Heard on the Hill

Yes, his name is Taylor Swift

“Hey, sing ‘Tim McGraw,’ or ‘Picture to Burn,’” people in high school would yell

House Democratic Caucus policy fellow Taylor Swift has learned one thing the hard way: Name recognition is everything. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

What’s it like traveling the world, selling out stadiums in foreign countries? Touching the hearts of millions and becoming a global icon?

I have no idea, and neither does 25-year-old House Democratic Caucus policy fellow Taylor Swift. He knows far more about education, labor and tax policy than he does about writing a love story.

The disappointed looks from the maitre d’. The confused fans. Bewildered co-workers. Swift is used to it all by now. It seems everywhere he arrives, people’s faces drop in dismay once they realize he’s not the international megastar, Taylor Alison Swift.

But Swift says he tries to keep a positive attitude about it because he doesn’t want to become like the Michael Bolton character from “Office Space.” In the movie, Bolton endures constant joking, instilling in him a bitterness toward the famous singer. There was nothing wrong with his name until “I was about 12 years old and that no-talent ass-clown became famous and started winning Grammys,” he rants.

Swift first heard of the pop star in seventh grade, after Googling himself. “Oh, that’s kind of interesting,” he thought, seeing news of the country singer’s 2006 self-titled debut. That album would go on to sell almost 6 million copies, and neither Taylor’s life would be the same.

He initially loathed sharing a moniker with the young star, which led to constant teasing and created bad blood between him and a few classmates. It also didn’t help that he was a member of the school choir. “Hey, sing ‘Tim McGraw,’ or ‘Picture to Burn,’” people yelled.

“This sucks,” he would say to himself. And moving to Ohio didn’t exactly get him out of the woods. It actually made things worse.

“I was the new kid in school,” he says. “And I also was named Taylor Swift. So I was the butt end of the joke, always, because middle school, early high school, is brutal.”

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 15: Recording artist Taylor Swift performs onstage during Rock in Rio USA at the MGM Resorts Festival Grounds on May 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
This Taylor Swift is an international superstar. She’s not the one we interviewed. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images file photo)

Then he got to college and realized everything had changed. Call it what you want, luck or savvy, but Swift soon realized his name was a useful icebreaker and a way to achieve his wildest dreams.

As a freshman, Swift ran for student government at the University of Akron and absolutely destroyed his competition, winning 64 percent of the vote in a crowded six-person field. Any observer of politics can tell you there’s almost nothing more important than name ID, and Swift credits his name doppelganger, and his ability to have fun with the coincidence, for the victory.

He didn’t stop there, eventually becoming student body president his senior year, before turning 22. Swift says he hasn’t ruled out someday running for office in the real world, which would be quite the end game if he can pull it off.

So what else does it mean to share a name with one of the most famous people on the planet? Never leaving the house without your ID, for one thing.

A few months ago Swift made plans to have lunch with his parents at a D.C. restaurant and listed his name on the reservation, much to the excitement of several hostesses.

“I walked in and they were having a conversation about how Taylor Swift is going to be there in a couple minutes,” he says, shaking his head. “And I walked up and was like, ‘Hey, that’s me.’”

They didn’t believe him, so Swift had to show some identification to prove it.

Music fans on social media also get mixed up, which is strange, considering these are supposed to be superfans. “Every day” he gets messages from all over the world, to the point that he’s stopped reading them.

They tell him, “‘Oh, my gosh, I’m your biggest fan! You are amazing! You’re an inspiration!’ And I’m like, ‘Look at my profile. I look absolutely nothing like the other Taylor Swift,’” he says.

It can be frustrating, considering he doesn’t even “listen to her music all that much.”

The confusion follows him to his job on Capitol Hill. “Whenever I RSVP to briefings, go to committee meetings and stuff like that,” there’s bound to be questions, Swift says. But it’s not like he can just leave a blank space instead of filling out his name.

Swift has encountered at least a few others over the years who know his pain all too well. While in high school, he found solace in meeting someone in town named Pamela Anderson. “At least I’m not alone.”

With (entertainer) Swift’s seventh studio album set to drop in August, it doesn’t seem like her star will be fading anytime soon. Is (policy staffer) Swift prepared for the onslaught of renewed attention and jokes?

“Oh, you know, I just shake it off.”

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