Our Weird Politics
Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce, and MAGA.
I rarely look at Twitter (or, if you prefer, X)* these days, but I occasionally still take a scroll. On Tuesday I was greeted by a deluge of MAGA types being upset about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. The weirdest was some self-identified comedian who was trying to suggest that Kelce was actually a homosexual (I did not bookmark it and I refuse to go look for it, let alone link it. It was pretty grossly homophobic). Another example was the suggestion that no man would want a 34-year-old girlfriend because of the limited number of years left to have children. Somehow the idea of dating a massively wealthy, attractive female pop star was to be considered a strange thing for an athlete to be doing.
It just seemed utterly bizarre. I seem to recall an American archetype of the star quarterback dating the head cheerleader, which is, save for a few tweaks, the story that we have been witnessing this season at Arrowhead Stadium. I am not a big “lifestyle of the rich and famous”/celebrity gossip kind of guy, but I have found all of this to be utterly innocuous.
However, as my scroll down Twitter lane indicated, the Swift-Kelce thing had become part of our politics.
Via the NYT: Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce and a MAGA Meltdown.
The conspiracy theories coming out of the Make America Great Again contingent were already legion: that Ms. Swift is a secret agent of the Pentagon; that she is bolstering her fan base in preparation for her endorsement of President Biden’s re-election; or that she and Mr. Kelce are a contrived couple, assembled to boost the N.F.L. or Covid vaccines or Democrats or whatever.
“I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month,” Vivek Ramaswamy, the conspiratorial presidential candidate, turned Trump surrogate, pondered on social media on Monday. “And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall.”
The pro-Trump broadcaster Mike Crispi led off on Sunday by claiming that the National Football League is “rigged” in order to spread “Democrat propaganda”: “Calling it now: KC wins, goes to Super Bowl, Swift comes out at the halftime show and ‘endorses’ Joe Biden with Kelce at midfield.”
More on the Pentagon theory (via NPR):
Unfounded claims about Swift’s alleged role as a government plant have been swirling for some time. Last month, Fox News host Jesse Watters speculated that Swift might be a Pentagon “psyop” — an asset used for psychological operations.
“Is Swift a front for a covert political agenda?” he asked. While noting that he had no evidence, he pointed to Swift’s endorsement of Biden in 2020 and her recent encouragement that fans register to vote, which led to a surge in registrations. The Pentagon rejected Watters’ claim.
This is all, of course, bizarre.
So, yes, Swift has endorsed Democrats and encouraged people to register to vote. This is hardly revolutionary. Meanwhile, Kelce has been pro-vaccine and has appeared in a Pfizer commercial for Covid vaccines. That this is considered politically salient is a sign of our times, and demonstrates that in many ways we are being driven not by substantive disagreements over policy, but instead by signifiers and symbols. This is especially true of MAGA, as the story driving this post demonstrates.
This all feels like a vague culture war kerfuffle that seems to be piggybacking on general griping that I have seen about TV networks showing Swift too much during Chiefs’ games. However, exactly what the big deal is has always escaped me, save that sports fans do love to gripe. I will also say that it feels (and I keep using that word deliberately) misogynistic (i.e., a “who let the girl into the clubhouse?” kind of vibe). There also is an undercurrent of objecting to a female who overtly uses her sexuality as part of her appeal.
I will say that it strikes me very much as part of the broader cablenewsification of American politics. It is a cheap, easy thing for talking heads to talk about, which is very much of a piece with Trump’s general approach to politics at his rallies. And, again, it has a certain culture war aspect to it. It is certainly telling that this topic has ignited a host of MAGA-related actors, including folks on Fox News (and other right-wing news outlets), Ramaswamy, and a host of folks on Twitter.
More via Politico: MAGA World Is About to Meet Taylor Swift’s Fandom. It Won’t Go Well and The Hill: Who wants Taylor Swift’s endorsement? Who wouldn’t, says former recipient.
I have to admit that while I can see attacking Taylor Swift might be an applause line at rallies and would also appeal to the demographic that watches Sean Hannity, I am having a hard time seeing how it is a politically astute move if the goal is to win a close election in November.
*I would note that the URL is still twitter.com, even if you surf there by typing in x.com.