What Taylor Swift’s home county in Pennsylvania explains about the 2024 election

Democrats are hoping an endorsement of Joe Biden by Swift would make him untouchable  (Getty)
Democrats are hoping an endorsement of Joe Biden by Swift would make him untouchable (Getty)

Few people generate as many headlines as Taylor Swift. Her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and subsequent appearances at his games, including the Super Bowl, created bad blood among many right-wingers. Meanwhile, Democrats hope that an endorsement of Joe Biden by Swift would make him untouchable.

But while the lavender haze of the primaries wears off, only a handful of states remain, including Swift’s home state of Pennsylvania. Particularly, her birthplace, Berks County, explains plenty about the 2024 election. Here’s how Berks County will drop everything now for Trump or speak now for Biden (and bonus points for anyone who finds all the hidden references).

Swift was born in West Reading, Pennsylvania, similar to Pennsylvania’s junior senator John Fetterman – who, like the subject of Swift’s “Wildest Dreams”, is “so tall”, though we’ll leave whether he’s “handsome as hell” to the reader. But Swift spent the majority of her childhood in nearby Wyomissing. This is likely the area that inspired her song “Christmas Tree Farm”.

In 2008, West Reading voted for Barack Obama, along with the rest of Berks County, making him the first Democrat to win Berks since Lyndon Johnson. Similarly, all but one of the precincts in Wyomissing broke for Obama that same year.

But by 2012, driven by the Great Recession, everything had changed. Berks voted for Mitt Romney, and it broke Hillary Clinton like a promise when it voted for Donald Trump by roughly the same margin by which it had voted for Obama in 2008, as did Wyomissing. It did so again in 2020 by a slightly larger margin, despite Biden’s Pennsylvania roots.

Like many of the regions where Trump performed his best, Berks has a low college-degree attainment. According to the US Census Bureau, only 26.8 per cent of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. By comparison, neighbouring Montgomery County, which includes the suburbs of Philadelphia and voted for Biden, has a 51.4 per cent bachelor’s degree attainment rate, meaning its residents likely took a class in the Tortured Poets Department at one of the Commonwealth’s many fine universities.

Similarly, in 2012, Democratic senator Bob Casey – a childhood friend of Biden’s who, as the son of a popular former governor, is part of the last great American dynasty – won the county. He did so again in 2018, showing that, despite moving right, Berks voters had a hard time adjusting to voting for Republican Senate candidates.

At the same time, there was a sign that Democrats were bound to become suburban legends. In 2016, West Reading voted for Clinton, and it did so again in 2020 – suddenly enchanted to meet a Democratic candidate. Similarly, in 2018, after the state’s Supreme Court mandated new congressional districts be drawn, West Reading elected Democratic representative Chrissy Houlahan, who has held the seat ever since.

In the coming election, the biggest phenomenon people are watching is that of the “double-hater”, which is to say voters who don’t like either Biden or Trump. In an election where candidates should be celebrated, it appears that most voters have decided they have to simply tolerate it.

Given the lingering anger over the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v Jackson decision, Republicans no longer seem to be writing off the standard college-educated female voter as a madwoman. Those female voters – particularly the college-educated voters and their daughters who packed arenas during Swift’s Eras tour last year – continue to show their salience as a political demographic. And they’ve made it clear that they don’t take kindly to having their reproductive freedoms interfered with. Which should make them ask candidates: “Who’s afraid of little old me?” The answer might be: “The GOP.”