AILSA CHANG, HOST:
We may not know what's going to happen in the November midterms, but we do know one thing; Taylor Swift is voting Democrat. In a lengthy social media post on Sunday, the pop superstar explained why she would be supporting Democrats Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for the House. She also slammed Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn for her record on women's and LGBT rights. And all this from an artist who has famously refused to talk politics in the past.
We reached Emily Yahr of The Washington Post, who's been following all of this. Welcome.
EMILY YAHR: Hi.
CHANG: So how earth-shattering is this to see Taylor Swift make some political endorsement?
YAHR: Honestly, in an era where I don't know if anything can surprise me anymore, this really surprised me.
CHANG: Really? OK, tell me why the shock.
YAHR: Yeah. So I think it surprised me and a lot of people because for the last two years, there has kind of been this steady drumbeat to get Taylor Swift to sort of say anything political - anything about the current environment, and she never has.
And then all of a sudden Sunday, she drops this Instagram post with a really lengthy, almost like scorched-earth post about how she really feels about the upcoming midterms. And I was just not expecting that.
CHANG: What's the response been like from her fans?
YAHR: I've seen a lot of support from people who were honestly just glad she said anything. I mean, she has 112 million Instagram followers, and a lot of people - yeah - really look up to her. So there is a lot of support. There's also, of course - there's kind of this movement that has always thought maybe she was secretly a conservative just because she never said anything.
YAHR: So they kind of had read into a lot of things she had never even said. But there is some disappointment on that side today.
CHANG: Well, you know, Taylor Swift did start out as a country music star, which is a world that leans conservative. But she's more of a pop star now, so does having a broader fan base kind of free her to take more left-leaning political positions now?
YAHR: I think it did in some ways because when she made the break from Nashville and kind of declared herself going into the pop world, she didn't have to worry as much about, you know, country radio, which still drives so much of the country music industry. Now her songs are being played on pop radio, and she did have this broader audience.
I feel like it may have trapped her a little bit in the way that because she still has those country fans, she did still want to appeal to them. But I think she probably did feel more free overall to share her opinions.
CHANG: You know, she has a reputation for being extremely calculated when it comes to curating her image. So what do you think? Why jump into politics now? What do you think is going on with her?
YAHR: I know. This is what I've been trying - this is the mystery of the day. And I always say...
CHANG: Get inside her mind for me, please.
YAHR: Exactly. Taylor Swift always seems to be, like, 20 steps ahead of everyone else, no matter what she does. Everything kind of has, like, a double or triple meaning when you really look at it.
I think in this case, the timing probably was pretty strategic. She just wrapped up her stadium tour in the United States. You know, she's done with her concerts. She doesn't need to think about the backlash for any of that, so she posted her message after this.
She kind of alluded in her statement to events that have happened to her in the last couple of years, and that's why she was speaking out. And while she didn't say what those were, I think a big one that's impacted her the most was her sexual assault trial...
YAHR: ...When a country music DJ sued her after he lost his job because she said he groped her in a meet-and-greet line. And she countersued him for assault and battery, and she ended up winning. And I think that experience really left a mark on her.
CHANG: Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter for The Washington Post. Thanks very much for joining us today.
YAHR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.