Everyone who saw Congressman Aaron Schock’s (R-Ill) ripped abs on the cover of Men’s Health magazine last week immediately went on a diet and learned about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. By showing some skin this youngest member of Congress (he’s 29) launched his "Fit for Summer, Fit for Life Challenge" campaign with the political savvy of an elder statesman (although you wouldn’t want to see those gentlemen or ladies shirtless.) He used sex appeal to convey his message and borrowed a lesson straight from the porn industry: that being provocative gets attention and sells products. This is an enduring and universal trademark of our culture. Rep. Schock’s gimmick to educate us about good fitness is nothing new, and certainly notables have stripped for causes before. Adam Levine, heartthrob of Maroon 5 and judge on The Voice, showed skin to raise awareness for testicular cancer and several celebs have gotten naked for skin cancer awareness and PETA. But what’s different here is this stunt was pulled off by a Republican. This party has a long history of prudish behavior about porn, mainly because of the party’s strict adherence to “family values.” Recent case in point: Schock’s colleagues Orrin Hatch and Charles Grassley recently issued a letter to the Attorney General to call for the prosecution of porn. (see last blog post).
So what’s happening here? Is Schock abandoning his GOP principles of civic virtue? The answer is no. Rep. Schock has core Republican values despite using his boy-next-door cuteness to cross the political aisle and cozy up next to fellow Illinoisan Michelle Obama and her platform to fight childhood obesity. He is against the healthcare reform law passed last year and in favor of: the Defense of Marriage Act; tax cuts, especially for small business; and an energy-independence policy that is sometimes mistaken for protecting the environment.
Given Rep. Schock’s stalwart stance on some core conservative issues, my guess is Republicans won’t treat him as an outcast for showing his muscles. I think they’ll welcome his attempt to teach his party how to effectively use sex appeal by walking a fine line between the titillating and the straight-laced to convey a message. His endeavor has been successful, so let’s look on the bright side and hope to see the Republicans use Schock’s hard body to raise awareness about the important issues, like truly saving the environment, ending world hunger and a myriad of other real problems. Maybe in the future Republicans won’t be so uptight about this power tool of persuasion. In the meantime, I’m going to lose a few pounds.