West Virginia made history on Wednesday after declaring 18-year-old college freshman, Saira Blair, as the youngest elected lawmaker in the nation. (Although, with respect to historical integrity, West Virginia also “made history” in 2010 when they repealed a law prohibiting citizens from making fun of those who refused to partake in duels.) Saira, the self-described “fiscal-conservative” teen, beat out a 67 year old incumbent for the Republican candidacy in the primaries earlier this year, when she was only 17. Then, a mere five months later, she celebrated her 18th birthday and officially met the age requirement to serve as a state delegate. The whole timeline seems so deliberately orchestrated that it’s hard not to wonder how it all played out so seamlessly. Of course, when you realize that her father is none other than West Virginia’s own Republican state senator, Craig Blair, it starts to unfold as a less-than-shocking political move.
On the surface, it seems like big and exciting news for the future of politics; younger generations are taking an active role in their government, what could be bad about that? Upon further inspection, it becomes glaringly obvious that Saira Blair represents a very specific, small group of her generation. The fresh-faced, educated young daughter of a wealthy white state senator manages to attend her first year of college while successfully funding and promoting a campaign for her own seat in the state government; not exactly your average American young person. The idea of a college freshman being able to “fund” anything other than Ramen noodles is already suspicious. I have a hard time believing that Saira Blair spent her adolescence devising a plan to follow in her dad’s footsteps. In fact, the only genuinely believable motive of a politician’s 17 year old kid to enter politics on their own accord would be to irk their parents. Going against the establishment, when “the establishment” is your parents, would obviously require affiliation with an opposing party. As we all know, hell hath no fury like the angsty spite of a rebellious teen. So, the whole Republican senator father begets Republican teenaged daughter thing seems more like the result of advantageous manipulation than political serendipity.
According to one of Saira’s campaign posters, she is “pro-life, pro-guns, and pro-family.” The irony of being in support of both the right to live, and the proliferation of weapons used specifically to end lives, is forever lost on many conservative Republicans, just like Saira’s papa, and probably his papa before him. I’m not entirely sure what “pro-family” even means, but I assume it has something to do with being in favor of having parents who get you the right color car for your Sweet 16. Regardless of her or her father’s views, it would be ignorant to pretend Saira Blair’s cornucopia of unearned privilege wasn’t the main source of fuel for her private jet ride into office. The media portrayal of her as a “voice of her generation” is an un-informed blanket statement, at best. Her generation is not made up of pretty, articulate, wealthy, white people from affluent families. If every other 18-year-old in America had the same opportunities as Saira Blair, she would not be the only person in her age group taking up government seats. The fact that a rich, attractive, young, white woman with an important political connection got something she wanted is not exactly groundbreaking news. Her dad literally acted as her campaign manager, which reportedly cost around $4000. When I was 17, my dad was hard-pressed to drop $10 on poster board supplies for me to make a mock campaign sign for a school assignment. Had I presented him with an internship position that would cost him 4k in overhead fees in order to act as my hypeman and vouch me into being taken seriously by people roughly 40 years my senior, he would have eviscerated my hefty political dreams with a simple chuckle and a shot of reality. So yeah, Saira, tell me more about how you’re taking a semester off from college to focus on your political career, because you are the norm of American youth.
Having been 18 for an entire year of my own life, 12 years ago, I can say for certain that it is not a time of choice wisdom, for anyone. The human brain is not even fully developed at that age, lacking critical skills required for responsible decision making. This is not simply a personal opinion, it’s a scientific fact, and legally upheld by the very laws that Saira Blair is now in a position to change. Whether you support her political views or not (they are terrible, by the way), you are insane to actually assume a person who is not legally capable of purchasing wine coolers should be granted lawmaking powers. What exactly is her platform even about? Changing her school dress code and mandating longer operating hours for shopping malls? Will she amend the store name from “Forever 21″ to “Barely 18?” Will she act as foreign diplomat to the United Colors of Benetton merchandising department? I mean, it’s really hard to tell what she is all about on account of her lack of experience in politics, and like, life in general. I found this photo of her at what may have been a political related speaking event, where it appears she won some sort of “Short Skirt Contest.” Personally, I love that look, but I’m a bit confused about her display of “waist-up conservatism.” And that’s just it: Had she been of the Democratic persuasion, we all know that the right wing media would have put that very same spin on this story. Instead, they ignored her revealing fashion choices in lieu of more business-casual looks, and make little to no mention of her father (West Virginia State Senator Craig Blair), because they knew her victory would look like a classic case of connections over qualifications.