Voting is hard, right ladies? Luckily, the College Republican National Committee is here to help put things in terms we’ll understand: wedding dresses. Also reality shows. The conservative group released sixteen new ads today, all parodying TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” and following the same (offensive, hackneyed) script: Britney, a young, blond recent college grad is trying on wedding dresses, each representing a candidate in the upcoming midterms. The Democrat—in this, Charlie Crist—is frumpy and expensive; the Republican—Rick Scott—is sleek and strapless (though also kind of ugly and basic). Britney's mom is on the Democrat’s side, but her black best friend (yay diversity!) convinces her to follow her heart.
The ads, which somehow cost $1 million dollars, are part of CRNC’s campaign to reach young voters in a “culturally relevant way,” as CRNC’s Alex Smith told the Wall Street Journal. (Smith, by the way, is a woman.) And to be fair, Democratic campaigns have also struggled painfully in their attempts to be hip and with it, though at least their gifs and co-opted memes show some awareness of a cultural world beyond basic cable. (Note to Alex Smith: The median age of “Say Yes to the Dress” viewers is 44.)
But this isn’t the first time College Republicans, and the GOP in general, have tried to woo young voters by portraying them as girlfriends or fiances. CRNC’s first ad campaign, “The Break-Up,” was in 2010, showing jilted lovers calling it off with Barack Obama: “It’s not me. It’s definitely you. Hashtag it’s over.”
In 2013, they released “TerryFish,” an anti-Terry McAuliffe ad modeled on MTV’s “Catfish.”
And last April, there was a “Bachelor” spoof. (Another note to Alex Smith: The median “Bachelor” viewer is 51.)
Bad acting and cheap production values aside, there’s that recurring message: For young women, political decisions are like dating. And not even legitimate dating—the superficial, emotionally staged dating of reality TV. True, nobody bases their political beliefs on policy alone, and there are all sorts of emotional factors tied up with political affiliation: how you perceive yourself, how you want others to see you, which candidates you feel you can trust. But the young women who voted Democrat in the last election did it because of policies, not because they have a crush on the candidate. “Budget is a big deal for me, now that I’ve graduated from college,” Britney, our undecided voter, says at the beginning of these new ads. Had the CRNC focused on that, and not wedding dresses and fitting rooms and champagne, they might have had a shot at being “culturally relevant.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post reversed the names of the Florida gubernatorial candidates. In fact, Charlie Crist is the Democratic nominee and Rick Scott is the Republican.