Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

The Swift effect

Music | Could a pop star’s plea make a difference at the polls?
by Harvest Prude
Posted 10/12/18, 05:36 pm

With the November midterm congressional elections fast approaching, a number of entertainment icons are hefting their star status and huge social-media reach to rally their fans to storm the polls.

Taylor Swift made headlines this past week as the latest celebrity to step into the political ring. In a lengthy Instagram post Sunday, the previously apolitical celebrity pop star said she could no longer stay silent. Swift endorsed Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, saying his Republican rival Rep. Marsha Blackburn has a voting record that “appalls and terrifies” her. She encouraged her 112 million followers to register to vote.

Following Swift’s post, voter registration on surged, particularly among millennials, Roll Call reported. Just a few days into October, the website had seen more registrations than any other month in 2018. More than 159,000 voters registered since Sunday, with 45 percent of them between the ages of 18 and 24. In a statement, said Swift’s post might have “pushed many of those 18-24-year-old voters over the line to register.”

Not too long ago, mixing politics with stardom could be a potentially lethal career move. In 2003, lead Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines criticized then-President George W. Bush for his plans to invade Iraq. Fans responded by burning the band’s CDs, and radio stations blacklisted their music.

But the tide has turned in recent years to favor progressive views. Rapper Kanye West became the subject of much online scorn after a meeting Thursday in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump. West deleted his social media accounts earlier this week after facing backlash for supporting Trump in an off-air speech he gave on the set of NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

Meanwhile, liberal-leaning celebrities discuss politics on award shows, show up at protests, and air their thoughts on social networks without fear of career-ending retribution. Some conservative fans expressed their disappointment with Swift’s statements, but the president rather mildly said he liked her music about “25 percent less now.”

Other stars, including Rihanna, Mark Ruffalo, John Legend, and Mark Hamill, have also taken to social media to urge their fans to register and cast their ballots in November. “VOTE like our future depends on it!” Legend urged.

Compared to presidential elections, voter turnout slumps during midterms. In the 2014 election, around 41 percent of eligible voters took the polls, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The bureau reported about 61.4 percent said they voted in 2016, slightly lower than the 61.8 percent who reported voting in 2012.

Some signs point to higher levels of voter engagement this November. The Pew Research Center reported that turnout for 2018 primary elections surged compared to 2014. In House primaries, 19 percent of voters cast ballots, up from 13 percent in 2014. Turnout was also higher across Senate and gubernatorial primaries. This boost in voter enthusiasm may carry over to November.

Young people, particularly young professional women, tend to lean blue, but they also tend to be a notoriously unreliable voting bloc. A study released earlier this year from The Public Religion Research Institute showed that only 28 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 said they will vote in the midterm elections, while 74 percent of seniors said they will vote. A star-studded push from Hollywood icons might finally drive their millennial fans to the polls, but the success of those efforts remains to be seen.

Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci President Donald Trump (left) and Kid Rock at signing ceremony

Syncing paylists

President Donald Trump signed a law this week that will benefit nearly all musicians—regardless of their politics. The Music Modernization Act should make it easier for artists to collect the royalties they’re owed for music shared online. The legislation creates a new independent entity that will license songs for online play. The nonprofit collective will then pay songwriters.

At a signing ceremony attended by musicians, including Kid Rock and John Rich and the Christian band MercyMe, Trump said the law closed loopholes in copyright regulations that hurt artists. “They were treated very unfairly,” the president said. “They’re not going to be treated unfairly anymore.”

The bill was years in the making as artists, music executives, and tech companies negotiated a compromise, and they have more work ahead as they work to set up the licensing clearinghouse that will manage everything. —Lynde Langdon

Associated Press/Sotheby’s Associated Press/Sotheby’s Banksy’s spray-painted canvas Girl with Balloon

Still worth it

The British street artist Banksy made art history last week by activating a hidden shredder that sliced up a limited-edition print of his artwork as soon as it sold at a Sotheby’s auction. An anonymous buyer said Thursday she would still make good on her $1.4 million winning bid and take home what was left of the work.

The print was from a collection of copies of one of Banksy’s most famous graffiti murals, Balloon Girl. Sotheby’s said Thursday that Banksy certified the shredded work as his and renamed it Love Is in the Bin. Alex Branczik, head of contemporary art for Europe at Sotheby’s, called it “the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.” —L.L.

One down, five to go

Manhattan prosecutors said Thursday they were dropping one of the six sexual assault charges against former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Accuser Lucia Evans’ case was compromised when prosecutors claimed a detective on the case urged a witness to keep quiet with information that might have cast doubt on Evans’ accusations. Evans helped spark the #MeToo movement a year ago when she told The New Yorker that Weinstein forced her to have sexual contact with him in 2004 when she was a college student and a fledgling actress. Evans’ lawyer said Thursday her client was telling the truth. Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon insisted the district attorney’s office planned to pursue the remaining charges. —L.L.

In theaters

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer opens on screens across the country Friday. It has an 80 percent positive rating on the review-aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes. WORLD Magazine’s Megan Basham wrote of the movie: “The performances, production, and pacing of the movie more than do justice to the difficult subject matter.” —L.L.

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Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.

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  • JerryM
    Posted: Fri, 10/12/2018 10:43 pm

    I hope these "Hollywood icons" are indeed successful in sending more people to the polls, but mostly to repudiate the culture they represent and are trying to advance.  God have mercy on them and us!

  • OldMike
    Posted: Sat, 10/13/2018 12:46 am

    To me, taking political guidance from an entertainment “idol” would be about as smart as asking a street drug pusher to recommend something to cure your cancer. 

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sat, 10/13/2018 05:21 am

    We must remember that young Taylor is afraid.  She could hardly have come out in favor of a conservative candidate because those of the other side would have held violent disruptive protests at her concerts.  She tried to remain neutral but that was even beginning to sound like mild conservative endorsement.  She could have thrown the violent side a bone like Dolly Parton did. (when she changed the name of the Dixie Stampede) but that might not have been enough.  Dolly has angered many while not totally taking a side.  Again that makes her sound a little conservative.  Entertainers are increasingly under pressure.  Anyway most of what progressives say must be taken as expedience not conviction.  I have been watching the polls from Tennesee.  Not sure her endorsement is having the desired effect.  Remember if you offend conservatives it takes thousands to negatively impact your popularity if you offend the left it only takes about 15 or 20 violent screamers at each event to ruin you.  Again the tatics sound like Germany in the 1930's.  

  • Janet B
    Posted: Mon, 10/15/2018 06:40 am

    Re: Still worth it.

    I have often thought that much modern art was trash, but at least Banksy is honest about this "piece."