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An Annotated Guide to Jon Ossoff’s Extremely Online Twitter Feed

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An Annotated Guide to Jon Ossoff’s Extremely Online Twitter Feed

His long track record of doing so with journalists like the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel and Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal manages to be endearing instead of annoying because of what it reflects in hindsight. It was a less caustic era on the internet, when social media’s original novelty hadn’t yet worn off and such earnest conversational interjections were treated less skeptically I can send Shaq a message, and he might even respond! Ossoff’s Twitter feed differs from that of fellow very online politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Donald Trump because its trapped-in-amber quality, rare for a public figure, gives us a real-time generational record of how our relationship with social media has changed.

To that end, here is a curated and annotated selection of the young Georgian’s early tweets, chosen for what they tell us about his generation aging into national prominence. Ossoff is the first Twitter-native senator, but surely not the last. At this very moment, scores of ambitious, young, would-be Ossoffs are undeniably scouring their own social media histories to present, as he did, just the right image.

On election night, as it became obvious that Ossoff would eventually pull ahead of David Perdue and Twitter’s garbage-pickers duly descended on his feed, this one went viral for obvious reasons: Everybody loves “Star Wars.” But Ossoff’s comment belies a deeper, richer knowledge, one going back to a time when the franchise wasn’t quite the uber-global, Coca Cola-level monolithic “brand” that is today, but still just a series of blockbuster sci-fi films obsessed over by, well, nerds.

Specifically, Ossoff referenced the fictional character “Grand Admiral Thrawn,” an antagonist not from the movies, but from a series of beloved spinoff novels published in the early 1990s that were familiar to any kid with both a pre-“Phantom Menace” thirst for more “Star Wars” and a Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club subscription. Twitter users seized on this because it displayed a cultural currency far older than social media itself: Ossoff was into the nerdy thing way before it was cool.

It’s 2012. You and your friends are sitting around the pool, listening to a mix CD that’s just perfectly transitioned from Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” to MGMT’s “Electric Feel” as the sun starts to go down. Someone mentions a news story that they just read on their Blackberry about Mitt Romney saying something embarrassing about the “47 percent.” You swirl around the last few sips in the bottom of your bottle of Miller High Life, wondering if it’s worth ruining the moment to get up and grab another. Nate Silver, to your knowledge, has literally never been wrong about anything. It’s all downhill from here.

It’s an imperfect comparison, but one could reasonably describe Imagine Dragons as the 2010s version of Nickelback — a world-conquering, zillion-selling, nigh-ubiquitous rock band who are ignored at best and reviled at worst by America’s tastemakers. Jon Ossoff is a policymaker, not a tastemaker. As such, he’s a big fan (in addition to apparently being a schoolmate of the group’s drummer, Daniel Platzman). Ossoff’s persistent and earnest affection for the band is perfectly in line with his genial, middle-of-the-road, nice-young-man appeal. The kind of millennial who would roll their eyes at Imagine Dragons (this writer included, admittedly) is over-represented in national media, but Ossoff’s fellow fans proliferate through, well, the electorate.

It’s unclear to what Ossoff was originally referring here, but one thing is crystal clear, and maybe more revealing than anything actually contained in his social media paper trail: As the top comment says, the man knew he had a future.

It’s common practice for millennials and Gen Z-ers to have a private, incognito account for the content they want to share away from the prying eyes of potential employers, so while it’s possible Ossoff did the same, even as a graduate student at the London School of Economics, he clearly knew this one might come under scrutiny. Whether or not he knew that would be by reporters such as myself after his surprising victory in a Georgia senate election, it’s obvious he self-consciously kept his feed squeaky-clean and, as many have marveled, absolutely cancel-proof from the window to the wall.

“Not the Onion” has been invoked so frequently at this point to express disbelief at absurd news as to become cliché. Back in 2012, it still made us titter with delight and Andy Rooney-like “what-is-this-world-coming-to” disbelief at the inevitable news of the weird. Here, Ossoff deploys it to share a clickbait-y NPR blog about a historic cave discovered in North Korea, a sign of the times in its own right.

There’s as much temporal distance between this tweet and today as there was between it and the gleefully offensive, never-in-a-million-years-would-be-produced-today marionette portrayal of Kim Jong-Il in Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s “Team America: World Police.”

I’m going to need a statement from every U.S. Senator on whether or not they’re into anime. Yes, even Chuck Grassley.

Ossoff first entered the national spotlight with an out-of-nowhere 2017 special election bid to represent Newt Gingrich’s old congressional district, losing by a little more than three points to Republican nominee Karen Handel. That race took on outsize significance as the first congressional election of the Trump presidency, putting the fundraising and media structure that sprouted around the newborn #Resistance into action — including “Pod Save America,” the popular liberal podcast co-hosted by the comedian and former speechwriter Jon Lovett, cited admiringly here, years before “Crooked Media” was formed.

