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Forget Psyop, Taylor Swift Could Be President Within My Lifetime [Op-Ed]

Holly Rankin (Jack River) looks at whether Taylor Swift may soon decide to take on Donald Trump for the US Presidency

Taylor Swift

Taylor Hill/TAS23/Getty Images

The MAGA fury over Taylor Swift, her takeover of the world, American culture, and the American economy is no miscalculation: it’s entirely plausible that she could be president within my lifetime.

For months now there has been a stirring over a potentially secret deal between the Democrats and Swift to coerce voters to the left at the upcoming 2024 election, with the far right going so far as to say that Swift’s relationship with Travis Kelce is a political psyop

And while there are plenty of ties between Swift and the Democrats, she could have a far bigger political role to play. 

Mobilising America

On the day of its release, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) set a 2023 record as Spotify’s most-streamed album in a single day. Her ‘Eras’ tour is estimated to have boosted the US economy by $4.6 billion; the highest grossing tour in history. As of this month, Taylor has won Album of the Year at the Grammys more times than any artist in the awards’ history. Taylor moves audiences digitally and economically like no other individual in recorded history. 

The “Taylor Swift effect” is undeniable, with economists pointing to her influence on economic growth, and political figures recognising the boost she brings to local economies during her tour dates. By the time it has wrapped, over 10 million people worldwide will have attended the ‘Eras’ tour. 

Swift has 540 million followers across her social accounts (versus Trump’s comparatively paltry 146 million); if Taylor Swift was a world religion, she would have more followers than Buddhism. 

It is estimated that over half of American adults are Taylor Swift fans. Engaging in discussions about albums, music videos, and the carefully hidden messages within her lyrics, Swifties are known for their round-the-clock participation in online communities, social media platforms, and fan events. When she asked fans to register to vote in 2020, Vote.org experienced its largest spike in registrations, with 65,000 new voters registering within one hour. 

Swifties could be likened to MAGA folk in their behaviour, but with more glitter and less guns. If these are the numbers now, imagine what she could do with a concerted political narrative? 

Image: Taylor Swift performs at the MCG Credit: @sheisaphrodite

It’s business, baby 

With presidential campaigns costing around $4 billion, having a significant safety net and a network of wealthy people makes the run for office a damn sight easier. And, in the next two terms, Taylor will have accumulated the wealth and the relationships necessary to enter the race. 

If Trump is one of the richest men to run for president, let’s get rolling with some comparisons. The earliest records of Trump’s wealth date back to 1988 (when he was 42), which estimated his net worth to be between USD$400 million to USD$3 billion. (Trump’s exaggerations, combined with the concealment of his tax returns, makes the exact figure hard to ascertain.)

At just 34, Taylor Swift is worth over USD$1 billion, amassed from a relatively risk-free portfolio: her wealth is built on her own ability to produce and export new material, and tour it, which she has done time and again at light speed. Since 2020, she has released seven albums, including her Taylor’s Version re-records, with another album coming this April – all amidst a world tour. 

At her current wealth trajectory, Swift’s net worth could be in the ballpark of USD$3 billion dollars if she decided to run for president at age 41 in 2032. Outside of an apocalypse, or a solar storm destroying the globe’s entire electrical network, her assets won’t be devalued any time soon.  

More than funds, Swift has formidable business acumen. Behind the sheen of a 151-date global tour lies a complex structure of international and domestic deals, marketing and publicity narratives, thousands of contractors working across different countries, jurisdictions and environments. 

Swift and her team work years in advance of public activity, carefully managing the shop front narrative and business backend to present a clean consumer product that charges people with a sense of belief, excitement and security. 

Round the clock management of a global business that rests solely on public perception is a fitting match for the role of a future POTUS and her team.  

