As I wrote last week, “we now live in a world where a narcissistic sociopath wants to be president again and only a global pop superstar can stop him.” Can Taylor Swift influence the 2024 election? It appears that some Trump supporters think so and they are scared to death.
The conspiracy (or at least one version of it) goes something like this: The Kansas City Chiefs will defeat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Travis Kelce will propose marriage to Taylor Swift on the field after the game in front of the cameras. The power couple–an anti-Trumper (Swift) and a COVID vaccine advocate (Kelce)–will then work to help Biden beat Trump in the 2024 election. And the NFL is working with the Biden campaign to accomplish these ends.
A lot of conspiracy theories often have some element of truth to them. For example, the Biden campaign is trying to court Taylor Swift as an endorser or even a surrogate.
Here is more on the story from Axios.
Now New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is weighing in. Here is a taste of today’s column:
“…there are two levels at which the online right’s reaction to this doesn’t make any sense. The first is that celebrities’ endorsing liberal politicians is just not an especially decisive part of politics. Swift endorsed Phil Bredesen in the Tennessee Senate race, and he lost to Marsha Blackburn by 11 points. She endorsed Biden in 2020 and he won, but nobody looking back imagines that the Swift factor mattered all that much.
If you wanted to stretch a bit to envision a real Swift effect in 2024, you could say that Biden’s distinctive problem with youth turnout and Gen Z disillusionment has created a rare situation in which a superstar endorsement could make a meaningful difference. But the idea that it would matter enough to inspire and justify a media-regime influence operation, complete with some remarkable acting performances by the faking-it romantic partners and some kind of game-fixing shenanigans by the N.F.L., is the silliest possible conspiracy theory.
The deeper issue, though, is that regardless of the electoral impact of a Swift endorsement, the cultural valence of the Swift-Kelce romance isn’t just normal and wholesome and mainstream in a way that conservatism shouldn’t want to be defined against. It’s normal and wholesome and mainstream in an explicitly conservative-coded way, offering up the kind of romantic iconography that much of the online right supposedly wants to encourage and support.
There are two key reasons for this self-defeating weirdness, both of them downstream from Trump’s 2016 victory. The first is the realignment that I’ve discussed a few times before, where the ideological shifts of the Trump era made the right more welcoming to all manner of outsider narratives and fringe beliefs (including previously left-coded ones like vaccine skepticism) while the left became much more dutifully establishmentarian. This realignment made the right more interesting in certain ways, more inclined to see through certain bogus narratives and official pieties — but also more inclined to try to see through absolutely everything, which as C.S. Lewis observed is the same thing as not really seeing anything at all.
The second reason for the right’s abnormality problem is that even normal people in the Republican coalition overlearned the lesson of Trump’s election. Having made the safe and moderate choices in 2008 and 2012 and watched both John McCain and Mitt Romney go down in defeat, Republicans made a wild-seeming choice with Trump and saw him win the most improbable of victories. And there was a reasonable political lesson in that experience, which is that sometimes a dose of destabilization can open a path to new constituencies, new maps, new paths to victory.
Read the entire column here.