Taylor Swift is an expert at a lot of things. Politics does not appear to be one of them. Nevertheless, a demand for her political opinions has been going around, as has criticism of her political silence. And while even Newsweek is discussing the question of Ms. Swift’s politics, I’d rather listen to her music than see her listen to that demand.
Voting booths have curtains for a reason: When citizens exercise the sovereign franchise, we are not supposed to be accountable in the market. Our bosses — or customers — don’t get a say. They get their own votes. But they don’t get to control ours.
And that privacy doesn’t only exist for in-person voting. Many Americans now vote by mail, and it would be possible for their employers to demand to see their ballots. Even those who can’t prove their vote (as Swift no longer can) could be ordered to say how they voted. But it’s hard to imagine Americans considering such demands acceptable.
But if a star’s fans can demand this information, why can’t anyone else’s customers or employer? Setting aside any relevant laws, there is no principled difference between saying you will not buy someone’s music unless she discloses her vote and attaching the same condition to having her fix your car or work in your office. They are all ways of making people who are accountable to you for their work accountable to you for their votes.
Some might think there’s a difference because this is art; they don’t want art that expresses support for Mr. Trump. But you can judge the values expressed in a song without knowing how the singer voted. And you can identify as an artist’s fan without thereby endorsing her politics. Indeed, as silly as it would be to assume that an artist’s fans agree with the political opinions she’s expressed, it would be even more absurd to assume they agree with the political opinions she hasn’t expressed.
There is a good argument that Ms. Swift should have come out against Donald Trump during the election. While her fans don’t necessarily agree with her, she might have influenced some of them. And had she influenced enough people, it might have protected her — a woman who just won a lawsuit against a man who groped her — from having to live under a president who boasted about groping women and getting away with it. It might have protected her, and the rest of us, from any number of other harms and risks we face because Donald Trump is president.
But nothing Ms. Swift can say now will change the fact that Donald Trump is president. The election has been decided. He won.
What Ms. Swift can affect is our right to keep our votes private. If she gives in — if she sanctions the idea that we are accountable for our votes to our customers, and by implication our employers — she will undermine the social norm that says it’s unacceptable to pressure people to disclose their votes. She will make it easier for bosses and Twitter mobs to know how citizens vote — and, by retaliating against those who vote the “wrong” way, to dictate how we vote.
Taylor Swift missed her chance to help defend America from Donald Trump; she may not even have wanted to. But now she has a chance to defend the secrecy of the ballot, and with it, the ability of every American to vote his or her conscience. She should take that opportunity. Instead of revealing her vote, she should tell us it’s none of our business.