Lexi Boccuzzi | ‘Call It What You Want,’ but Swifties will win the culture war

On the Record | The conservative case for Taylor Swift

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By Lexi Boccuzzi

Rather than focus on Taylor Swift’s partisan affiliation, conservatives should take note of the way her lifestyle and fan base may be the key to winning the culture war.

Even to the ears of the most devout Swifties, Taylor Swift’s condemnation of her critics can often sound slightly self-important. But recently many right-wingers have been acting like the caricatures described in her lyrics, “talking over a football game…washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things.” Conservatives must be careful: Refusing to embrace the underlying causes of Taylor’s grip on American women could cost them the culture war.

Online discourse is teeming with every conspiracy theory imaginable about Taylor Swift and her boyfriend Travis Kelce, starting tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. Ever since right-wing commentator Benny Johnson accused her of being a “psy-op” and former 2024 presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy claimed the Superbowl would be “rigged” to set up a Biden campaign endorsement, the anti-Swift content from anxious conservatives has spiraled. 

To those of us with better things to do with our time than theorize about the pop star’s plot to take down America, these comments are comical entertainment. However, they’re also representative of a serious misunderstanding among those on the right about the nature of the culture war being fought, and, more importantly, America’s most crucial voting bloc: young women. In 2022, 72% of women ages 18-29 — Swift’s prime fan base — voted for Democratic House candidates, a number which is steadily matched by a growing ideological divide between young men and women. Rather than blame these facts on indoctrination at the hands of a pop star, maybe the GOP should take a hard look at their own messaging to women. 

Now, I’m not ignorant of the strategic politics of the entertainment business, and that includes Swift. There certainly aren’t undercover conservatives behind her Instagram posts about Roe v. Wade or Kelce’s Pfizer brand deal, for that matter (talk about a new era of third-stage capitalism). But to deny the undercurrent of traditional values at the heart of Miss Americana’s popularity is to completely misunderstand Swift’s brand—and its universal appeal to female listeners. 

Raised in a middle-class, two-parent household, Swift had her big break in country music and has since made a living writing love songs about her committed relationships with successful men. She has capitalized on a shift towards reclaiming conventional femininity which is out of alignment with the left’s anti-monogamy and anti-gender roles narrative. Unlike many other celebrities, she’s decidedly less political and more family-oriented. Even Daily Wire star Michael Knowles, known for his socially conservative takes, claimed: “Taylor Swift is temperamentally conservative, and the Right should cautiously stan her.”

This conservative temperament has made her attractive to young women, and for good reason. Today’s girls are more anxious and depressed than they have ever been—a reality that is not unrelated to a sharp decline in healthy dating practices. 

91% of college students today report their lives being dominated by hookup culture, which for women leads to lower self-esteem, less sexual satisfaction, a higher risk for sexual assault, and a general sense of regret. It’s perfectly consistent that women disillusioned with the so-called “empowerment” promised by the sexual revolution would be drawn to the less sexually explicit, emotional love that Taylor Swift’s music endorses. 

Rather than being the liberal feminist icon whose message is “I don’t need a man,” Swift reminds young women that romantic love is something they can and should always prioritize no matter how successful they are. Swift’s story tells girls that even billionaire women aren’t too busy to jet-set around the world in support of their partners. As marriage and birth rates decline rapidly in the United States, this is not a message the right should take for granted. 

Marriage and child-rearing are some of the highest predictors of partisan voting habits among women, with 56% of married women voting for the GOP compared to only 31% of unmarried women. Winning the culture war, however, must be about more than flipping seats. We should be committed to cultivating human flourishing and encouraging people to live their most fulfilling and moral lives. For both women and men, this means a life with marriage and kids; those who are married with children are twice as happy as their unmarried and childless counterparts.

The “psy-op” rhetoric will only further alienate young women from the right, feeding into left-wing narratives about Republican misogyny. If the right wants to sway people where it matters—in their lifestyles—they need to stop, as Taylor would say “grumbling on about how I can’t sing” and start embracing the potentially conservative values of Miss Americana’s reign.

Lexi Boccuzzi is a senior in the College studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Lexi is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Post. Her email is abb628@sas.upenn.edu.

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