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Point: Shut Up and Sing

Point Counterpoint The Boot Taste of Country

The saying goes that you should never discuss politics or religion in a social situation, and country stars would be wise to heed that theory. It’s not that having strong political beliefs is wrong. It’s not that not caring about politics is wrong, either. It’s not even that sharing your informed political opinions is wrong. Rather, it’s that, as someone in the public eye, no matter what you say about the polarizing topic of politics, you’re going to make enemies.

As the 2016 presidential election draws near, country fans have heard from everyone from Loretta Lynn to Justin Moore about their political beliefs — and their statements have, more often than not, drawn ire from a portion of fans. After Moore called Trump “just wacky enough to actually go do it” in March, the singer found himself answering to those who didn’t appreciate his support of Trump’s rhetoric. Moore later clarified his views on Trump, explaining that, as a Republican, Trump “is my guy,” but adding that the Republican presidential nominee “[has] gotta tone down some things …”

"The saying goes that you should never discuss politics or religion in a social situation, and country stars would be wise to heed that theory."

In the grand scheme of things, though, Moore got off easy. Blake Shelton, not so much. In late July, Billboard published a lengthy piece on Shelton, in which the country star spoke briefly about his thoughts on the upcoming presidential election: “Whether you love him or hate him, [Trump] says what he thinks, and he has proven that you don’t always have to be so afraid. A lot of people are pulling for him, no matter how much Hollywood fights it,” the artist said. “I probably wish there was another option, but there’s not.” A number of outlets picked up Shelton’s comments as an endorsement — Jezebel, for example, ran the story with the headline “Blake Shelton, You Dips–t, We See You Basically Endorsing Donald Trump” — and actress Debra Messing pleaded on Twitter for Shelton’s girlfriend, Gwen Stefani, to “please talk to your man to not vote for the person who will STRIP you of your rights.”

At best, Shelton’s words read as resigned to the fact that he has to pick between two candidates he’s less-than-excited about, but the The Voice coach found himself rebuking those endorsement reports nonetheless: “I haven’t enforced (sic) ANYBODY for president. And I not going to. I don’t do that s–t … My comment about ‘wish there was another option but there’s not’ is across the board … period. Now go dig up another story.”

It’s not just the country acts speaking their mind about Trump who are finding themselves under fire, either: Dolly Parton shared in an interview that she “personally think[s] a woman would do a great job” and “[will] certainly be behind” Hillary Clinton if she wins the presidency … then faced backlash from fans who are anti-Clinton and later found herself amending her thoughts.

"As someone in the public eye, no matter what you say about the polarizing topic of politics, you’re going to make enemies."

Country music is an historically politically conservative genre, but as the music has gained wider popularity in recent years — and as its stars find themselves in the spotlight more broadly — it’s become harder and harder to “win” when expressing a potentially controversial viewpoint. Looking beyond the 2016 election, Carrie Underwood came under fire in 2012 for voicing her support for gay marriage … and country fans don’t need to be reminded of what happened following the Dixie Chickscomments on then-President George W. Bush in 2003.

Perhaps most importantly, though, knowing a celebrity’s politics isn’t an entitlement. Because they’re creating a product for public consumption — their music — country artists need to put some of themselves out there … but despite the proliferation of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and any number of other social media platforms that allow fans to interact with their favorite artists, and vice versa, pretty much 24/7, the stars don’t owe it to their fans to engage constantly or on any and all topics. It’s fun to see fan favorites sharing a glimpse into their lives — but with this track record, politics shouldn’t be among the topics covered.

The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on Oct. 20 for another installment.

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