The art of persuasion

Making the perfect pop song relies on a commitment to perfection and the ability to consistently direct your own vision in a world full of other ideas. Music production is world building with sound, ensuring miniscule wavelengths of vibration hit the brain at the exact moment you need them to. A recording artist is only as alluring as the world they have built for others to consume. Yes, it’s lateral thinking, but the skills needed to consistently produce record-breaking records are extreme attention to detail coupled with a sixth sense for the macro like any great political leader.

Swift is also renowned for her strategic use of smoke and mirrors in public discourse, embedding messages and narratives within her content, resulting in an unparalleled level of engagement.

There’s a precedent for cultural icons making their way into the highest offices in politics Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger spring to mind. 

Reagan, a screen actor in the 1930s who appeared in over 20 films, paved his way to the top job thanks to his speech,  ‘A Time For Choosing’. Made on national television in support of the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater, Reagan lyrically reshaped the idea of freedom: 

“You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream – the maximum of individual freedom consistent with law and order – or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”

The speech raised over USD$1 million for Goldwater’s campaign and effectively launched Reagan’s future political career. It was Reagan’s ability to clutch people through language, and the sense that he reached beyond politics, that secured his political fate. 

One-time member of the Austrian People’s Party’s Youth Weightlifting team, Schwarzenegger’s political fascination was, in turn, reignited by Reagan when the two worked on an anti-drug music video. While The Terminator is unable to run for office due to being born overseas, he may otherwise have been a strong contender. 

We’ve seen how celebrity status can be leveraged in political campaigns, attracting attention and support that might be challenging for traditional candidates to generate. This goes back to the subconscious language between actor and audience, the bridge between genuine connection and trust building. 

Election by election, we are increasingly seeing that political parties will be servants to the weight of the machine and money behind them. 

People with public trust and influence are radically placed to give political campaigns a head start in the race to change the public’s mind, or merely catch their attention if only for 15 seconds. While the concept of ‘celebrity’ can elicit groans from the party room, digital influence is distinctly different: influencers like Swift are having daily, or hourly, conversations directly with their fan base, through reels, songs, and continual articles. You can’t escape the weight and fury of the modern influencer. 

More than champagne problems 

Without ever pitching them as such, Taylor has established a set of political philosophies within her brand, and they’re entrenched in her audience’s identities. Swift has taken stances on abortion rights and access, LGBTQ+ rights, civic engagement, inclusion, fair pay for workers, and employee insurance. 

In 2018, Swift broke her political silence and endorsed a pair of Tennessee Democrats in the November midterms, voicing her support for the candidates fighting for the rights of LGBTQ communities and people of colour. 

On June 25, 2022, Taylor shared Michelle Obama’s statement on the overturning of Roe v Wade, saying, “I’m absolutely terrified that this is where we are – that after so many decades of people fighting for women’s rights to their own bodies, today’s decision has stripped us of that.”

Taylor’s own treatment of her staff speaks to her corporate philosophies of fair pay and good working conditions. She’s reported to go above and beyond for her employees, paying large bonuses and covering her contractors with her company’s insurance (a rarity in entertainment). 

Over the years, Swift has championed the rights of other artists, too. She pioneered deal-making within the music industry for the betterment of her peers, convincing Universal to share a percentage of the sale of their shares in Spotify to their artists, and provoking Apple to change its policy regarding royalties earned in free trial periods.

As her song “Only the Young” lights up the Democrat’s campaign this November, will she be wondering what her own policies could sound like against a presidential backdrop? Time will tell. 

A Miss Americana dream

American culture is built on the idea that anyone, anywhere can turn dust into dreams and take on the entire world. The keeper of this dream, though, is rarely an artist, seldom a woman. 

Could the future (finally) be female? America is convulsing with the will to catapult a female leader into the White House. In the 2016 Presidential election, Hillary Clinton received three million more public votes than Trump, but Trump took out the electoral college vote, 227-304. The perfume of a matriarchy is in the air, and we will either edge closer to it slowly, or turn the place into a beehive with one unstoppable female candidate. 

The American dream is ready for an author that writes her own script. The next 50 years will hold leadership challenges that no human cohort has dealt with in history the climate crisis, the AI wave, the governance of space, and the potential of sustained war and civil unrest across the Middle East, to name just a few.

