As I've discovered by trying to be funny in TIME magazine, you can get a ton of credit for doing something merely adequately as long as no one else around is attempting it. That's how Congressmen Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy became the cool people in the Republican Party. If you were to show up at your office and tell everyone that you and two co-workers were calling yourselves the Young Guns and that you'd made a black-and-white YouTube video in which you all wore white button-down shirts and walked toward the camera in a row as if you were in a Quentin Tarantino movie, you would get--despite the fact that you're an adult--completely beaten up.
But the three authors of the new book Young Guns have instead become so popular that their clique has ballooned to include 92 congressional nominees, including a guy who is 61 and another who lost the NRA's support to his Democratic opponent. The Young Guns program has gotten the financial backing of the National Republican Congressional Committee and has official levels for pledges: On the Radar, Contender and full-on Young Gun. It seems likely that by the end of the year, they will build a fort inside the Capitol.
The Democrats, meanwhile, have not even made an attempt to be cool. In the interest of fairness, I figured it was my responsibility to help them. For advice, I went to Joel Babbit, a longtime advertising executive for McCann Erickson and Chiat/Day who is now CEO of the environmental website Mother Nature Network. He explained that the Republicans are superior at "leveraging branded concepts" such as the Tea Party, the Contract with America and Joe the Plumber. The Democrats are better at getting Hollywood actors nobody really likes to speak unintelligibly about their causes. This, apparently, is not as effective as "leveraging branded concepts."
Babbit came up with some great ideas for a group of young, feisty Democrats. He suggested the Transformers, since the name "could play off the movie characters and the transformation of bad things into good--jobs, public spaces' air quality." Babbit also came up with the Demolition Crew, which I worked into a commercial in which lots of stuff gets blown up. Mostly Hummers. But also tax cuts for the rich, which will be symbolized by lots of cash inside a Hummer. I really want to explode Hummers.
Far more difficult than coming up with brands to concept and leverage was finding cool Democratic Representatives. After asking some Democratic staffers, I was directed toward Debbie Wasserman Schultz, 44, whose Florida district includes South Beach. I asked the Congresswoman if she had ever thought about a name for her and her colleagues. It turns out that she was part of the 30 Something working group, whose members got older and stopped getting together, much like a rock band in a Bryan Adams song. She said she had thought of coming up with a name for the Representatives she works most closely with but got distracted by trying to pass legislation. Still, she didn't love any of my ideas, even Politicians Who Are Reasonably Familiar with Hip-Hop.