Of Taylor and Travis

Of Taylor and Travis

I read recently that, according to at least one poll, 18% of voters would be more likely to vote for whichever candidate Taylor Swift endorsed. That alone, I suppose, might make Taylor – and her romantic relationship with Kansas City Chiefs’ Tight End Travis Kelce – a matter of major importance, a phenomenon of significance for everyone to engage with.

Of course, in a normal country, with normal politics, that might mean that both parties might try to compete for her endorsement and (more importantly) for the votes of those who love her. Instead, however, on the Republican side we have been witnessing a weird psycho-political meltdown of apocalyptic proportions. Only a party like the contemporary Republican Party – i.e., a party that has ceased to be a bona fide political party and become a quasi-religious personality cult – could conceivably see any advantage at all in going to war against both the world’s most popular woman and the NFL.

Everyone recognizes football’s quasi-religious (i.e., idolatrous) hold on American culture, and it is hard even to imagine anyone attempting any potentially successful political strategy involving denigrating a football star and his girlfriend! As many others have already pointed out in the recent barrage of coverage and commentary, Taylor and Travis are acting out one of the most ancient archetypes of heteronormativity, which we all grew up with in their fairytale forms, and it only serves to highlight the bizarre weirdness of contemporary Republicans that they feel so deeply threatened by this happy expression of normalcy.

Ours is a society which, by a monumentally consequential historical accident, deprived itself of real royalty and has ever since sought for substitutes in celebrity royalty of various sorts. What else are Taylor and Travis but the latest ersatz Princess and Prince for our royalty-starved civic culture?

The right’s moral panic is presumably exacerbated by the fact that Travis has previously endorsed a life-saving vaccine and that Taylor in 2020 endorsed Joe Biden. Both of which, of course, only further highlight the couple’s normalcy. In a normal country, with normal politics, why wouldn’t an athlete endorse something intended to keep people healthy? Why wouldn’t the world’s most prominent woman be expected to be more likely to support someone who is running against a candidate whom a jury recently found liable for defaming a woman whom an earlier jury had found liable for sexually assaulting?
Taylor’s and Travis’ normalcy just highlights how pathologically abnormal our politics have become – and thus the world we live and work within.

Photo: Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, Chariah Gordon/Instagram