Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022Liked by Josh Barro

I agree with this, but also want to offer that this trend you’ve observed is also arguably a trend of poor staffing in general. I have served one governor as an appointee and work closely with the staff of another. A good staffer serves the principal, who was in turn elected to serve the community; staff are not there to take the wheel and drive the policy bus. If I were an elected and my staffer tweeted something like Saul Levin did, I’d want to have a serious conversation with them about whether they want to staff a policymaker or be an activist — you can’t do both well at the same time unless that’s agreed upon in advance.

I’ve also observed staffers who aren’t trying to grab the policy reins inadvertently contribute to problem you and Matt Y have described by trying to be responsive to the loudest voices within constituent activist communities. It takes a confident elected policymaker to push back when internal communications staff are relaying what they hear from the loudest complainers and most forceful advocates, and I’ve seen a lot of inexperienced staffers do a bad job at protecting their principal from these forces.

I wonder if the problem lies in the failure to make these sorts of staff positions credible careers in themselves rather than career-making stepping stones (whether as a prelude to selling out and become a lobbyist or to working in activism or running for something). I suspect it’s a combination of poor compensation and the electeds themselves having the wrong priorities when hiring.

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Staffers who want to be policymakers should run for office. In the meantime, they need to realize they're not the show.

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That is precisely why many staffers take congressional staff jobs. They develop connections and learn how to win elections.

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I worked for an elected official who took positions that I didn't necessarily prefer. All of us staffers had pet issues we wanted more focus on. But like a senior staff member once told me- at the end of the day, it's his name on the door, and he makes the decisions. Interestingly, I learned over time that a lot of my ideas were not political winners, and it was a good thing they were ignored!

The issue for Democrats is that their staff and progressive base have a serious problem in that they don't understand how truly out of touch they are with the working class/less-education class in their own party. They think they speak for a silent sleeping giant, when if they simply got out of their bubble more they would realize how out of touch they are.

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I don't understand how this stuff works in politics. I am a marketer. And I see politics as basically just selling a party or a candidate or a position. The worst thing a marketer can do is market to themselves!

I mean, your job is to find out what people like and how to reach them...then you sell your candidate/party/position to them with messaging that convinces. It's not about you.

If ad agencies can do this, why can't politicians/parties? I mean, do you think I have to have Crohn's disease to create commercials for a Chron's disease drug? Can only women work on Victoria's Secret? Do I have ot be a chef to produce Misen kitchen ware Instagram ads?

I'd solve the donor problem, too. "Yes, I will take your money, but my campaign and sometimes my positions might not align with yours because I have to ensure the target market – which doesn't beleive in everything you do – continues to desire and buy my product."

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given how relatively poorly paid these positions are, the only reason one would ever take one of these jobs is if that person is already super ideological

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Is the pool of candidates for these staff positions so low that the candidate HAS to take someone who is to the left of them? This seems more like a problem of hiring rather than the actual staffers. If a candidate’s staff is pushing them to the left of where they naturally are or where that candidate thinks they should position themselves in order to win, then that is on the candidate and not the staff they hired. No?

Also, what are some specific examples of a staff pushing (like ACTUALLY pushing a reluctant candidate) too far on XYZ issues and them loosing a close race?

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Those who doubt this need to read *The Path to Power*, volume one of Robert Caro's bio of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson had been a teacher in Texas when he became a secretary to an otherwise useless House member, and amassed surprising power by organizing other congressional staffers. Less than six years later he himself was a congressman.

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

I think the power and influence of the progressive staffer blob is overstated, but I do think that interest groups in the Democratic Party coalition are able to wag the dog way too much.

I think this is less a function of the political views of the staffers and more about a geriatric leadership that looks at the money these organizations raise and spend and the geriatric leadership overvaluing the importance of those groups. Too often the Democratic Party behaves as if our interest groups fundraising power represent legit grassroots support as opposed to those organizations having extremely effective digital fundraising.

Maybe younger, newer leadership would also be fooled, but I tend to think that having had to win a competitive election more recently, they're less fooled by that sleight of hand.

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