Perhaps the only surprising thing about Taylor Swift’s endorsement of Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen this weekend was that it happened at all. Since 2016, the pop sensation has been blasted in the entertainment media for her “silence” on political issues—or, really, the only political issue that seems to matter, Donald Trump. Swift seemed to be taking a page out of Michael Jordan’s book by adopting the view that Republicans buy concert tickets, too.
So her entry into a contested Senate race has relieved the tension: T-Swift has finally, a gazillion headlines said, “broken her silence” on politics. Her shattered reticence comes in the form of an Instagram post, in which she informs fans that while she has “been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions” that “several events in my life and in the world in the past two years” have changed her views.
Despite Swift’s beginnings in country music, where the fanbase skews conservative, her support for a Democrat like Bredesen is hardly shocking. She’s not a native Tennessean—born in Pennsylvania, she moved to Nashville as a teenager to pursue a career in country. (Swift now owns homes in L.A., New York, and Rhode Island, in addition to a condo in downtown Nashville and a larger mansion outside of the city.) Bredesen himself is New Jersey-born and New York-raised, attended Harvard, and ran unsuccessfully for office in Massachusetts. Like Swift, he made a career-based moved to Tennessee, where he started a health-insurance company in the 1970s. Unlike some of the state’s neighbors in the South, Tennessee has a nearly even mix of native-born adults and transplants from elsewhere.
Both Swift and Bredesen are Nashvillians. Bredesen served two terms as the mayor of Music City in the 1990s, losing the 1994 race for governor to Republican Don Sundquist, who he would later succeed as governor in 2003. While Tennessee has gotten deeper red and Republican, Nashville has remained a sea of blue, highly Democratic and liberal. The city is also majority white, unlike Tennessee’s other major city, the equally Democratic but majority black Memphis. Nashville has recently surpassed Memphis as the state’s largest, thanks in large part to an influx of young and educated newcomers. You might call them T-Swift Voters, and they aren’t voting GOP.
Finally, there are the details of Swift’s endorsement. She notes her support for social causes like the “fight for LGBTQ rights” and the fight against “the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color.” The Republican candidate, Marsha Blackburn, hasn’t been particularly distinct from other Republicans on social issues. But, Swift notes, “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.”
Blackburn’s conservative voting record, put in more charitable terms, is certainly in line with a lot of Tennesseans’ values. Swift is channeling a different type of Tennessean: members of Nashville’s socially liberal creative class for whom LGBTQ equality and “equal pay for women” are high priorities. They’re the kind of voters who are likely already motivated to vote against Republicans and Donald Trump—but not the kind of voters Bredesen has been trying to lock down. One of the Democrat’s 30-second ads features interviews with “Bredesen Republicans.” Another shows Bredesen telling voters “you know me” and emphasizing that he doesn’t support New York senator Chuck Schumer for majority leader. And another has Bredsen shooting clay pigeons, calling himself a “lifelong gun owner,” and touting his support for the Second Amendment.
Swift’s high-profile endorsement isn’t likely to bring more of these kind of voters out for Bredesen, though it might help the Democratic party raise money to keep fighting in race that’s within single digits.