Could Swift be looking at making history beyond the Grammys?
The political consultant who helped elect Bill Clinton president says that Taylor Swift has an unheard of 93% ‘very good’ public approval. What would that mean in a political endorsement? Better still, what would that mean if the world’s most popular woman chose to do something more serious with her life?
By TONY CASTRO
Famed political strategist James Carville may have the best insight into everyone from ungracious music mogul Jay-Z to rightwing losers like conservative cable news pundits and online influencers hating on Taylor Swift, especially on the week of the Super Bowl and as the 2024 presidential campaign unfolds.
Carville, the political consultant, author and pundit who gained national attention as the lead strategist in Bill Clinton winning the 1992 presidential campaign, calls those Swift haters “incels… People who are involuntarily celibate… who want to get laid, but they can’t.”
“My wife (once) said to me, ‘James, you actually love fools.’ And yeah I do. I think that appreciating fools is the secret to a happy life. You don’t get upset because it’s so stupid that it’s actually entertaining. So please be endlessly entertained at the fools and incels and losers, and I don’t know what the f–k they are attacking some young person from Pennsylvania and her boyfriend, who’s this great football player. But don’t get mad at this thing. Relax.”
So here we are, Super Bowl week, just days after the South Carolina Presidential Primary, with so much focused on Taylor Swift that she has stolen the thunder not only from the Grammys where she made history as well the Super Bowl this Sunday but also from right wingers’ fears that she could tilt the election with a simple public endorsement.
“She has a 93% ‘very good’ approval rating,” says Carville. “What’s there not to like about Ms. Swift? I have no idea. I didn’t get the memo.”
What does all this mean?
I watched the Grammys Sunday night stranded, because of the weather, at a Beverly Hills hotel bar with a couple of conservative political consultants — nothing like the Louisiana-born James Carville, nicknamed the “Ragin’ Cajun” — except that they, too, had strong opinions about Taylor Swift.
“I just hope she sticks to music,” one of the consultants told me over a double Chivas. “Imagine if she got into politics.”
“She could’ve been elected president this year,” the other consultant chimed in. As I said, these were serious scotch drinkers. “She turns 35 in December. It’s actually constitutionally permissible for someone to run for president who is not yet 35. You know, the constitutional age eligibility requirement is about serving as president, not running for president, or even being elected resident. She would’ve been 35 by the time her term began next January 20. So, yeah, imagine if she had wanted to run for president. Or, if she were to decide to run in 2028.”
It was the Chivas talking, I figured, though they mentioned the same 93% “very good” polling approval rating that Carville had brought up. But who’s to say that her tremendous popularity in pop culture could transfer over into the political arena.
I remembered an unusual story last week in The New York Times. The Times assigned a reporter to spend untold hours researching concert scheduling, airline flights, time changes between Tokyo and the West Coast, charter jet availability, ground travel times from airports to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas just to see if Swift could indeed finish a concert in Japan on Saturday night and get to the Super Bowl game in time for the kickoff.
The New York Times concluded that, yes indeed, Swift would be able to jump on a flight after her Saturday night concert in Japan and make the long trip to the U.S. in plenty of time to watch boyfriend Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs defend their Super Bowl title.
The Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., even posted a message on X, formerly Twitter, to assure the hundreds of millions of Swifties that:
“Despite the 12-hour flight and 17-hour time difference, the Embassy can confidently Speak Now to say that if she departs Tokyo in the evening after her concert, she should comfortably arrive in Las Vegas before the Super Bowl begins.”
Airlines, by the way, have taken notice and changed flight numbers to reflect Kelce and Swift’s relationship. Both Kelce and Swift were born in 1989 — also the name of one of her albums. American’s Flight 1989 is scheduled to run twice from Kansas City, Missouri, to Las Vegas on Feb. 9 and Feb. 10.
All because America and the world dwell on pop superstar Taylor Swift, not to mention her 280 million Instagram followers. Call it Swifties Power. She is the world’s most famous and influential cultural icon whom cultural critic Greil Marcus notes “wears the American flag on her face” — red lips, white skin, and blue eyes.
So, yeah, All the news that’s fit to print. Isn’t that still the motto of The New York Times?
And that’s why Fox News pundits, rightwing online influencers and the two conservative political consultants with whom I watched the Grammys are so worried about Swift.
They were also talking nonsense. One of them even speculated on an incredible scenario:
President Biden making a headline grabbing decision at the Democratic national convention, Kamala Harris from the ticket in favor of Taylor Swift as his running mate to assure winning re-election in November.
To which his partner added: “Too bad Biden isn’t known as Tippecanoe. They could campaign as ‘Tippecanoe and Taylor, too.’”
They were too full of themselves, and of Chivas Regal.
“William Henry Harrison’s running mate was named Tyler — John Tyler,” I said. “Not Taylor.”
They reacted, as if they didn’t know what I was talking about. Could it have been that they didn’t know what they were talking about?
“Their presidential campaign slogan in 1840 was ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler, too,’” I said. “I know to some people that slogan might sound like the title of a cartoon or an old movie. But you guys are in the politics business, and you should know that it was an actual political slogan in a presidential campaign that ousted President Martin Van Buren from office.”
The consultant who was downing double Chivas like it was water asked me if I had ever heard of a film from the 1950s called Wild in the Streets.
“That film was actually from 1968,” I said. “Christopher Jones, a charismatic, rising star often compared to James Dean, plays an American pop superstar named Max Frost who’s so superstar famous that he incites the youth of the country to revolt, and they elect him president. Just so you know: In real life, Christopher Jones walked away from Hollywood two years later. I interviewed him ten years after he made Wild in the Streets. He claimed he was having an affair with Sharon Tate in 1968 when the Manson family killed her, and he was convinced the baby she was carrying might’ve been his, not Roman Polanski’s.”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” Mr. Chivas said. “That kind of fame and following is potentially dangerous.”
“I know,” I said. “We have January 6, 2021, to prove it.”
The two consultants didn’t say a word.
Fortunately, my ride finally arrived. She looked radiant in Giorgio Armani Privé, like she belonged at the Grammys, which is where she had been, helping style a client. Talk about momentarily stealing the thunder. The two consultants competed to introduce themselves.
“Your daughter?” One of them asked me.
It made my wife’s day, as often happens.
“Thank you. That’s so kind of you,” she said. “But I’ll have you know, I’m a grandmother.”
The look on their faces was priceless.
As the Ragin’ Cajun might say: It’s a New World out there.
Tony Castro, the former award winning Los Angeles columnist and author of CHICANO POWER (E.P. Dutton, 1974), is an editor-at-large with The Los Angeles Independent. CHICANO POWER will be published in a 50th anniversary edition in 2024. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.