by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & The Problem With Switchfoot & r & The first thing I heard about the Chase Youth Commission debate on Oct. 23 was that mayoral candidate Mary Verner had quoted Nickelback (she also misattributed a Switchfoot song to John Mayer). Not the views expressed, not who won or who lost. It was all Nickelback and Switchfoot.
The news came from a reporter who has a teenage daughter. The reporter thought it was absurd. The daughter thought it totally missed the listening tastes of the audience.
Right on both counts. Nickelback impresses NASCAR fans more than teens, and just seems like a ridiculous misstep to everyone in between (say, like 18- to 34-year-olds). Misattributing a Switchfoot song to John Mayer makes that politician seem uninformed, the way any flub of fact would.
Let's be clear though: The problem is the symbolism of the act, not the merit of the songs. For politicians, as with everyone else, trying to hang briefly in a cultural milieu you clearly aren't a part of is never productive. At best it'll come off as cute and a little pathetic. At worst, it reeks of disingenuousness and runs the risk of being the death knell of credibility to that community. These are people's identities we're talking about, posting one won't endure you to them.
You wouldn't go to an auto plant, talk carburetors with workers, then admit you've never changed your own oil. Likewise, kids don't want you to quote songs you think they'd like as a way of connecting with them broadly. They want you to listen to their problems and offer them solutions -- specifically -- like you would to a group of engaged constituents (which is how driven young people like the Chase kids view themselves).
Verner, from the wait-and-discuss approach she's advocating on everything from angry firefighters to the Corbin Park garbage truck kerfuffle, is good at that sort of community wagon-circling. She should have stuck with it.
Or I mean -- come on -- at least quote from Christina's jam, "I Feel Your Pain." That, at least, would have been on-message.