Ossoff is a quintessentially “Pod Save”-ian young Democrat, smiley-face professional with just the right amount of style to seem hip while not alienating Georgia’s swing voters. It’s no wonder he gravitated to Lovett long before the latter helped set that paradigm.

For those not intimately familiar with early 2010s internet culture, the Oatmeal is a now-long-running humor site and webcomic created by cartoonist Matt Inman. Back then, it felt like the future, exemplifying a particular brand of absurdist, whimsical humor that dominated the early years of social media — think “LOLCats,” the “doge” and “Epic Bacon FTW.” In other words, it’s the exact kind of thing Ossoff — a dorky, web-obsessed guy in his early 20s — would have found a “great comic.”

Today, its particular brand of humor has become somewhat passé online, but to imagine a young senator-to-be stumbling upon it in delight reminds one of a time-worn lesson, immortalized by his generational predecessors: The cutting edge is always blunted by time, and it’ll happen to you, too.

Ah, that most millennial of social media behaviors: anxiety over the extent to, and fashion in which, one actually uses social media. Ossoff has tweeted several times about his dissatisfaction with Twitter, the sure sign of an addict.

Hang in there, buddy. We’ll all probably have figured this out together by the time the Gen Z-ers come along and invent something completely different which both horrifies and enthralls us in new ways that we’re objectively much less equipped to deal with by then.

Call him the Senator from Grantland. Here, Ossoff outs himself as a reader of the short-lived but highly influential ESPN spinoff website, which featured both prestigious longform reporting and then-cutting-edge blogging and podcasting. The Grantland spirit is upon you whenever you’re surprised that your otherwise bookish or pretentious-seeming co-worker, or classmate, or niece or nephew is really into professional wrestling, or “The Bachelor,” or an obscure European sub-regional soccer league. It’s hard to overstate how refreshing it was in the early 2010s to read sharp young (and some old) writers opining and reporting intelligently on such topics, like voice given to an unspoken or misunderstood passion. Such things are par for the course now, and Ossoff is likely part of the last generation to feel actual guilt over their “guilty pleasures.”

Self-explanatory.

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A Reaganesque Scheme for a GOP Reboot

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A Reaganesque Scheme for a GOP Reboot

If the party is going to survive Trump, it needs to cut the extremists loose and craft a broader message. Here’s how that succeeded before.

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Trump blows up the Arizona GOP on his way out

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Trump blows up the Arizona GOP on his way out

“The craziness from the state Republican Party … it’s pretty embarrassing,” said Kirk Adams, a former Republican state House speaker and former chief of staff to Ducey. “We have been fed a steady diet of conspiracy theories and stolen election rhetoric and, really, QAnon theories from the state Republican Party since before the election, but certainly after.”

He said, “What’s … consequential is the effect the state Republican Party is having on the Republican brand in the state of Arizona.”

The fallout has been swift. Several thousand Arizona Republicans have abandoned the party since the U.S. Capitol riot that Trump helped to incite, with the majority of the defectors re-registering without a designated party, according to state elections officials. Business leaders are publicly recoiling from the GOP after party officials thrust Arizona into the center of Trump’s failed effort to overturn the election results, further dividing an already fractured party.

“Let us be clear: we find the weeks of disinformation and outright lies to reverse a fair and free election from the head of the Arizona Republican Party and some elected officials to be reprehensible,” read a full-page ad in The Arizona Republic this week from Greater Phoenix Leadership, a group of CEOs. “The political party organization and these elected officials, which some of us have supported in the past, have again embarrassed Arizona on a national stage.”

The hard-right pull of the Arizona GOP was evident long before the rise of Kelli Ward, the state party’s current chairwoman and fierce Trump ally. Arizona is the state of Joe Arpaio and Evan Mecham; in 2014, the party censured Sen. John McCain.

Ward is not the first chair to feud with moderate elected officials of her party. But for a party that lost so much ground during Trump’s tenure, the Arizona GOP is now operating as an almost wholly-owned subsidiary of the outgoing president. Rep. Andy Biggs, chair of the House Freedom Caucus, played a leading role in congressional Republicans’ effort to challenge the electoral vote count in Arizona – undermining the vote in his own state. Following the riot perpetrated by Trump supporters at the Capitol, the official Twitter account of the Arizona GOP has been referring to Trump as the #PresidentofPeace.

