Dems Use Edgy Films to Rally Youth Voters

A new political group creates a series of edgy and youth-oriented films.


June 11, 2008 — -- A stunning 20-something woman hooks up with a seemingly innocent guy at a rowdy singles bar. Hot foreplay starts on the cab ride home and progresses into the bedroom.

That is until, while searching for a condom in the bedside table, she sees a photo signed "Thanks for your support!" from Republican candidate John McCain.

Horrified, she bolts, dropping her bag and spilling a campaign button on the sidewalk: "I only sleep with Democrats." The camera quickly cuts to a cool, bespectacled man with a donkey pin on his lapel. The couple's eyes lovingly lock.

"Blue Balled" -- an edgy, video short distributed on YouTube and other Web sites this week -- has a simple message: If you vote Democrat, you are intellectual, hip and savvy. If you vote Republican, you are an untouchable -- bumbling, square and uptight.

Did we forget to mention that McCain's adoring fan knocked over his beer at the bar, offered his erstwhile one-night-stand a Johnny Walker Red and lined up his shoes at the bedroom door before jumping into the sack?

The Democrat's drop-dead gorgeous face was framed with hip, wire-rimmed glasses and luscious, well-groomed locks.

The video, created by the new political organization, is one more affirmation that the Internet is a central character in the 2008 presidential race.

The blue-leaning nonprofit was founded by New York filmmakers Joshua Sugarman and Brandon Yankowitz of YaSu Media, who are producing a series of short films and online videos. The "527" group is, unlike political action committees, exempt from contribution limits.

"We're making products that we think young voters are more likely to e-mail to their friends, to post to their friends," Sugarman told "Our products have a message but are also entertaining as film projects, and we don't think anybody else is doing the same thing."

Like the "Obama Girl" video, which spread virally last year, "Blue Balled" is intended to rally the indie community and young political activists to support the Democrats in November. The group plans to produce more than a dozen films of all genres, each with an "edge and a clever hook."

Future videos are expected to be lighthearted and comedic, paying special attention to imagery. In "Blue Balled," the girl wears blue underwear and the pro-McCain young man wears a red blanket when he's abandoned midact. The next one will be a thriller set in Iraq.

"I thought it was brilliant," said Andrew Rasiej, co-founder of TechPresident, a group blog that covers how the 2008 presidential candidates use the Web.

"It clearly taps into the fact that the election has captured the imagination of the youth of our country and reinforces a message that any political organization for a candidate would want to associate with -- hip cool and passionate," he told

"It clearly takes advantage of the atmosphere of young people paying attention to the election and using their language and their medium to convey the message," he said. "It's very shrewd."

The 4½ minute film is accompanied online by a photo slideshow, "Political Monogamy," which capitalizes on the message of "Blue Balled" with eclectic portraits by Reka Nyari, including, among others, an interracial couple, a pregnant woman, lesbians, a black grandfather and a punk rock riot "grrl."

"It's the Gap-ification" of politics," said Rasiej. "There is clearly more evidence that the political system is getting more and more sophisticated in delivering its message."

Young Republicans are also using the Internet to power their own messages.

Today, two technology entrepreneurs launch their own site,, a riff on the popular MTV show, to help organize young voters who they say have been ignored by the older branch of the GOP.

"What are the Republicans doing with text messaging?" asks David All, the 29-year-old co-founder of the site. "I want to know what they are doing in X Box and Guitar Hero to change the world."

According to All, recent surveys show 13 percent more young voters lean Democratic than Republican, "the largest gap since Ronald Reagan." He said the party needs to tap into the emerging young entreprenuers who may think Obama is "cool," but don't agree with his policies.

"My hope is they use this tool to help teach people like me and teach others," he said. "This is the future. There is a superconnected community of people being themselves and we are not really talking to them. It's about powering a community to see that what they do on Facebook matters."

Jeff Everson, an economics major and football player at Middlebury College, was not impressed with the Democrats' video. "I thought that as a political tactic it wasn't effective," said Everson. "But at the same time I found it funny. The concept of this video sort of separates the country, which seems counterproductive."

Everson, a McCain supporter, agrees that the Republicans need to find new ways to reach young voters.

"One of the mistakes that McCain made was not utilizing technology like YouTube," said the 20-year-old. "The Democratic Party has done a better job of encouraging young people to vote."

Whether the message of these clips fits with Barack Obama's strategy is anybody's guess.

A film that includes copious amounts of alcohol, sex and near nudity may not fly with the group of young evangelicals Obama is now targeting.

"Anytime any organization tries something new, there will always be people who don't agree," said filmmaker Sugarman. "What the Democratic Party and anyone involved in politics are starting to realize is that we need a new way to get in touch with people beyond the traditional means of political communication."

Obama supporter Lily Claire Nussbaum owned the "I only sleep With Democrats" pin before she watched the video.

"What a great video, and all the more great for me, because I have that pin," said the 21-year-old New Yorker.

"A pro-McCain college student would probably roll their eyes and not think anything of this video," she said. "But I think that it can't hurt because it's funny. The video doesn't hit you over the head, which is nice."

View Political Monogamy