Should Celebrities Weigh In On Politics?

It’s nearly impossible to be apolitical today, and that goes for celebrities in particular. Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, celebrities have become more outspoken about their political beliefs, and more often they are anti-Trump. Whether it’s through tweets, public demonstrations (like appearing at a protest) or blatantly obvious statements, such as when Robert DeNiro said “F*** Trump,” at the 2018 Tony Awards, celebrities and public figures are making their beliefs known.

The “Get Out The Vote” effort seemed more star-studded than in any year since the rise of social media, with celebrities trying to engage their followers in ways to get involved in their communities, register to vote, and actually vote on election day.

This past election cycle brought attention to the political beliefs of two of the most followed celebrities on the internet: Taylor Swift and Kanye West.

Before October, Swift had been tight-lipped about her politics, especially in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, but finally broke her silence this year. She shared all of this in an Instagram post saying that while she had been reluctant to share in the past, due to several events in her life “[she] feel[s] very differently about that now.”

Swift said, “I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country.” She ended the post by explaining reasons why she was voting against senatorial candidate Marsha Blackburn in favor of Phil Bredesen and brought up an excellent point: “For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.”

Many of her critics denounced Swift, and said her endorsement was too little too late and that she should have used this voice and platform much earlier. Yet voting registration spiked in the 24 hours after Swift’s post and noted 65,000 new registrations.

Sophomore forensic science major Emily Sousa says that the outspoken nature of Swift’s politics won’t affect her fandom. “I have been a fan of her and her music since I was in elementary school, and I don’t think that her politics should have any effect on my opinions of her music and career,” she said.

On the other side of the political spectrum — or so it seems — is Kanye West. He had a public up and down relationship with President Obama, and as Trump settled into the presidency, West showed support of him. This became more obvious after West went on an unscripted rant following a performance on “Saturday Night Live” while wearing a Make America Great Again hat. A few days later, he was in the Oval Office meeting the president.

Only a few days later, West reinvented himself, saying his eyes have been opened and he is distancing himself from politics. In response, journalist Alex Wagner of CBS News tweeted, “Apparently Kanye did not understand that “Sitting in the Oval Office with the President of the United States and railing against liberals” would be seen as explicitly, uhm, political.”

Brian Guski, a senior communications, and theater double major isn’t letting this affect his appreciation of West.

“I wholeheartedly believe when Kanye says something that the public deems as outrageous, he is trying to give his insight on the issue,” he said. “I still believe at the end of the day he is trying to unite everyone together to stand up against intolerance and hate.”

“Just because Kanye has publicly stated how he supported Trump, does not mean I will stop listening to his music,” said Guski. “I believe Kanye is arguably one of the greatest artists of our generation, and if Kanye puts out fantastic music, then I will continue to listen to it.”

Though ideologically, I line up more with Swift than with West, I still believe they’re both entitled to be as outspoken about politics as I am. There are more nuances that come with being a public figure, and it invites discourse in a way that me stating my beliefs doesn’t, but fundamentally, it doesn’t change the act.

“I do not care whether said celebrities express their political views, I applaud them for participating in our political system because they are Americans just like you and me,” said Guski.