“Ignore the false claims against President Trump and against supporters of President Trump,” Ward said in a video address this week, at a time when at least some establishment Republicans were beginning to break with Trump. “President Trump has never, never called for violence. All he’s called for is peaceful protest to demand the integrity of the vote.”

In an email on Friday, Zachery Henry, a state party spokesman, decried what he called “a concerted effort being made by the Left and many in the media to brand all Republicans as domestic terrorists because of the destructive actions of a few bad apples — including Antifa enthusiast John Sullivan — which our Republican Party has already totally condemned.”

Bill Gates, a Republican Maricopa County supervisor, said “we’ve always had different members in different places on the spectrum and we’ve always had what you would call a hard right contingent. But here in the last few years we’ve seen that contingent come to the point now where they’re running the party apparatus.”

In that climate, Arizona Republicans who fail to toe the pro-Trump line are finding knives in their backs. Ward told Ducey on Twitter to “#STHU,” or shut up, when he defended the integrity of the vote in the state, and the party is considering censuring him for enacting restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, which is raging in Arizona.

Flake, according to the proposal to censure him, “has joined with those who condemn President Trump.” Cindy McCain’s sins, in addition to backing Joe Biden, include supporting “leftist causes such as gay marriage, growth of the administrative state, and others that run counter to Republican values, a Republican form of government, and the U.S. Constitution.”

Given the party’s losses, more traditionalist Republicans are appalled the state GOP had nothing better to do.

“So, the state party is picking fights with the standard-bearers of the party for no good reason other than to show an outgoing president that Kelli Ward has his back,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican political strategist in Arizona. “The Republican Party does need to have a bit of a reckoning with itself. Will it be the party that follows a demagogue, or will it be the party that follows conservative principles? And so far, some in the leadership apparatus have chosen demagoguery over conservative principles.”

In many states, Republican and Democratic parties alike are controlled by their more activist wings. Intraparty feuding is not uncommon. And in the past, when Arizona was more reliably conservative, state Republicans might not have paid a price for disunity in their ranks.

But that no longer appears to be true. The Arizona Republican Party has regressed amid the state’s changing demographics. On top of losing the presidential election in November, Republicans saw Democrat Mark Kelly take down Sen. Martha McSally, just two years after Kyrsten Sinema put Arizona’s other Senate seat in the Democratic column.

McCain, in a statement, said she was “not surprised by the continuous insults and personal attacks from Arizona GOP Chairman Kelli Ward. She’s shown how attacking Republicans like me can impact elections — her involvement in both Senate elections to replace Jeff Flake and my husband John McCain, two regular targets of her personal attacks, resulted in Democrat wins.”

As chairwoman of the party, McCain said, Ward “managed to turn Arizona blue in November for the first time since 1996. Maybe she should be reminded that my husband never lost an Arizona election since his first win in 1982; he and Governor Ducey are the last two Republicans to win statewide races in Arizona.”

Censuring her — or any other winning Republican — may not have its intended effect.

T.J. Shope, a Republican state senator, said the politicians targeted by the GOP “tend to have a lot more in common with the average person on the street than the folks doing the censuring.”

He said, “We need to go ahead and get to a point in time we’re going to realize we need to grow the party in a positive way once again.”

The election cycle was not all bad for the Arizona GOP. Registered Republicans in the state still outnumber Democrats by about 3 percentage points. Republicans held their majority in the statehouse despite some projections that Democrats were likely to retake it. And some Republican Party officials believe that the controversy surrounding ballot counting in the state will further energize the base.

More than before, said Shelley Kais, chairwoman of the Republican Party in Arizona’s Pima County, local Republicans are “applying to become precinct committeemen, they’re offering to sit on committees, they’re looking at running for office.”

Of the resolution to censure McCain, Kais said, “It’s always a good thing for people to have their day in court, let’s be sure about that, whether it’s the … die-hard activists of the party or whether it’s Cindy McCain.”

But after the losses inflicted on the party last year, other Republicans say it’d be better if the GOP just left the internal conflicts alone.

“My personal opinion is that we just ought to settle back and take our lumps and start fresh,” said Delos Bond, chairman of the Republican Party in Apache County. “I think we ought to try to heal ourselves … stop worrying about the McCain issues and the Flake issues and try some unity there.”

“We need to just buckle down and work on the issues that our platform stands for,” Bond said. “We’ve wandered away from those issues and worried too much about the issues between fellow Republicans … McCain’s gone. Let’s get over it. And Flake’s gone. Let’s get over it.”

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Ivanka’s political future comes into sharper focus

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Ivanka’s political future comes into sharper focus

The president’s eldest son, Don Jr., is eyeing a future in politics as well, though allies say it’s unclear when or what office he’d seek after he passed on running for the Senate in Wyoming this last cycle. He and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle have also been scoping out real estate in Florida.

