Does Ossoff Race Reveal Trouble Ahead For Millennial Leaders?

So it isn’t exactly Texas.

But like the rest of the nation, many Texan eyes will be trying to read some political tea leaves after tonight’s Special Election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.  As the first such contest since Donald Trump took power, many Progressives have pinned their hopes on Jon Ossoff, the top Democrat in the race.  As Richard Fausset of the New York Times reports, this race is rife with implications for the nation’s thoughts on Trump and the overwhelmingly Republican, grossly under-performing Congress…

Voters in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District will have 18 candidates to choose from Tuesday when they decide who should fill the seat vacated by former Representative Tom Price, a Republican who was tapped to become President Trump’s health and human services secretary.

But none have earned more press, or raised more money, than Jon Ossoff, 30, a Democrat and documentary filmmaker who bills his campaign as a way to “Make Trump Furious.” Now, in one of the first political tests of the Trump presidency, the question is whether he can turn anti-Trump anger and energy into enough votes to send him to Congress from a wealthy suburban district that has not sent a Democrat to Washington in decades.

The Times also provides an excellent 2017 Elections timeline, so you can keep up with some other key races in the coming months.  For an off-year cycle, there is plenty to watch.

We’ll hear plenty from tonight’s results, but ultimately that’s only one part of a much deeper story.  The most important events from this special election actually happened during the campaign.  As one of a precious few Millennials seeking federal office, Mr. Ossoff has had to endure the ire copious attack ads from Republican groups wishing to tarnish his credentials.  No surprise there.

But as Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, the attacks they may have broad implications for virtually all aspiring Millennial leaders…

A Republican super PAC has unleashed a $1.1 million ad barrage against Jon Ossoff, a Democratic newcomer who is attracting national attention and a torrent of fundraising in his campaign to flip a conservative suburban Atlanta district.

[…]

The ad takes aim at Ossoff’s assertion that he worked for five years as a national security staffer who held top security clearances.

Ossoff and his campaign said he was granted those privileges working for Johnson after his 2006 election, while the super PAC depicts him as a college student “dressing up with his drinking buddies” for part of that time.

In a statement, Johnson called the ad “absurd.”

“Jon spent five years working on National Security issues for me, and he worked on such sensitive programs that he received a top secret security clearance from the Department of Defense,” said the DeKalb Democrat. “Washington political operatives are coming into Georgia to spread false personal attacks – it’s what the American people are sick and tired of.”

Instead of attacking Ossoff’s positions or his record directly, the PACs used old social media clips to paint him as an “irresponsible college student”, and make no mention of his career accomplishments since his 2009 graduation.

In essence, Mr. Ossoff is being punished in these ads because he is a Millennial.  Take a look at the “attack ad” in question.

Anyone that is around and under the age of 35 is likely to have similar clips on social media from an earlier point in their life.  A silly picture here, a politically incorrect comment there.  It’s part of the young adult experience to capture the less serious moments of their lives.  But if Ossoff’s race is any indication, these moments of past fun could wreak havoc for our nation’s next generation of leaders.

If by chance you’ve forgotten, folks like Ossoff are an anomaly.  Forget even running for office… Millennials are still struggling to even go and vote, as was well evidenced by the 2016 Presidential election.  But if they don’t show up and vote for their peers, they are leaving electoral decisions to an older generation which may view ads like the one above as an actual problem.

A loss for Ossoff means a validation of this strategy where younger candidates are made to look like fools from Social Media posts, and left far more vulnerable to defeat than their likely older counterparts.  In the years to come, who won or lost this race may be far less important than why behind.

So I’d like to hear your feedback in the comments.  Should Millennial candidates like John Ossoff be punished for having a Social Media history?  Let me know your thoughts.  

 

UPDATE: A big congratlations to Mr. Ossoff, who was the top finisher in last night’a Congressional Primary. Though the Democrat fell just shy of the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a run-off, he was still far and away the winner of the contest, earning a larger percentage of the vote than all of his Republican challengers COMBINED. It’s on to the final contest, where he will face where he will face former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.

One can only hope that the conversation moves beyond the baseless attacks waged during the Primary Campaign. But in the era of Trump, don’t hold your breath.

 

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