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Meghan McCain: Aaron Schock Embarrassed and Betrayed Millennial Republicans

4 minute read
Meghan McCain is an author and television commentator.

The rise and fall of Congressman Aaron Schock is — sadly, like so many before him — a clichéd tale of an individual going to Washington, publicly presenting himself as an outside reformer, and then ultimately flaming out amid scandal and embarrassment before his career ever realized its potential.

The first time I heard Congressman Schock’s name mentioned was probably the same time most of the mainstream media was introduced to him — when the gossip site TMZ featured a photograph of him shirtless by a pool, showing off his chiseled abs. I thought he looked like he was in college and was pleasantly surprised that someone getting that kind of media attention was a member of my Republican tribe. A significant part of my life has been dedicated to trying to rebrand the Republican Party to appeal to a younger demographic of voters and to help publicize a different image of both Republicans and young people involved in politics. Schock fit the bill as soon as he emerged on Capitol Hill.

At the time, I was writing for The Daily Beast and was assigned to interview the then 27-year-old, freshly minted Congressman. I was excited by the idea that he could help present a new, fresh, attractive face to the party long stereotyped as that of old, white men. During our interview, Schock didn’t reveal anything particularly noteworthy, and he pretty much stuck to his talking points. I remember being a little disappointed that he didn’t divulge more, or at least step outside his scripted answers. We were only three years apart in age, after all. At the time, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was a new congressman and probably didn’t want to make any waves outside of the TMZ coverage.

An onslaught of publicity for the Congressman with the abs soon followed: photos in GQ, national television interviews, and, probably most notoriously, a shirtless picture on the cover of Men’s Health that displayed the congressman in an unbuttoned shirt and tie. Now, I am someone who has had a long, complicated career in the media and who has not always made the best choices for myself in the photos I have chosen to pose for or the interviews I have elected to take part in. I am not, however, nor have I ever been, a member of Congress (I am just the spawn of a politician). Politics and pop culture are more fused than ever before, but men and women holding office must still walk a very fine line to ensure they are taken seriously and don’t get so caught up in press that they are perceived as “too Hollywood” or out of touch.

As I followed the career of Congressman Schock, I became less and less of a fan. There is something about a cheesecake shirtless photo of a sitting Congressman on the cover of a men’s magazine that seemed more television star than serious politician. The main thing I had always wanted from him was his help bringing in a wider audience of people, especially Millennials who would take a look at the Republican Party and the ideals of the newer generation.

After Schock took office, his name would come up sporadically in conversations with my young Republican friends whenever I visited D.C., usually in remarks about whatever cheesy Instagram photo he had most recently posted. I started taking him less seriously and, more often than not, would wonder who was handling his press, and if they had any long term plans for him beyond just looking cute on social media.

Today, Schock is a giant embarrassment and disappointment to not only all Republicans, but especially to Millennial Republicans. The specific scandal that led to his resignation exacerbates every negative stereotype that exists about Millennials being the over-indulged, selfie-obsessed, “me-me-me” generation. And now, unluckily enough for us Millennial Republicans out there, our first well-known representative will be best remembered for completely blowing his chance to reform our party simply because he got too caught up riding around in private jets and going to Katy Perry concerts.

Read next: Illinois Congressman to Resign After Reports of Extravagant Spending

Photos: 6 Congressional Leaders Who Resigned Over Scandals

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay pauses to listen to a question as he talks to reporters as he leaves a lunch meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 in Washington. A Texas appeals court tossed the criminal conviction of DeLay on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, saying there was insufficient evidence for a jury in 2010 to have found him guilty of illegally funneling money to Republican candidates. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tx.) stepped down from his post as House majority leader in 2005 when a Texas grand jury indicted him on a conspiracy charge in his management of campaign finances. His corruption conviction was overturned in October. Carolyn Kaster—AP
UNITED STATES - MARCH 01: Rep. Jim Wright speaking to press after meeting with President Reagan on Geneva arms talks. (Photo by Diana Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
In 1989, Rep. Jim Wright (D-Texas) became the first House Speaker to resign over scandal. He abdicated his post after a yearlong ethics investigation found he had accepted improper gifts and mishandled his speaking profits, among other finance violations.Diana Walker—Time and Life Pictures/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, : Incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives Robert Livingston (C), R-LA, speaks to the media late 17 December after a meeting of the House Republican leadership on the upcoming hearings on the impeachment of US President Bill Clinton. The House will begin the hearings 18 December. With Livingston are Rep. Tom DeLay (L), R-TX; Rep. Dick Armey (2nd L), R-TX; Rep. J.C. Watts (2nd R), R-OK; and Michael Forbes (R), R-NY. Woman (2nd L) and man (3rd R) are unidentified. AFP PHOTO/Paul RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) faced a sex scandal at the exact worst time: right as Republicans were calling for the impeachment of President Clinton. Livingston stepped down from the speakership in 1998 amid threats that details of his own affairs would be brought to light.Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 15: The Honorable Tony Coelho, Master of Ceremonies, makes a few remarks at the 2011 AAPD Awards Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building on March 15, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Tony Coelho
Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.) was the third-ranking member of House Democratic leadership and resigned from Congress altogether as he faced a 1989 ethics probe into his personal finances.Paul Morigi—WireImage
Newly-elected U.S. Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) is pictured following secret voting for the new Senate Reblican leadership on Capitol Hill in Washington November 15, 2006. Lott resigned as House majority leader in 2002 during a controversy over remarks that were seen as racially insensitive. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES) - RTR1JD3F
Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott resigned as the Senate majority leader in 2002 after he made comments supporting the segregationist 1948 presidential campaign of Strom Thurmond. But Lott made a comeback five years later when he was elected minority whip. Jason Reed—Reuters
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 08: Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks during the 41st annual Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord International Hotel and Conference Center on March 8, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The conference, a project of the American Conservative Union, brings together conservatives polticians, pundits and voters for three days of speeches and workshops. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)
Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was formally reprimanded by the House and forced to pay a $300,000 penalty for violating tax law and lying to the investigating panel. He didn’t resign over the scandal, but it weakened his support among his Republican base.T.J. Kirkpatrick—Getty Images

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