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
  • Alexis_9888
    Personally, from Jake Rush's responses to the tangent off-topic mudslinging, I'd have to say he seems a level-headed, mature, intelligent person who truly cares about others. He has a lot more to his resume than his hobbies, and his hobbies aren't detrimental to himself or others. So he passes a basic integrity bar (which a lot of candidates don't), the only other criteria of importance are what kinds of policies he supports and what he hopes to achieve while in office just like any other candidate who runs for office.

    (He also doesn't look too bad in spandex surprisingly. I wouldn't vote for him based on that though. I do wonder if I could have the contact info for his costumer.)

    Now that I think back on all the guilds I've been in or managed, I wish more guild leaders would run for office. Some of those GLs ran "tight ships." They organized hundreds of players and negociated all kinds of conflicts to make their guild truly great in both a positive experience and accomplishing game goals. If we had that kind of leadership in Congress, we wouldn't be in the stew we are now.
  • Alexis_9888
    Political mudslingers will grab at anything to smear their rivals. Anything. They obviously were hoping to dreg up images of an irresponsible, dependent, immature, "Peter Pan Complex," person running for an important administrative office. Ironically, we have a lot of immature, irresponsible, and corrupt office-holders already who lied their way through the polls pretending to be otherwise.

    As video games expand into more social commentary aimed at adults to think about, they are taking on the role of theatrical works, novels, and movies that influence our culture and shift attitudes.

    Many of the group mechanics in complex mmos reflect interview situations, economics, and business negociations in real life. Human nature is surprisingly translatable into a micro-society in many online games that can help players develop real life skills. It is also a dangerous pseudo-reality that can damage trust and faith in others.

    As computerized games increase as a common leisure activity, their stigma and stereotypes should shift as the medium itself is recognized as more than violent or hypersexualized fantasies for men and boys. Television started out similarly but shifted into many genres and forms to the themes it addresses and cinematography techniques it has today.

    It is somewhat funny to realize how much horrible television people watch, but no one has ever tried to smear someone with "You watch THAT show! How could you be an appropriate candidate for office!" (I'm thinking Game of Thrones or Scooby Doo.)

    Even illegal drug use isn't considered smearable anymore. "You did THAT in school!" So what are we judging our candidates by? Good looks and white teeth? Pretty flyers? Dear Lincoln, I hope not.
  • Ricky K.
    I am pleased to see that soon the focus can be back on the issues at hand and not Jake's hobbies. Nice article!
  • Larry Everett
    Featured Columnist
    Which is the exact point of the article. Thanks for reading and catching that.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    That is awesome. I never really thought about it much, why are there not many openly gamer/nerdy politicians. I know why now.

    All these obsolete, old, out of date, completely out of touch people in congress and such are the jock bully assholes from back in the day, when nerds were still disliked. Man I can't wait for them to die off. That is so harsh, but we all know it's true. These people in congress that don't know how to use a computer have got to go, it's 2014, nerds are taking over, get over it!

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