For years, Taylor Swift’s political silence has been a vacuum some on the right have gleefully filled with speculation that she was a conservative in hiding.
When the pop star stayed mum during the 2016 election, some interpreted her silence as a tacit endorsement of Donald Trump. While those on the left criticized her for not openly supporting the first woman nominee of a major party, white supremacists and others on the far right soon embraced her as their own. A Facebook group called “Taylor Swift for Fascist Europe” at one point had more than 18,000 likes, according to Vice. Extremists on 4chan shared memes with her face on them, as wild conspiracies flourished. Andrew Anglin, who edits the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, told Vice in 2016, “It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world.”
That all seemingly went away Sunday when Swift broke her political silence and came out in support of two Democrats in Tennessee, where she is registered to vote.
“I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent,” she said in an Instagram post. “I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love.”
While the post seemingly infuriated the far right, it came as an enormous relief to many of Swift’s fans. BuzzFeed News interviewed more than half a dozen Swift stans, or superfans, who were grateful the singer had put an end to the misinformation campaign propagated by the far right. These so-called Swifties said they’d endured criticism for continuing to support her and were thankful she’d revealed herself as the compassionate figure they’d always hoped she was.
“For me, I had been waiting for her to post something like that for a long time,” said Olivia Cherry, a 17-year-old in Illinois who tweets under the username @SwiftingDaily. “As someone who has looked up to her for the last 10 years, of course I knew what kind of person she was and what she believed in, but I couldn’t convince everyone else.”
Lizbeth, a 21-year-old who tweets under the username @iwishyouwoulds and asked to be identified only by her first name, declared Sunday a day of “independence” for the singer’s fandom. “Good morning Swifties,” she tweeted Monday morning with a GIF of Betty White dabbing. “Yesterday, the swiftland officially declared independence from the conservatives.”
“I meant Independence Day, because for a long time, maybe the last two years, many people have falsely accused Taylor of either being a conservative Trump-supporting Republican, or a Nazi, or some form of white supremacist,” the die-hard fan told BuzzFeed News.
Stans like her had to “constantly deal with accusations that fans knew didn’t align with who she was,” she said. “It was more frustrating when actual headlines read that Taylor was claimed as white supremacists’ Aryan goddess.”
“I think a lot of us were constantly having to fend off these people,” she said.
Before Sunday’s Instagram post, the Swifties themselves were often accused of being sympathetic to the alt-right.
“It made me even more frustrated when people took this as a sign that all Taylor Swift stans were alt-right or at least conservative,” 18-year-old Christian Ortiz of Texas, who has the handle @ikywtoutsold, told BuzzFeed News.
“I would go online some days and my mentions would either be filled with the alt-right slamming me for denouncing their proclamation, or with liberals who were saying I’m not a REAL Latino for listening to Taylor Swift,” Ortiz said.
Another stan, who tweets under the username @bribethedoors, said that she was “absolutely elated” by the post.
“I felt really invisible and spoken over,” said the fan, who is Afro-Latina and asked to remain anonymous.
“Seeing white women who are active agents in white supremacy, calling Taylor and her fans Nazis, erasing the identities of her stans of color just to collect some woke points,” she said. “That ain’t it.”
Swift’s post meant a lot in particular to her fans of color, like Nashville-based Natalie Johnson, 21, who tweets under the username @beyourswift. She told BuzzFeed News that the post meant the “absolute world to [her].”
“Being a person of color, the fact that she stood up for us made me so happy,” Johnson said.
A 22-year-old based in Mexico who tweets under the username @gyllanhaal and asked to be identified only by her first name, Valerie, echoed the sentiment. “As a woman of color myself, I’m happy to know she stands for the rights of my people,” she said.
Maya, or @bakingswifts, another woman in her twenties who wanted only her first name used in this story, said that “as a fan of color, who is very vocal about my liberal views, it’s been amazing.”
Not everyone, however, has been thrilled by Swift’s decision to endorse Democrats.
User @fearlessswifty9, 22-year-old Luke Johnson who said he was "a Catholic conservative," tweeted that he was feeling “confused and lost.”
The user changed his profile picture to an image of Swift crying, “because this is how I’m feeling right now.”
"I am surprised that she came out talking about politics as she was always so silent about it," he said of the Instagram post to BuzzFeed News.
"I was also surprised how far out of her way she went to criticize Marsha Blackburn. I'm also surprised that she is endorsing Phil Bredesen considering the fact that he endorsed Brett Kavanaugh," he continued.
"I think that if Taylor really did a more thorough job of researching Marsha Blackburn then she would realize that she is not at all the way she described her. While I don't agree with the things she said about Marsha Blackburn, I respect her right to have an opinion and to express that opinion."
Johnson also responded to Taylor Swift's official tumblr account liking a meme of her "kicking" Republicans.
“It’s official. Taylor doesn’t want fans that are Republicans,” he wrote on Twitter. “I feel totally betrayed. She only cares for her liberal fans. I’m done with this fandom and I’m done with Taylor Swift. I’m heartbroken.”
The president, too, wasn’t so pleased with Swift’s words, telling reporters the singer didn’t know much about Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican running for Senate in Tennessee.
“Let’s say that I like Taylor’s music about 25% less now,” he told reporters.
One fan said she believed Swift’s long silence was meant to avoid exactly this scenario — alienating fans by tarring herself with politics. “I feel like her decision to remain quiet was probably so she didn’t alienate her conservative fans, from when she did country music,” said Meenal Warrier, an 18-year-old from London who tweets under the username @eyesopens.
While Swift’s Instagram post appeared to successfully prompt a massive spike in voter registrations, it also made her an attractive target for conservatives.
“You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about,” Talking Points USA founder Charlie Kirk tweeted at her. “Your career has never recovered since Kanye ended it.”
Alt-right extremists also didn’t seem to handle the announcement well, responding to the post on 4chan with despondency and more baseless conspiracy theories.
“Guys, I’ve been warning about this for awhile now,” one 4chan user wrote. “We’ve been losing our girls rapidly in [the] last six months or so.”
“OUR GIRL no more,” another user said.
This story has been updated with comments from Luke Johnson, aka @fearlessswifty9.
This post has been updated to clarify that Luke Johnson's remarks referred to Taylor Swift's alleged Tumblr activity, not her Instagram post.