How Star Trek Helped Elect a U.S. President

computer generated knock-off of the star trek emblem

A Star Trek doll in grass

Photo by Dom Talbot on Unsplash

I’ve always been a bit of a low-key Trekkie myself — I’m a huge fan of the movies and watched The Next Generation after school almost every day growing up.

And there are millions of us out there.

But I never imagined in my wildest dreams that Trekkies could have a huge impact on the world at large. Especially not starting a domino effect leading to the election of a president of the United States.

And yet here we are.

Star Trek continues

A new iteration of the Star Trek series came out in January of 1995, Star Trek: Voyager. The first season of the show went reasonably well — Rotten tomatoes gave it a critic score of 93% and an audience ranking of 73%. Not bad.

But season 2 absolutely bombed (33% and 65%).

The Trekkies fan base were not happy — and they were letting their opinions be known.

The showrunners knew they were going to get canceled unless they spiced things up a little. To solve this, they went to an old classic TV show trick — bring in sexy new talent.

Towards the end of season 3, they introduced a new plotline with a cliffhanger ending to the season and a new character.

In steps Seven of Nine — played by the gorgeous Jeri Ryan.

A Star Trek character in uniform

Photo: Paramount Television on Wikipedia

The new plotline and added character paid off for the show.

Their 4th season received a crazily high critic score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. This led to several more seasons allowing the show to be considered successful after its 7 season run.

But the better the show performed, the seemingly worse Jeri’s personal life became.

Star Trek is infamous for its grueling work hours for actors and production crew — and Voyager was no exception.

Happily ever after?

Jeri Ryan married a man named Jack Ryan in 1991.

He was a successful investment banker and Harvard grad, who made his wealth in Goldman Sach’s until it went public.

Their marriage seemed stable until later in the decade when both became consumed with work. The common troubles led to them filing for divorce in 1999.

Importantly, the court proceedings were sealed at both parties’ request to protect their son.

This wouldn’t have been an issue for anyone (except nosy paparazzi) until Jack decided he wanted to run for the Illinois Senate in 2004.

He seemed like an ideal candidate. Great education, wealthy, a successful white conservative — the usual Republican boss.

And he went on to win the Republican primary with 36% of the vote against 23% for the next leading candidate.

Now the race was on — and it was a tough one.

His democratic opponent was leading in the polls 48% to 40%. A tough number to overcome, but not impossible.

That is until several parties sued to have the divorce records made public. The Chicago Tribune, WLS-TV, and several of Jack’s Republican primary opponents all wanted some juicy details revealed.

And the judge agreed with them. But he kept some details private for the sake of their child.

Those juicy public details that people sued to have revealed?

Jack was a fan of bizarre sex clubs and repeatedly encouraged Jeri to participate (although she apparently refused).

But that was enough to end Jack’s campaign. You can’t have a perceived sex-crazed conservative Christian as a Senator, can you? (Presidents are excluded from this norm, apparently.)

He resigned in June less than 1 week after the records were released.

No time to prepare

Republicans scrambled to find another candidate to quickly replace Jack before the upcoming election.

They put a man named Alan Keyes in place in August of 2004 — with only a couple of months left to campaign.

The results were disastrous for the Republicans that year. The unprepared Alan lost by a landslide to his democratic opponent.

He only garnered 27% of the votes vs 70% for the winner.

Who ended up winning that crazy senate race?

None other than Barack Obama himself.

The senate race launched his presence on the national stage, leading to a huge presidential win only 4 years later.

And that’s how nerdy Trekkies inadvertently elected a president of the United States.

See mom? Watching Star Trek for hundreds of hours WASN’T a complete waste of time!


J.J. Pryor

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