By “Matt Lewis & The News” guest blogger Emily Zanotti
Rep. Rodney Alexander is fed up with the DC lifestyle and is headed home to northeastern Louisiana to live out the rest of his days in the quiet, more-above-board world of Louisiana political corruption. His decision obviously comes mid-term and leaves the GOP with a bit of a hole to fill, and while the district is decidedly red – meaning that nearly anyone with political aspirations would have a winning shot – at least a few DC consultants already have their eye on a candidate: Duck Dynasty star and Duck Commander CEO, Willie Robertson.
Alexander, expressing frustration with divided government, is going to work in Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s cabinet. He will leave at the end of September and a special election will be held to fill the open seat.
He represents the 5th District, including Monroe, La., home to the group headed by Robertson, the game call and hunting companiesDuck Commander and Buck Commander. Alexander and his staff are also friendly with the Robertson family, especially Willie.
Robertson is more famous for the TV hit Duck Dynasty on A&E about the family business, in which where he is known for being the CEO prankster. He is a self-described “redneck millionaire.”
“My boys want to run Willie Robertson for the seat,” said a key outside advisor to House GOP leadership. The source said that efforts are being made to interest Robertson into running.
Because I love Duck Dynasty and I appreciate that there are still nice, successful people in this country living the American Dream, let me be the first to say -as a political consultant – that this should absolutely never happen. This is not because I believe Willie Robertson is in any way a bad candidate for public office, because he’s not. He’s a recruiter’s dream: an adept, educated company CEO with a solid foundation, a smart wife and a handful of adorable children, who has already proven he has widespread appeal. He and his family have already made a huge impact on American culture with a top-rated television show, massive merchandising and partnership deals, and an incredible ability to connect to basic American values in a world that tries to hide, spurn and shun them.
And that’s why running Willie Robertson is dangerous.
As the world of politics and the world of entertainment grow closer and closer, I expect that parties will look to cultural touchstones who are already used to the spotlight, if only because they have experience in areas politicians and political parties don’t, from scheduling, booking and branding, to high level marketing and message crafting. The Robertson clan is no exception. But it’s precisely because the GOP is so tone deaf in these areas, and so incredibly eager to inject a winning personality spewing red meat messages into the field that potential candidates should be worried. The GOP (and the grassroots is no less guilty) will see something pop up above the crowd, snap it up and stick a leash on it faster than you can cook a squirrel on a hot plate (which, according to Mike Huckabee’s 2007 campaign trail lesson is pretty fast). And as Matt ingeniously noted not long ago, one need only look to the meteoric rise and fall of Dr. Ben Carson to understand why yanking someone out of a successful, influential position and tossing them into the world of political punditry without an adequate safety net can have dire consequences.
The GOP needs to understand that making inroads into culture isn’t all about taking what’s great about culture and shoving it headfirst into politics. It’s also about leaving some of your greatest assets in place to expand their influence. Duck Dynasty is a show about everything the GOP claims makes America great: from a strong family structure that provides the kind of intimate support that a government never can, to the golden opportunities the American experience offers to those who believe in their own ingenuity and a lot of hard work, to the spoils that come from celebrating your own freedom. The show provides a shining, credible example of value that transcends political boundary lines and pulls in an audience that would never hear the same message delivered by a Fox News contributor foaming at the mouth over an outrageous Obama Administration mis-step. It’s something conservatism – and probably America – desperately needs.
Pulling Willie Robertson into a political campaign would bring all that to a crashing halt, as scripts and edits would become subject to FEC constraints, tie-in merchandise would have to be pulled from store shelves, and promotional appearances would become subject to the strict scrutiny of a team of political consultants who would rob the Robertsons of every facet of their personality that makes them such great spokespeople for the conservative message to begin with.
And that’s if Willie even makes a good candidate. Since he’s successful in almost every other aspect of his life, and has managed to hold down a job at a flourishing corporation, something tells me he wouldn’t fit into the sweltering DC world of has-beens and trust fund babies in itchy wool suits, in the company of slimy lobbyists and backstabbing legislative aides. There are lots of people I couldn’t help but wish that fate on – a couple of Kardashians come to mind – but Willie isn’t one of them.
So maybe for now, it’s best to stick to the existing pool of candidates and try to hone them as best we can. And if Willie wants to enter politics when he’s done taking reality television by storm, we can start him off in the minor leagues like everyone else. Good, common sense rednecks are needed at every level.
That said, I could definitely see Uncle Si as Secretary of Defense. Maybe we could make that happen in 2016.
Emily Zanotti is a political communications consultant and the editor-in-chief of NakedDC.com, an incredibly fantastic political gossip and humor blog that all of you should read.