Why Shania Twain’s Apology Can’t Un-Ring The Trump Bell
Kanye West came out on Saturday in support of a far-right Black Lives Matter critic, displeasing many but surprising no one. The same can’t be said, however, for pop/country royalty Shania Twain, whose retroactive endorsement of candidate Donald Trump on Sunday triggered a symphony of disappointed sighs from all around America.
The second-to-final paragraph in The Guardian’s profile of the singer-songwriter reads:
If she had been able to vote in the US election, she would have plumped for Donald Trump, she says. “I would have voted for him because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest. Do you want straight or polite? Not that you shouldn’t be able to have both. If I were voting, I just don’t want bullshit. I would have voted for a feeling that it was transparent. And politics has a reputation of not being that, right?”
Yikes! Using the word ‘plump’ as a verb just because it rhymes with ‘Trump’ stretches the English language to an uncomfortable angle. Also, uncomfortable: the revelation that Shania Twain is a Trump supporter. To many fans on Twitter, this news could only mean one thing: Shania Twain is cancelled.
By now, everyone is exhausted with Kanye West’s frequent, gleeful forays into self-immolation via regrettable opinions. It was a genuine shock, though, to see Twain take the leap that some have been waiting for Taylor Swift to make, and put a white female pop star face on the MAGA movement. Unlike Kanye West (or Trump, for that matter), Twain is apparently capable of the human emotion “shame.” After enduring hours of backlash Sunday afternoon, she swiftly apologized for her comments. But it’s impossible to walk back support for Donald Trump.
Twain’s apologies arrived in a series of tweets just hours after the Guardian profile ran:
I am passionately against discrimination of any kind and hope it’s clear from the choices I have made, and the people I stand with, that I do not hold any common moral beliefs with the current President (2/4)
— Shania Twain (@ShaniaTwain) April 22, 2018
My answer was awkward, but certainly should not be taken as representative of my values nor does it mean I endorse him. I make music to bring people together. My path will always be one of inclusivity, as my history shows. (4/4)
— Shania Twain (@ShaniaTwain) April 22, 2018
The apology sheds very little light on why Twain felt compelled to make her comments in the first place. Was it a calculated appeal to her fans in deep Trump country? Roseanne revival-like counterprogramming for a country where resistance is so common as to not be particularly interesting? Or was it a big gamble that Trump’s warped assessment of how popular he is in America is actually accurate?
Whatever the thought behind the original comments, her apology for them is wholly insufficient, and here’s why:
- Coming mere hours after her comments set Twitter ablaze, the rushed apology feels less like the product of deep thought and soul-searching than PR-assisted damage control.
- The question “caught me off guard?” What is the one subject everybody is always talking about all the time, even while hating their inability to stop? Does having to consume food 2-5 times a day also catch Twain off guard?
- She says her comments were not meant to be taken as an endorsement. What other way is there to possibly take the words, “I would have voted for him”?
- She pleads “a limited understanding” of Donald Trump on account of being from Canada. Trump coverage, though, does not play like some obscure U.S. TV show that found traction with small pockets of viewers around the world. Any American who’s been abroad in the past year or has friends outside the U.S. can attest to how familiar the rest of the world is with Trump headlines and video clips. They’re as nauseatingly familiar with those as we are. Also: Twain spends plenty of time in the U.S., even if she doesn’t live here. If Twain didn’t understand Donald Trump in the lead-up to the election, she’s had ample opportunity to understand him since–and decide whether it would be maybe not a great idea to announce she would’ve voted for him.
- The apology doesn’t fully explain what Twain meant by saying Trump “seemed honest.” Is she saying Hillary Clinton seemed so dishonest that Trump looked like Abe Lincoln in comparison? That the media’s constant fact-checking on the proven pathological liar seemed like mere speculation to her? Just because Trump said what Twain wanted to hear doesn’t mean that he’s honest–it means Twain is just as susceptible to pandering as the rest of us. Anyone who thinks Donald Trump actually seemed honest, rather than like a back alley Three-Card Monte grifter who says whatever it takes to get you to the table, is either an unhealthy level of gullible, or they’re just not being honest.
- The apology only covers Donald Trump’s “discrimination.” What about all the women who say he sexually assaulted them and the teenage beauty pageant contestants he bragged to Howard Stern about barging in on while they were undressed? What about his dictator-like war on media and the very concept of truth? What about his war on the environment? What about his pushing a racist conspiracy theory about the first black president for five years and never apologizing for it? What about his corruption and self-dealing and not releasing his taxes? What about his constantly seeming on the verge of making nuclear threats? What about the fact that this paragraph could keep going until the next Shania Twain album comes out, and Twain seemingly only found out most of this stuff between when the Guardian piece dropped and her apology? Saying in 2018 that you would have voted for Trump means endorsing all of these things. You can’t take Donald Trump a la carte.
The mouth-frothers at Fox News will likely seize on the response to Twain’s comments—including pieces like this one—as examples of the so-called Intolerant Left. That charge is not exactly accurate. The left simply has a zero tolerance policy on intolerance, which is a cornerstone of the 33-or-so per cent of the country that will remain loyal to Trump even after a nuclear war turns all of us into mutant goo-creatures. Many on the left are willing to at least hear out those on the right who voted for Trump but have come to regret it for any number of reasons. There’s a big tent of people of all leanings who are wary of Trump in 2018, and it includes many who were for him in 2016. For Shania Twain to announce at this moment that she would have voted for Trump if only she could’ve is a staggeringly bad reading of the room. No apology can fix that.
Twain’s original statement is sure to bolster her position with some fans, the same way Roseanne Barr’s revival has done with hers. The truth is, however, that millions of fans long ago left Roseanne Barr back in the late ’90s, due to her indefensible opinions. They will have no problem leaving Shania Twain back there too.