Jake Rush, Nerd and Gamer for US Congress

We talk to geek, gamer, LARPer, and Congressional candidate Jake Rush about being a nerd in politics.

Last night, Stephen Colbert talked to Florida Third District Congressional Candidate Jake Rush. You might have heard his name a little over a month ago when he made headlines regarding his extracurricular activities in the live-action roleplay (LARP) group the Mind’s Eye Society. That’s right, Rush roleplayed as a vampire and played the popular White Wolf RPG Vampire: The Masquerade. Most gamers don’t blink an eye when they hear about people who participate in LARP groups, but then most gamers aren’t running for political office.

I had an opportunity to speak with Candidate Rush to discuss his nerdiness and how it affects his political career.

In some ways he’s the typical politician: he is a lawyer, served in law enforcement, and strives to uphold the Constitution. But at the same time, he is also the typical nerd: He’s “never been content to accept the status quo,” he attended a magnet school, and of course, he’s a gamer and LARPer. In fact, he eagerly pointed out the Kickstarter games that he supported: Hex, Faeria, and Torment: Tides of Numenera.

When talking with Rush, I mentioned a statement at Calgary Expo by actor and nerd activist Wil Wheaton, then asked Rush if he was a nerd.

“By that definition, I am a nerd,” he said, then went on to say that he was more of a “sheep dog” for nerds. Of course, I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, so he clarified.

“I wasn't as socially awkward as a stereotypical ‘nerd,’” he said, “so I stood up for the group when we were picked on and bullies backed off. As a Sheriff's Deputy, I got to stand up for everyone in my community, which was a great feeling.”

But what about the times when it’s him who is being ridiculed? The Saint Peters Blog, a right-leaning Floridian political website, attempted to devalue Rush by exposing his nerdy hobby. “Rush is certainly living a double life,” the reporter stated, “one that would rival Jekyll and Hyde – except it is all too real.” But is it really a double life? I asked Rush why there was so much negative focus on his particular hobby.

“There is negative focus because it was a designed political hit piece. You notice that the headline wasn't ‘GOP Candidate leads bizarre double life as Jesus, Savior of man’ even though that was a role I played at my church. It was designed to paint me in a negative light despite my long resume of leadership and public service.”

Of course, this brought up concerns about other nerd-like activities for politicians. Although Rush is the first person in geek culture to run for such a high office, other geeks have held more local offices. For instance, Colleen Lachowicz avidly played World of Warcraft but won a State Senate seat for Maine. Her opponents wanted to project the image that MMO players and other people who participated in these types of activities were not fit to hold such an important job. What kind of effect do you think these types extracurricular activities have on job performance as a representative or any other elected office?

“None. What matters is how they react to mud-slinging. That's all this sort of witch-hunt shows: whether the person has guts and if they're going to stand up or fold under pressure. It's especially important for a politician who touts the Constitution to be willing to stand strong.  Is there any question where I stand on 1st Amendment or privacy rights after this? What does it say that my opponent mocks this?”

I’m not going to tell you to vote for Rush because I’ve not mentioned any of his political platforms. His place in geek culture should not have direct bearing on that decision, unless you want to count this picture of he and his wife as evidence that he can reach across party lines. He has DC Comics’ Flash is embracing his wife as Marvel’s Phoenix.

But joking aside, if you are a resident of Florida’s Third District, then visit Rush’s website to find out what he really stands for. Then if you’re so inclined, support him because you like his policies not because he does or doesn’t wear tights in his off time.

If you’re a nerd and want to jump into the world of politics, Rush has some words for you.

“Stand strong. There's nothing wrong with being a gamer or a nerd. Those who try to attack you for it are bullies, and bullies lash out from weakness. Also remember that, as a person in office, you have to stand up for others every day. Get used to it. You need to be a hero and inspire others to strength so we leave this Earth to our children better than we found it.”

Thanks, Jake, for taking the time to speak to me. I wish you luck in your campaign.

Published May. 9th 2014
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