The newest and most-buzzed about possibility, however, surrounds the president’s daughter Ivanka. The senior White House adviser is set to decamp to Florida after her father’s presidency comes to a close. And though talk of her launching a primary challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has given off the faint whiff of political fan-fick, in reality, Trump officials say, there have been machinations behind the scenes.

One person in contact with the president said that Jared Kushner is viewed as “working single-mindedly to protect and promote his wife’s ‘political career.’” And two sources, including one top GOP fundraiser, said that Trump ally and mega donor Tom Barrack had been pressing fellow Republican financiers to put together some type of operation that could lure Ivanka into entering the race.

“He’s calling people and trying to line them up saying Rubio is terrible, worthless, he’s probably going to lose, Ivanka is going to go there and we should all get together and pledge our support to her and get her to run,” the GOP fundraiser said.

Tommy Davis, a Barrack spokesman, said no chatter of challenging Rubio ever took place.

“It’s not true. He’s never made any comments like this about Marco and he’s not making these calls,” said Davis. “Maybe people are getting confused because we did as much work as we could for the Senate Leadership fund for the Georgia race. But that was before Christmas. But, no, nothing about Ivanka and nothing about Marco.”

And one person close to Trump said that Ivanka herself had denied having interest in running for office. But the president’s advisers are openly playing up her political potency.

“Ivanka only got into politics to help her father and help his agenda but what’s now clear is that Ivanka is a political powerhouse in her own right,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump.

Others in Trumpworld say the signs are evident that Ivanka is leaving the door open to elected office. In late October, Ivanka, who had been registered as a Democrat in the past, gave an interview in which she declared herself “unapologetically pro-life.” One top Florida Republican who is close to the Trumps and Rubio noted that she not only upped her appearances on the campaign trail during the 2020 cycle — both for her father and the two Republicans in the Georgia Senate runoff — but passed out food at a food distribution event in Miami before Christmas.

“We’re taking the possibility seriously,” the Republican official said. “And so is Marco. And that’s a good thing. But you never know. She’s a Trump and the Trumps move on their own timetables.”

And, perhaps most tellingly, in the last week, Steve Bannon, as he was renewing his contacts with Trump himself, began talking up Ivanka’s political resume.

“The second most fire breathing populist in the White House was Ivanka Trump,” the president’s one-time adviser said on a recent podcast of his. If, Bannon added, Rubio voted for the certification of Joe Biden’s election — and he did — then, “I strongly believe and would strongly recommend that Ivanka Trump immediately…. if she is not going to remain an assistant to the president, she should immediately file and run for the senate and primary Marco Rubio in Florida.”

American politics has seen its share of family dynasties before. And though Donald Trump’s standing may have taken a hit by his handling of his election loss — which included inciting a riot that led to violence on Capitol Hill, his ouster from major social media platforms, resignations from his Cabinet, public disgust from party leaders and his second impeachment — public polling still shows that his name remains the most dominant in Republican circles. Virtually everyone expects that to transfer to his children.

“Their brand was certainly stained and it’s a stain we’ll never be able to erase,” said one top Republican strategist. “At the same time, the name of the game is winning a primary and someone with the last name of Trump could win.”

But running in theory is different from running in practice. In Florida, Rubio’s standing has been considered largely stable up to this point. The senator was trashed by hardcore Trump supporters for his vote that certified the Electoral College results. But those close to him said he was expecting far worse. They also point to his solid support in Miami-Dade County, Florida’s most-populous, where 74 percent of the GOP voters are Hispanic and overwhelmingly Cuban-American like Rubio.

“We have nothing bad to say about Ivanka,” said a Rubio adviser. “He’s going to run his race. I’m not sure she really wants to run? She just finished working in the White House and she has three small children — and now she’s going to move to Florida and run against Marco Rubio in a Republican primary?”

For that reason, the expectation among Trump allies and even establishment Republicans is that Ivanka will take her time considering a run while Lara jumps in. One Republican operative who worked with both Lara and Ivanka Trump in 2020 noted that Ivanka was less interested in the rallies and retail politics that come with running for office.

Ivanka Trump is expected to take some time off after leaving the White House, according to one former White House official, and she is currently working on closing out her work, including mitigating the fallout of the riots on Capitol Hill. After that, her family is expected to pack up their home in Washington.

A person close to Lara Trump, meanwhile, said that she has not made any decisions on entering the race in North Carolina, although consultants have been “poking around” for her in the state.

“For [Ivanka] to take on Marco or Florida she’s gotta be ready to rock and roll,” the operative said. “Whereas with Lara, I get the vibe she is ready to go.”

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