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The Taylor Swift Effect

How America’s High-Profile Romance Reflects the Worst of American Politics 

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. Posh Spice and David Beckham. J. Lo and A. Rod. Tom Brady and Giselle. All celebrity/athlete couples. All the center of media attention. And their romances captured the imagination, hearts, and minds of millions of Americans. 

Enter Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. They are certainly the center of media attention. They certainly have captured a lot of mind share. But have they tapped into the best of America… or the worst of America? A country that used to cherish and elevate celebrity love stories is now scrutinizing their every move. And it’s just getting worse. Is this a Rorschach test for how we view the world? 

There seem to be three ways that people are viewing this budding romance. 

  1. Taking it at face value. The belief that this is “TLF” (true love forever) and that an engagement is just around the corner. That two beautiful and successful people have found each other. But this view seems to be rare… 
  1. Certainty that it’s a PR Stunt. Taylor Swift is being paid by the NFL. Travis just wants to be [more] famous. 
  1. Evidence that the system is rigged. The latest spin is that Taylor and Travis’s romance has been an elaborate scheme to not only rig the Superbowl, but to rig the election. While flattering to Taylor Swift that people think her endorsement can sway an entire election, it seems far flung to believe that she would need to be involved with an NFL player to have that kind of sway. And I’m skeptical at best that ANY celebrity endorsement means that much. Just ask Hillary Clinton. 

If you simply watch the news today, you would think that ALL Republicans believe some sort of conspiracy theory. The right-wing media is attacking Taylor Swift. The left-wing media is attacking MAGA supporters. And yet, you would never know that eight in ten Americans (according to an SSRS poll) believe that Taylor and Travis have a real relationship. 

So what is happening? We are defining those who disagree with us by the worst of us, not by the most of us. We are letting the loudest critics become the voice of everyone. At best, it’s dangerous. At worst, it is one of the reasons why we are so, so divided. The bigger question though is, WHY is this happening? I would argue that politics has become a team sport. We used to all be on the same team – Team America. Now we are on Team Red or Team Blue. And that changes how we view the other team. 

And so it means that no matter what, we will view the other side as “the enemy.” We will view them through the lens that we view them. So if you are the left, you believe that MAGA is a cult, susceptible to conspiracy theories, and incapable of thinking rationally. And so, in this case, just because a fringe of MAGA has become anti-Taylor, suddenly people who’ve never defended football or celebrity culture can’t stop fawning over this new couple. On the other hand, if you are on the right, you believe that the left elite are trying to force you to think or believe a certain way to be accepted. And so, because Taylor endorsed Biden and Travis endorsed the vaccine, they must be, ipso facto, covert operatives for the other side, forcing their opinion on America and Americans. 

At its core, politics has been turned into a game and now we are all trying to be on the ‘right’ team or the better team because the other side must be bad, malicious, and nefarious. In a more sane time, none of these issues would have even been discussed because they would be so absurd on their face. But in this new world, we have people theorizing Taylor is a psyop plant from the government to tilt an election. 

Until we stop turning every part of our culture into a game of us versus them, this endless cycle will continue. If the right likes something, it must be crazy or shortsighted. If the left likes something, it must be bad. We define opposition by the worst of it, not the best. 

I am not sure what the answer is, but perhaps we all need to take a step back and remember that all of us–all Americans–are actually on the same team. Only by taking that step can we engage in the internal teamwork needed to make our country better, rather than trying to conquer our fellow Americans as opponents. So as Taylor Swift would say, the haters going to hate, hate, hate. Shake them off. Because the haters don’t need to define of us. We are better than that.