Is YouTube a new avenue for aspiring politicians?

A viral video made Zach Wahls a YouTube star. Next, it just might launch his political career. 

Mar 3, 2020, 5:54 am*


Fruzsina Eördögh 

Fruzsina Eördögh

YouTube’s doing a lot more than launching music careers these days. It’s thrusting future politicians into the spotlight.

When Zach Wahls spoke to the Iowa House of Representatives in 2010, he was just a 19-year-old kid who thought his two moms deserved the same right to marriage as heterosexual couples.

Specifically, Wahls was speaking against House Joint Resolution 6, a bill that would have banned same-sex marriage.

After a video of the hearing was shared on YouTube, 17 million people watched Wahls’ three-minute speech. And Wahls, now 20, is taking that viral fame to Capitol Hill.

Last week, Wahls spoke in Washington DC at the Family Equality Council’s national youth advocacy initiative “The Outspoken Generation,” in support of gay marriage.

Wahls also has a local political agenda: he admitted to Politico that he seeks to change the mind of Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican who opposes gay marriage.

“I think it’s very important to make sure he knows he’s representing LGBT Iowans, whether he likes it or not,” Wahls, told Politico.

Wahls’ successful advocacy for LGBT rights has caught the attention of various political groups, some of which have pressed him to run for office.

“I have been approached to consider elected office, but it’s not something I’m focused on at the moment,” said Wahls to Politico during an interview. “Some folks in Iowa would like to see me run for the state Legislature.”

Wahls called the notion “absurd” as he doesn’t even have a college degree yet, and has “so much on my plate.” (Wahls is currently an engineering student at the University of Iowa.)

He does, however, admit it’s a “possibility in the future,” and by many accounts he has already begun his political career.

In 2010, after his speech to the Iowa legislature became a huge hit online, Wahls took his campaign from YouTube to the mainstream media in 2011, hitting up big name shows such as Ellen.

House Joint Resolution 6 ultimately did not pass thanks, perhaps, to those 17 million people who viewed his speech.

Besides contributing to the defeat of a bill Wahl did not agree with, his book “My Two Moms”—which he wrote because of the popularity of his speech—just hit shelves this April:

“Actually, I was raised by a gay couple, and I am doing pretty well. I scored on the 99% percentile on the ACT. I’m actually an eagle scout. I own and operate my own small business. If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I’d make you very proud.

“I’m not really so different from any of your children. My family isn’t so different from yours. Your family doesn’t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state ‘you’re married, congratulations.’ No. The sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other, to work through the hard times, so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us. That’s what makes a family.”

Wahls found an audience of 17 million with only YouTube to help. No doubt it’d be easy for him to find potential voters that same way.

Photo via Zach Wahls on Twitter


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*First Published: May 22, 2012, 4:23 pm