Every election cycle brings at least one wacky candidate story, and for the past several days that candidate has been Jake Rush, a lawyer and former sheriff’s deputy who is running for Congress as a Republican in Florida’s 3rd District. To the manifest delight of the Internet, it turns out that Rush may spend his day defending “stand your ground” cases, but at night he likes to role-play, specifically as the characters Chazz Darling and Lord Staas van der Winst, acting out scenarios through a local chapter of the Mind’s Eye Society, which runs occult-themed role-playing games.
Nerd-bashing and spotting political hypocrisy are both well-established traditions that magnify each other in this story. I understand how irresistible it is to try to pick at seeming contradictions in the life of a guy who posts pictures of himself with his newborn on his campaign website while writing laughably incoherent threats to fellow role-players in his off hours. But in the interest of geeky solidarity, let me mount a brief defense of Jake Rush and his hobbies.
No evidence exists that Rush’s activities were anything other than fantasy. Dave Weigel suggested on Slate.com that there is a tension between Rush’s work in drug enforcement during his tenure in the sheriff’s department, which he touts as proof of his law-and-order credentials, and his fantasies of snorting cocaine. But if Rush is role-playing parts that are deliberately transgressive, it makes perfect sense that he would gravitate toward the very things he finds off-limits in his professional capacity.
So what if the Mind’s Eye role-players “take on personas of vampires and other supernatural beings … dealing with night-to-night struggles âagainst their own bestial natures, hunters, and each other,’ ” as political consultant Peter Schorsch reports? Pushing back “against their own bestial natures” sounds like a project that a lot of Rush’s potential constituents might engage in on a regular basis. One person’s dorky is another person’s space for moral exploration.
I would probably never vote for Rush, but that’s because I’m not terribly fond of stand-your-ground laws. I do, however, support the idea of more nerds in Congress. Imagination, moral and otherwise, is something we could use more of in Washington.
Alyssa Rosenberg writes on culture and politics for The Washington Post’s Act Four blog.