A congressman made a cold pitch to Taylor Swift. And the American pop superstar went for it.
Just a few days before Tuesday’s election, Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) had a production company make a short video with one goal: to get young voters to the ballot box and help with the election of Joe Biden.
The less than two-minute video appeared to be a viral success in more ways than one, as it received nearly 10 million hits via social media in just a few days.
The montage included footage of some of the recent calls for action, from protests against racial injustice and President Donald Trump to Justice Amy Coney Barrett and climate change. The video was overlaid with the song “Only The Young,” released by Swift in January.
“I have always considered myself the unofficial leader of the Swifty Caucus in Congress,” Swalwell said in an interview with Washington Newsday. “I’ve always been impressed with Taylor Swift, the way she fights for her art, her fans and her own values.
Swift’s team liked the production so much that the singer-songwriter agreed to allow Swalwell to use her song for free. And it spread quickly through social media, thanks to people like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Hollywood celebrities and Democratic lawmakers who made the video available. Swift even saved Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who also shared the video.
Swift first expressed her political views in the 2018 midterm elections. She remains largely absent from the world of politics, although she supported Biden last month.
Swalwell’s original tweet, in which the video was shared for the first time, received nearly 8 million hits (as well as more than 1 million shares and views on other social media platforms), #only the recent trend on Twitter and the digital project prompted the 9-month-old song to rejoin the top 20 on iTunes.
Up there is the finish line.
Our future is worth our struggle.
Thanks a lot, @taylorswift13, for what #OnlyTheYoung can do. Let’s run! pic.twitter.com/q4EAJwwzqG
– Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) October 30, 2020
“Since the day Donald Trump was inaugurated, it has really been the youth who have stood up and recognized what is at stake,” Swalwell said.
Young voters and first-time voters are a cohort of the electorate that the Biden campaign and the Democrats in the broader sense are counting on to win Tuesday. Based on the early voting statistics, there are promising signs that Millennium and Gen Z voters will participate in record numbers this year.
The pandemic and the way the traditional door-to-door campaign has changed thanks to social media has made political digital content all the more important in this cycle to reach younger voters.
The midterm elections in 2018 brought a record turnout of younger voters and helped the Democrats regain the House of Representatives, thanks to the approximately 26 million voters from the turn of the millennium, who accounted for about a fifth of all votes. This year, too, it is expected that the turnout among young people will break records.
Early voter turnout among voters under the age of 30 has increased nationwide compared to the 2016 presidential elections. And in several contested states such as Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania, records could be broken in the number of pre-election ballots cast by young voters.
“I don’t really follow politics that closely, so in order to get to me, you have to do it on a medium that can reach me,” Madison Best, 24, told Washington Newsday. This is her second time as a voter in Washington State. “I won’t bother to look it up – because that’s who I am as a person – but when I see it on my timeline in an inspiring video like this, I’m more likely to be interested and want to contribute.
According to first-time voter Carly Baker, the wild and unpredictable year 2020 is one more reason for young people like herself to pay more attention to what is happening in the world around them and to participate in the election process.
“We are more affected in a way that Black Lives Matter and everything that has happened can no longer be ignored,” said Baker, who is 23 years old and also lives in Washington State. “I think young people are finally realizing it and trying to make a difference. [Voting] was something that I wanted to do, but it wasn’t really in the foreground of my thinking.
The collection of youth votes in this cycle could decide the outcome of the election on Tuesday. Biden is fully aware that during the election campaign he presented his vision for the future of the country to young Americans.
Now, according to Swalwell, it is up to young voters to get involved and help drive change.
“A high school student recently told me that at this point in her life she does not want to have children as she gets older because she knows how the climate will affect her,” Swalwell said. “She said to me, “How can I bring someone into this world when I know they will burn or be under water?
“That really hit me,” he continued. “You definitely look at the decisions that our leaders have made or haven’t made today and think about how that affects them”.