In the seams of the chaos lies a decision to go dark or go light, go high or go low. It was wild enough to think of Trump as president why shouldn’t we welcome his female nemesis to the ring? 

Reality is stranger than fiction, and whilst it seems too insane to be true, Trump’s foe in 2024 and beyond isn’t Biden, it’s Swift. If a dominant political leader doesn’t emerge for the Democrats in good time, there will be a space for a left-of-field figure like Swift to step into the hurricane. Are you ready for it?

We need to talk about Kelce

Swift’s hyper-public romance with Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce has broken the internet and the Western media with its too-good-to-be-true depiction of a perfect American romance. Last weekend we were even gifted with a Super Bowl win and on-field kiss, too much like the end of a perfect high school rom-com.  It’s a romance that has filled a couple billion people’s hearts with hope that love still exists in our increasingly depressed world, and it’s unfolding on screen in real-time. 

Swift’s effect on the NFL has been widely reported, with huge increases in revenue and female viewers as well as Kelce jersey sales. The NFL Super Bowl was the second most watched TV event in history, coming second only to the Moon Landing in 1969. What if Swift could do to modern politics what she has done to the NFL overnight?

As a political strategist, these are good questions to ask. However, the disconnect between maintaining the cultural divide and the real-life romance unfolding couldn’t be further apart. It’s the age-old power of love, and a real problem for Republicans. 

Psyop or not, right-wing media can smell cultural authenticity a mile away and they will do anything to discredit it before it catches on. They know that this narrative has the potential to rise above political divides and make a lasting impact. If this romance continues, the aggregate power of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce will be a force to be reckoned with.

Kelce normalises and pacifies fears of hyper-wokeness or hyper-feminism that could tip Swift too far to the left to run for President. Kelce will bring an army of young progressive males, cool dads and open-to-change granddads to the altar of Taylor Swift, recognising her ability to inspire and implement equality, safety and democracy for their daughters. They’ll want America’s stars to sparkle again. 

Hers for the taking

Would she really want to do it? That’s the ultimate and perhaps only question. 

If Trump wins the 2024 election, he has promised to be a “political dictator”, to gut the public service and centralise power under his control, radically reduce immigration, increase deportation and “drill, baby, drill”. Although he purportedly believes in some level of abortion rights, Trump contributed to Roe v Wade being overturned in 2022 by stacking the Supreme Court with conservative judges during his term. If Trump is in for two terms, it is predicted that the very conditions for democracy in America will slow to a standstill and progressive America will find itself drowning in dissolution, with a gutted public service to boot.

If the conditions for women, children and minority groups in America decline over the next decade, and no force emerges to overthrow Trump, the opportunity for Presidency would be just too darn interesting and crucial for Swift to decline. At some point soon, Americans are going to need a hero (with a plan), and she is the perfect mastermind for the role. 

A songwriter by nature and by trade, Swift is also a fierce businesswoman and a global cultural force. We think of her as a songwriter because that is what she wants to be known as. Our perception will change as and when she wills it. While the extent of her political ambition is currently unknown, there are sufficient clues to suggest she cares deeply about the state of the world and, in particular, the future of America. If there was a choice between saving the American dream, or leaving it in the hands of Trump, I know which path Swift would take. And that’s what all of this might come to. 

Holly Rankin is an Australian ARIA and APRA nominated recording artist and activist best known by her music project, Jack River. She also works as a political strategist, helping politics realise the power of pop culture, and cultural influencers create political impact. Some of her recent roles include Campaign Co-Director for David Pocock’s 2022 Senate Campaign, Communications Advisor to Climate 200, Government and Industry Relations for ARIA and Creative Director for the Uluru Dialogues (in the Referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament). She is an ambassador for APRA, the Australian Conservation Foundation, and a board member of Teach Us Consent. In 2022 she released her sophomore album Endless Summer.