Brilliant strategy or out-of-touch faux pas? We'll be the judge.
If politicians simply asked us, they'd find out what millennials really want: jobs, affordable health insurance and education, and an end to the systematic corruption in law enforcement that's lead to so many civil rights violations and hate crimes.
But instead of asking us through empathetic, grass roots conversations like they should, politicians like to guess what we're looking for.
And what do they think we want?
According to a new campaign tactic from Colorado Democrats, we want Pokémon GO.
Since early July, they've been using the game as a tool to register young voters who they hope will elect Hillary because of her newfound association with Charizard.
The peculiar strategy is part of a push by Hillary's team to try and match the robust young voter turnout that carried President Obama to two victories; a tall order in a state like Colorado where lingering support for Bernie Sanders prevails among the young.
Part of that persisting, anti-Hillary sentiment amongst young Democrats is that, to millennials like you and I, Bernie Sanders was essentially a meme. He was unintentionally canonized by his supporters across countless corners of Internet worship, and in that process, he became relatable. Although he had virtually nothing to do with it himself, his followers were able to use memes, social media and viral trends to shape his public persona to look like someone who was effortlessly in touch with youth.
This is something Clinton still has yet to do.
That's why Clinton wants to be a meme now, too. And her people are using Pokémon as a foot in the door.
It works like this: Because Pokémon GO requires its players to visit real-world locations, Democratic staff and volunteers are staking out various PokéStops and training gyms around the state, hoping to find unregistered young voters for the taking. There, they casually "hang out" with the Pokémon fans until they get the chance to start some sort of political conversation, the likes of which we can't possibly fathom:
Young Person: "I just caught a Tauros!"
Democratic Volunteer: "Nice work, young person! You know who else is "catching" support? Hillary Clinton!"
So far, campaign officials say they've registered "dozens" of new voters by hiding out in PokéStops. One volunteer, a 17-year-old Denver girl named Chloë King, even told the Denver Post she's used this method to win the support of about 50 young Pokémon players.
“I’m definitely more successful when playing the game,” she said. "It's a really great icebreaker."
Some prominent Colorado Democrats like governor John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis agree. They love the idea of using Pokémon to engage people in politics.
“You have to meet people where they are,” said Polis, a Boulder Democrat and a Pokémon GO player himself. “It’s a great way to engage people.”
Yet the actual people politicians believe they will win over with this tactic don't always agree. To some, it feels a bit weird.
"It's like she's trying too hard," said Leanna*, a friend of mine who's more addicted to Pokémon than she is to breathing. "She's consciously trying to seem likeable and in-touch with young people, and people can feel the awkwardness of that."
And honestly? We'd side with her opinion. This is the kind of post-ironic political pandering that shows just how out of touch politicians can be with the people they aim to represent. The feeling of it is kind of on-par with your parents using "Netflix and chill," "Bae," or any sort reference to "sliding into DMs." It just feels … off. After all, removed, older people trying to bait young voters with something they think they'll like comes across as grasping and insincere. Neither of those are good qualities to have considering that one of the most important factors people use when deciding who to vote for is interpersonal likeability.
Do young voters love Pokémon GO? Sure they do. Do they want it infiltrated by American politics? Debatable. It probably depends on who's playing.
However, part of the reason why Pokémon is such a viral sensation is precisely because it allows people to escape from the blood-drenched political battleground we find ourselves in every day. Any idiot can see that it's popularity is related to our need for a break from reality, so to have that once-sacred space punctuated by political messaging is just … no. It makes politicians seem even more distant than they already are.
In all fairness, you have to respect Colorado Democrats for going where no man has gone before to register young people and secure their votes. After all, if Democrats don't start scraping the bottoms of some very obscure barrels for support, Dear Leader Trump has a much better chance of slithering his exoskeleton into the White House. If Democrats have to disrupt and taint a few people's Pokémon playing experience to prevent that from happening, so be it.
But, there's a better way.
Instead of trying to guess what young people want by capitalizing on viral trends, it might be better if politicians, you know, asked us. Earnestly. In person. So we feel heard.
Because no matter how many conversations politicians are able to start about Bulbosaur, we need to be able to talk about things that really matter. We need to be able to separate our Rattata-ridden dream world from our reality if we want to make concrete change, but infusing politics into Pokémon seems like a strange, misguided way to do that.
Now, if you'll excuse us, we're pretty sure there's a Clefable in this Democratic party headquarters …