Taylor Swift: Why she could decide the elections in Argentina

Javier Milei – the man with the chainsaw – has a good chance of becoming the next president of Argentina. Two groups want to prevent this: fans of Taylor Swift and the K-pop band BTS.

An inflation rate of 138 percent, political discontent, 40 percent of people below the poverty line – the situation for the population in Argentina is dramatic. Javier Milei comes across this situation. Right-wing populist and presidential candidate with the motto: Everything has to be torn down before it can be rebuilt. This also symbolizes his trademark: the chainsaw. A group of Swifties, fans of the singer Taylor Swift, want to prevent him.

Javier Milei follows a slogan from former US President Bill Clinton’s 1992 election campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid!” The economy decides the election. The 53-year-old economist describes himself as an “anarcho-capitalist.” He leads the election campaign through turbulent, unannounced appearances in poor neighborhoods – and with his team recording video snippets of these Appearances spread on social media. There he lets the chainsaw roar in a crowd, rains down fake dollars with his likeness and incites against the political elite: “The caste is trembling before us!” The crowd roars back enthusiastically. The classic narrative: Us against them.

He promises people that he will be different from the current government. He wants to replace the national currency, the peso, with the US dollar, blow up the central bank and ban numerous ministries. “Ministry of Education: Pure indoctrination, get rid of it,” he says in a video, tearing off one piece of paper after another from the wall. “Ministry of Transport: Away with it. Ministry of Health: Away with it.”

Milei is called the Argentine Donald Trump

Aside from his economic orientation, Milei represents an ideology that has fewer parallels with Clinton and more with former US President Donald Trump. Man-made climate change: nonsense. Election results: questionable. Abortions: murder. Gun laws: who needs something like that?

His base is a young generation that has apparently lost hope. 27 percent of his voters are between 17 and 25 years old, show Survey. Opponent Sergio Massa, the incumbent economics minister, can only convince just under nine percent of young people. In the first round of voting, Massa was surprisingly ahead with 36 percent, Milei slightly behind with 30 percent. Polls see Milei ahead in the runoff election on November 19th.

These two will compete against each other in the runoff election in Argentina on November 19th: the right-wing populist Javier Milei (left) and Economy Minister Sergio Massa

© Alejandro PAGNI and Luis ROBAYO / AFP

But there seems to be a small, Gallic village in this young Argentine electorate: Swifties. Fans of the pop icon have gathered together and are calling the right-wing populist presidential candidate a danger to the country. On social networks, they stir up sentiment against Milei on accounts such as “Swifties porla patria”, Swift fans for the fatherland. “Milei = Trump,” you can read there, for example.

The group wants to “stand on the right side of history,” it said in a statement, echoing statements made by Swift. “We can’t help but fight after hearing and seeing that Taylor is doing everything she can to stop the right from winning in her country.”

Democrats and Republicans wanted to co-opt Taylor Swift

Swift began her career as a country singer, a more Republican-leaning domain. She has been publicly apolitical for over twelve years, always preventing questions about it with the argument: “I’m a singer, no one wants to hear my opinion.” Talk show host David Letterman held out his fist to her in response to a similar statement in 2012, and the audience cheered. She maintained this even in the 2016 US presidential election, which, as is well known, Donald Trump won. The English “Guardian” later even described Swift as an “ambassador for Trump’s values.”

She still regrets her long, public stance today, she admits in the documentary “Miss Americana” produced by Netflix in 2020. But in the 2018 midterm elections the time has come for her: she breaks with the image as “Everybody’s Darling”. Although – as can be seen in the documentary – her team and her father want to dissuade her. Those around her are worried about her safety – and dwindling sales.

But now she wants to be on the right side of history, she says – and shortly afterwards posts a post on Instagram. She writes there that she rejects any form of discrimination and racism. That’s why she had to speak out against the Republican candidate in her home state of Tennessee, then Marsha Blackburn. Swift will cast her vote for the Democratic candidates. She also calls on people to register as a voter and find out about those who are up for election.

What follows shows what influence the then 29-year-old has. More than 100 million followers see this post. After that, vote.org, a voter registration website, is nearly brought down. In less than two days, 166,000 people across the USA registered to vote. 42 percent of them are between 18 and 24 years old – the pop singer’s target group. A record for vote.org, a company spokeswoman said in an interview afterwards: “This goes far beyond what we normally see.” Even President Trump, a Republican, reacted to Swift’s statement: “I like Taylor’s music 25 percent less now, okay?”

Taylor Swift is also a powerful player from an economic perspective. Their albums break all records. Their “The Eras Tour” generates higher sales in some US states than the gross domestic product of entire states. When it is rumored that Swift is the football player Travis Kelce is said to be dating, shot its jersey sales increased by nearly 400 percent, the NFL said. Swifties are an economic factor. Economists therefore refer to the singer’s influence as Swiftonomics. Is Swiftopolitics coming now?

That’s what some Swifties in Argentina seem to be hoping for. Her statement against Javier Milei was accessed 1.5 million times on X (formerly Twitter) alone. The platform then deactivated the account without explanation, the group tells the New York Times. There is now a new account on which they focus primarily on social points of view.

Unlike Trump, Milei did not want to comment further on these efforts. The presidential candidate only told a radio station that he was not a right-winger: “They can say whatever they want.”

BTS fans stir up sentiment against Milei’s running mate

The Swift fans receive support from another powerful base – and other potential young voters: the self-proclaimed “Army”, the fans of the K-pop group BTS. Probably no other group of followers is as well organized, networked and active as this one. came at the end of October Tweets by Milei’s running mate Victoria Villarruel to the public. In 2020, they compared the name BTS to a sexually transmitted disease and made fun of some members’ colorful hair.

The reaction of the particularly loyal BTS Army is violent. In numerous tweets they accused Villarruel of xenophobia. Some have announced that they will therefore change their tick in the runoff election. For example, one user writes: “Unfortunately I was planning on voting for her, but now I’m going to vote for the other candidate.”

These days Taylor Swift is performing three times in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. Organized Swifties want to distribute anti-Milei posters at these performances. They coordinated via WhatsApp, they report to the New York Times.

In 2018, despite Swift’s short-term support, Trump-loyal Republican Marsha Blackburn won. However, in 2020, Trump was voted out of the White House – young voters were also crucial. What happens in Argentina will be decided on November 19th.

Sources: “The New York Times”, 2020 election analysis, “NYT 2”, “Variety”, “Politico”, “Miss Americana” documentary, “Spiegel”, “Guardian”, Instagram, X