We are too young now and will be too young for another three term cycles, but 12 years down the road — or 11 years post-Apocalypse, because it’s still definitely happening — we now-25-year-olds (…born in the United States) will finally be eligible to run for President. Brilliant! Finally we can make good on those “when I grow up” speeches we gave to our fifth grade class, as well as wow our previously underwhelmed parents.
But take a step back from the excitement of becoming President for a moment. Consider the world we now live in: one where almost every move we make is recorded (or at least noted) and the notion of “skeletons in the closet” is ridiculous because they’re right there in our Facebook pictures, drowning in Four Loko. We are the first true Overshare Generation. And when it comes time in 2024 for us to step out onto the public stage — to be held accountable for our lives led to that point — most of us will have left digital footprints too DIRTY and AWFUL for our campaign to stand any kind of a chance.
The idea of an “untarnished” candidate is, even going back pre-digital revolution, pretty pie in the sky. Clinton’s reputation as a womanizer preceded him to the White House; Bush’s good times with drugs and alcohol were well-known long before 2000. But these were, for the most part, isolated moments — nothing like the complete online identities those of us born since the 80’s have cultivated. We’ve lived a major portion of our lives inside a searchable database, where EVERYTHING ABOUT US is as easy to find as an IMDB listing. Drunk thoughts we had as 19-year-olds. Politically incorrect videos we’ve shared. The fact that a quick Google search of my own name yields an impressive array of America’s Got Talent recaps is more than enough to keep me out of the West Wing. And don’t get me started on my cousin Barry’s “You Might Be a Terrorist If…” Tumblr.
This whole hypothetical electability kerfuffle shakes out one of two ways. The first, and less likely: only the kind of person who’s led a borderline monastic, anti-digital life will be considered clean enough to run for President. But would you really want a home-schooled kid running for President? So the second: the rules will have to change.
Obviously there aren’t many hard “rules” outside of the age requirement (it’s like an Outback Steakhouse at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), but media scrutiny and public perception offer their own codes of conduct. A candidate must not be frivolous in their hobbies, but still have them. A candidate must believe in God, preferably a Christian one. If a candidate has made any mistakes in his life, they must be of an isolated and ideally accidental nature. The list goes on. It’s tough passing the test!
As a voting population, how will we adjust to a changed social landscape? What concessions will we make to our long-held Puritanical standards when that guy was always trying to cyber in WoW is on the ballot?
I’VE GOT SOME THOUGHTS, obviously, but rather than rattle off some ill-informed list of half-jokes I want to hear what YOU think. Comment! Discuss! Let’s turn Lifting Fog today from a repository of Shia LeBeouf cracks into a hip gathering place for intelligent discussion. With farts, still.