Every election cycle brings at least one wacky candidate story with it 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 Web site while popping in black contacts and 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.
As my colleague Alexandra Petri has pointed out, political consultant Peter Schorsch, who went digging for details on the Mind’s Eye Society, is stretching as far as he possibly can to suggest that Rush is palling around with dog-menacers and book burners. Never mind that no evidence exists that Rush’s activities were anything other than fantasy. And as fantasy, there is not actually much contradiction between Rush’s stated policy positions and the games he’s playing.
Dave Weigel suggested that there is 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 towards the very things he finds off-limits in his professional capacity.
In that vein, so what if the”Mind’s Eye, or MES, is a nationwide community of gothic-punk role-players who come together to take on personas of vampires and other supernatural beings (known as Kindred), dealing with night-to-night struggles ‘against their own bestial natures, hunters, and each other,’ ” as Schorsch reports? Sure, supernatural metaphors might be less familiar than the typical fare on offer at a Sunday church service. But 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.
The best argument against Rush drawn from his role-playing might be a temperament issue, since no matter your interests, it is never a good look to threaten people online. But even there, it seems like Rush is less guilty than initially reported. A friend of Rush’s has taken responsibility for some unpleasant messages posted with a handle that Rush also had access to, because both men played as the same character.
I would probably never vote for Jake Rush, but that is because I’m not terribly fond of stand-your-ground laws, and, so far, Obamacare is working out just fine for me. But I absolutely support the idea of more nerds in Congress. Imagination, moral and otherwise, is something we could use more of in Washington.