Say, Republicans: Have you heard of these "millennials"? Did you know they're hurting economically, and they vote? Well, of course you know they vote. You've tried for so long to make it harder, because they don't vote for you so much. But hey, there's another solution: Make stuff up!
Enter Scott Greenberg, a 30-year-old ad guy with a cool shirt, the sort of shirt Adam might wear on Girls. Scott is a hipster. Scott is young. Scott is concerned about paying for things. That's why Scott is a Republican, the face of a new GOP-sponsored ad campaign running in 14 swing Senate states this election cycle:
I feel pretty lucky to have a job. So many people I know are unemployed. It's like their lives are stuck in neutral.
So I get ticked off at politicians who say they want to help the unemployed and then vote for regulations that make it impossible to hire anyone. Listen, you can't help the unemployed by hurting the people who could employ them.
I'm a Republican because my friends need a paycheck, not an empty promise.
I should like Scott. After all, we're products of the same university English department and local podunk newspaper. And we both have unemployed friends and feel pretty lucky to have jobs! But Scott has a lot of hardships that I don't, frankly. And I don't just mean his inability to take his eyes off the cue cards beside the camera. (Going for on-the-street conversational veritè? You're doing it creepily wrong.)
Here are the hardships in Scott Greenberg's life:
- His Audi needs gas.
- The house he just bought in the DC metro area, that hipster haven, is covered in snow.
- His house appears to be a fair distance from his one-man marketing firm's glass-and-steel office in DC's NoMa district. (Hey, create some jobs already, you small-business slacker.)
- He probably worked really hard after law school at his glossy magazine job "during Mercedes Benz swim week and independent gallery and fashion shows throughout Miami Beach and the design district."
- He and his wife must have had sleepless nights trying to figure out what to say while chilling with the Fabulous Beekman Boys:
- When hanging with his homies from Paste magazine, Scott had to spring for the $34 vintage FSU shirt that never goes on sale:
Update: Susan Busch, manager for Dan Deacon—the musician featured here with Greenberg in this photo—emails us to clarify that Deacon and Greenberg are absolutely not friends. Here's her statement:
Dan Deacon (pictured in this article) is in no way affiliated with Scott Greenberg other than being interviewed by him for Paste Magazine and a quick photo after a show. Dan's political views are no where near in line with the GOP. He's active in the Occupy Wall Street movement and is specifically outspoken about his views on fracking. Scott had Dan listed, with many many other bands he's interviewed, as a client on his CV but removed his name upon request.
How do you expect him to be able to afford his gas and heat with expenses like that?
But at the end of the day, Scott's chief offense isn't living richly and talking like a pauper. That's a fairly Gen Y thing to do. His cardinal sin is making absolutely no coherent sense in terms of political rhetoric. Like when he wants an "all of the above" energy strategy:
I shouldn't have to check my bank account before I fill up my car. Sooo much of my paycheck ends up going to gas. We haven't even talked about my heating bill at home. So when it comes to energy policy for this country, I'm for everything—solar, wind, shale gas, oil, whatever. I'm a Republican because we should have an all of the above energy policy.
First, if he likes "all of the above" energy policies, he should vote for Obama. Second, he shouldn't like "all of the above" energy policies, because they don't make his gas cheaper. They make all of the energy companies richer. Third, stop fucking driving everywhere. Or at least car pool with your awesome unemployed friends. What kind of a hipster are you?
Is this more evidence of the GOP's inability to resonate with young voters? It would be, if youth outreach really was the aim of this campaign. Certainly it evinces the same post-2006, post-2012 implosion reasoning we've seen Republicans display: "It's not our philosophy that's wrong! It's our messaging!" They've seen all the Obama ads, and they think the ads' cultural currency lies in their special sauce of buzzwords and images, not in the underlying ideas and beliefs. Conservatives give liberals credit for pathos, but never for ethos and logos, probably because of conservatives' pathological belief in their own ethical and logical superiority.
But I'm not convinced this is a serious effort, any more than the GOP's half-hearted, comically failing efforts at online crowdsourcing, grassroots outreaching, cyber innovating, or Hispanic bridge-building. It's not as if they made a truly bold ad showing Scott talk about how glad he is that his gay friends can finally share work benefits through marriage because so many GOP leaders have acceded to public opinion on that particular issue. They didn't make that ad because they don't want to alienate, you know, real Republicans.
More likely, an old donor wants to see some youth outreach, and the RNC finds Scott, a young Beltway acolyte to provide them with a simulacrum of youth culture for a couple of shekels. We have the horn-rimmed glasses! The pomaded hair! A brick tenement across a city street! Talk of money problems and friends!
The RNC likely doesn't give a flying rat's patoot if this campaign hooks in a single under-35 voter. But if it impresses a couple of rich country-club grandpas and loosens up their checkbooks, it will have served its purpose. This is marketing for dollars, not for votes. When the alpha and omega of your philosophy is market capitalism, you assume dollars can always buy votes. And until the American electorate starts proving Republicans wrong on a regular basis, the shitty, laughably cynical ad-making business will persist.