sane.
Much of the Swift paranoia has lurked on the MAGA fringes, with people like Ms. Loomer, the conspiracy theorist from Florida who declared in December that “2024 will be MAGA vs Swifties” and Mr. Kirk, who declared in November that Ms. Swift would “come out for the presidential election” after Democrats had another strong showing in an election that demonstrated the issue of abortion motivated voters to the polls.
“All the Swifties want is swift abortion,” he said.
Then Swift-bashing reached Fox News in mid-January. The host Jesse Watters suggested the superstar was a Defense Department asset engaging in psychological warfare. He tied Ms. Swift’s political voice with her boyfriend’s Pfizer endorsement to the remarkable success of her Eras tour, which bolstered local economies and landed her on the cover of Time.
“Have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this?” Mr. Watters wondered on air. “Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting.”
There’s something deeply poetic about this freakout centering around football, the sport that has always served as a symbol of wholesome American normalcy. The old mantra of “the personal is political” always reflected a major electoral weakness of the left. It revealed an inability to have any thoughts or passions that aren’t part of an ideological agenda. Most people don’t care about politics all that much, and feel more positively inclined towards whichever tribe doesn’t try to make them feel guilty about that fact. If you’re watching the AFC Championship game and try to steer the conversation to which players are vaxxed, most sports fans aren’t going to want to talk to you anymore. For a while, liberals were “that guy,” and many of their activists still have this flaw, but conservatives have increasingly neutralized what should be a natural advantage for them, and the way right-wing media is covering the NFL playoffs indicates that if anything the left can now win the contest over who’s more able to just sit back and watch a football game.
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