The GOP Assumes You Hate Han Solo
Are you sitting down? The Republican Congressional Leadership Fund just unearthed footage of a Democratic opponent that they’re sure will make your stomach turn. This is far more scandalous than some paltry brag about sexually assaulting women or a backroom assertion that 47% of the country doesn’t matter. Only follow this link if you’re emotionally prepared to watch a college student singing in an a capella group, playing beer pong with his friends, or, most salaciously of all, dressing as the most infamous smuggler in a galaxy far, far away.
We could spend a long time dissecting the psychology of people who think these activities are embarrassing enough to disqualify someone from holding elected office — perhaps they’d prefer he spent his youth engaged in wholesome fun like burning crosses, dodging the draft, or the occasional golden shower? But to get to the heart of this feeble attempt to defame Georgia congressional candidate Jon Ossoff, I must point out that the gap here isn’t just political — it’s generational.
Once upon a time, a White Man in a Crisp Suit conferred all the authority in the world, but millennials have learned to distrust exactly that kind of posturing. Rough edges and imperfections mean someone is being honest with us; anybody too slick has likely been rolled off the assembly line to sell us something. While the generation before prized the appearance of “respectability,” we tend to value authenticity above all else, which sounds nebulous until you think about the people we actually support.
Online voices like Laci Green and the vlogbrothers make salient points with unmade beds in the background, and we appreciate a Vermont Senator who cares more about engaging with his supporters than derumpling a windbreaker. And yes, even our Commander-in-Chief’s childish tirades satisfied the yearnings of an audience so desperate for something real that they settled for the first screed that didn’t sound like it was being read off a teleprompter. Faking this kind of unvarnished vulnerability is harder than you think — take a ten-second glance at @BrandsSayingBae or r/FellowKids to see how easy it is to faceplant in the Uncanny Valley of millennial appeal.
All of this is to say: While a new generation of elected officials will have to grapple with the staggering opportunities for humiliation that a lifetime of social media affords, this is about as weak an attack as the GOP possibly could have devised. Instead of degrading Ossoff’s reputation, they did something that any politician’s PR team works tirelessly to accomplish: They made him look like a fun, down-to-Earth guy. (Sidebar: You’d think the GOP would have more love for one of the foremost proponents of the value of a good blaster at your side, particularly one with a stand-your-ground-style “who shot first?” controversy in his past.)
Moreover, are images of Ossoff seated next to the world’s lowest-budget Chewbacca impersonator really more offensive than, say, lazily pandering photo-ops with big game, grieving widows, or smiling human props meant to represent a commitment to whichever constituency the latest poll suggests the candidate target? Georgia’s voters are really expected to dismiss this guy because they know he authentically enjoys a widely beloved film franchise? In fact, several local and progressive outlets have observed that trying to ruin a man by associating him with one of the coolest and most iconic characters in film history might just backfire.
I disclaim that I don’t know enough about the politics of Georgia’s 6th district to confidently assess whether this attack will help or hurt Ossoff’s chances. But if the Congressional Leadership Fund has so little confidence in the intelligence of their electorate that they think they can dupe them into dumping a candidate because he had fun in college, then frankly, I find their lack of faith disturbing.
Zach Ehrlich is the Creative Director of Defiant, a new network dedicated to amplifying millennial activist stories and ways to join the fight. He thought The Force Awakens was just OK.