It’s often said that in Taylor Swift’s cosmology, all the world’s a high school. That, right there, is your cue to tell her to grow up. But two weeks out from an election, watching Romney and yes, to an extent Obama auto-pilot their handshakes and baby-holdings for the home stretch, it’s become apparent to me that her strategy has a certain logic to it.
The path to power, and particularly that as it exists in American politics, has the flavor of a popularity contest. (Those ubiquitous gifs are not unlike snapshots pasted in a burn book.) So if Swift’s world is one in which she’s campaigning, well into her twenties, for class sweetheart, so what?
There’s an irony in the space-time convergence of Swift’s ascendancy and Romney’s fall in particular. Swift’s just-released album, Red, is poised to occupy the brain of every person in this country, right at the moment Romney will be forced to look defeat in the face. (Call me an optimist but my general position on the election is this.) Swift herself is said to be a Republican, and the album has a naural Republican tie-in of a title, and it’s already poised to be a blockbuster. It’s on track to sell at least a million copies just this week. Meanwhile, Nate Silver’s still gauging Romney as having just over a three-in-ten chance of taking this whole thing. Even as Romney’s tried to fight his way through the last weeks of the campaign, at most he’s inspired just a tiny wisp of of panic on the left, Andrew Sullivan notwithstanding. If he gets blockbuster anything on November 6, it’s likely to come in the form of the boot that kicks him out the door.
We tell teenagers that high school doesn’t matter, that it’s petty and small and inconsequential. But the lesson of Romney/Swift 2012 is that some of its native coping skills can, in fact, serve you well in adult life. Balance indisputable triumph on the field with the injured air of the underdog, you’ll go far. A keen sense of injustice is the sustaining theme of Swift’s entire career, even as she’s rocketed into the stratosphere.
In the video of her monster hit, “You Belong With Me,” she gets to be both the prom queen and the Miss Lonely-Glasses girl-next-door. Her pursed-lipped dismay at Kanye West remains a thing of Internet legend. And the argument made by her recent single, “We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together,” is that it’s all his fault, with an added of teaspoon of disdain because he scorns her music for being “uncool.”