A rift between pop singer Taylor Swift and Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn is making headlines again, this time after Blackburn warned that Swift and other performers would suffer under a socialist government.
“When I’m talking to my friends who are musicians and entertainers, I say, ‘If — if — we have a socialistic government, if we have Marxism, you are going to be the first ones who will be cut off because the state would have to approve your music,’” Blackburn recently said in an interview with Breitbart News.
Blackburn reiterated those remarks to Fox News reporter Brandon Gillespie at last week’s CPAC meeting in Dallas. She also revealed that she had reached out to the singer last year in hopes of getting together to discuss their political differences, which became public in 2018 when Swift endorsed Blackburn’s Democrat opponent and said the senator’s voting record “appalls and terrifies me.”
But the singer most succinctly described her opposition to Blackburn when she called her “Trump in a wig” in the 2020 Netflix documentary “Miss Americana.”
It wasn’t the only time that line has been used to ridicule a Republican. Last month, talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel said of Republican gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner, “Are we sure that isn’t Donald Trump in a Caitlin Jenner wig?”
While Kimmel’s remark about Jenner brought accusations of transphobia, Swift’s denunciation of Blackburn was one of the most quoted lines from the documentary. “Miss Americana” shows Swift’s evolution from a politically demure 22-year-old who once said “I don’t know if people really want to hear my political views; I think they just kind of want to hear me sing songs about breakups and feelings” to someone who was credited with an uptick of voter registration among young people in 2018.
In the film, Swift revealed that she made the decision to take a political stance because Tennessee is her home state and she didn’t want it to be known for values contradictory to the ones she holds.
In her opposition to Blackburn, she cites the senator’s opposition to renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (Blackburn voted for a Republican alternative, according to PolitiFact) and of her position on gay rights. Swift tearfully says that Blackburn professes to represent Christian values, but said, “I live in Tennessee. I am a Christian. This is not what we stand for.”
For her part, Blackburn has been complimentary of Swift, calling her “incredibly talented” and saying, “We’re fortunate that Nashville is the center of her creative universe.” She told Fox News last week that she had repeatedly tried to meet with Swift and wanted to “work with anyone who wants to improve the lives of Tennesseans.”
But Billboard magazine noted that she appeared to throw shade at the singer on Twitter by celebrating the success of the Aaron Lewis country song “Am I the Only One?” which mourns “another statue coming down in a town near you,” waning patriotism and growing disrespect for the flag. (On July 6, Blackburn tweeted a Breitbart News story that said the song had surpassed iTune sales of the song “Renegade,” which features Swift with the group Big Red Machine.)
Swift has said nothing publicly about why she hasn’t accepted Blackburn’s invitation for an in-person meeting that could help the two Tennesseans find common ground, like Republicans and Democrats have been doing in organized programs across the country, such as “America Talks.”
There is other precedent for civility between people who disagree, including last year’s gubernatorial campaign in Utah when Republican Spencer Cox and Democrat Chris Peterson together filmed an ad in which they promised to show the nation a better way to do politics.
“We can debate issues without degrading each other,” Peterson said in the ad. Cox added, “We can disagree without hating each other.” Both said they hoped voters would vote for them but said that in Utah, people with opposing views work together. Presumably, that could happen in Tennessee, too.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, has said he’s willing to facilitate such a conversation. On Twitter, he extended an invitation to Blackburn and Swift to come on the “In Lieu of Fun” webcast that he co-hosts. (So far, no dice.)
I am hereby making this a formal invitation to both @taylorswift13 and her senator, @MarshaBlackburn: Come on @inlieuoffunshow and let's discuss socialism, liberalism, and arts freedom. I guarantee both sides equal time, and good, respectful questions from our audience. https://t.co/TyRPNJcD9o— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) July 11, 2021
Others suggested that Swift enter politics herself. “If this keeps up, Taylor Swift is going to run for Marsha Blackburn’s seat ... and probably win,” Twitter user Adam B. Stein posted.