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Taylor Swift’s voter push wasn’t enough to turn Tennessee blue

Swift’s anti-endorsement of Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn failed to sway voters on Election Day.

Taylor Swift performs during her Reputation Stadium Tour in Chicago on June 1, 2018.
John Shearer/TAS18/Getty Images for TAS
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Despite a wave of hype and a groundswell of voter registrations following Taylor Swift’s surprise Instagram endorsement of two Tennessee Democrats last month, Swift’s brief foray into politics wasn’t enough to turn the state blue in Tuesday’s midterm election.

Swift abruptly broke her typical political silence on October 7 to endorse US Senate candidate and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, as well as US House of Representatives candidate Jim Cooper, in her home state of Tennessee.

Moreover, she emphatically urged her fellow Tennesseans to vote against Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn, an eight-term member of Congress who had linked herself closely to Trumpism, with a campaign that relied heavily on anti-immigrant and anti-Obamacare rhetoric.

“I cannot support Marsha Blackburn,” Swift said in her Instagram post. “Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me.”

Swift also made a point to specifically encourage her younger fans to vote. “So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count,” she wrote.

Initially, Swift’s words seemed to have an effect. Although there is no way to definitively prove that an increase in nationwide voter registrations following Swift’s Instagram post was directly caused by her, many election-watchers noted a significant spike in registrations among younger voters within the first 24 hours that her post was published.

But Swift’s anti-endorsement of Blackburn may have galvanized conservative voters as much as it incensed them: Blackburn ultimately won the Tennessee Senate race with 55 percent of the vote. Swift’s favored candidate, Bredesen, earned 44 percent of the vote.

Swift’s House of Representatives endorsement, Cooper, did win his seat, but it’s worth noting that Cooper was an already popular incumbent candidate in a district that includes Nashville, which has leaned Democrat over the past decade. He’s held his seat for the past 15 years and on Tuesday won his district with nearly 70 percent of the vote. In the end, it was ultimately one of only two congressional districts in the state that voted blue.

In other words, any hopes that the singer’s stance might have weakened the GOP’s well-established hold on Tennessee politics were, uh, swiftly crushed.

Still, there’s an inspiring moment to be celebrated here in Swift’s reminder that even the most strategically judicious celebrity among us is capable of putting aside her meticulously crafted persona and putting up a fight for her country.

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