Buy the book!
There's an easy way to get an instant raise on any political job, a hidden bit of knowledge that will give you thousands of dollars at your next job offer, buying and reading this book will give you that nugget. Buy the book now, to learn how to make more working a job in politics that you love. Tips, ideas and suggestions can be sent to: workinpolitics@gmail.com

Monday, November 28, 2011

Don't become the "whacktivist"

Among establishment types, a phrase has evolved to describe the lone wolf political activist, that they are a "whacktivist."

Probably this immediately conjures up a few people in your mind, a few people whose hearts might be in the right place, but they always come off wrong.

When starting a political career, regardless of whether your goals are to become personally successful or implement principled policies, you can't do either if you're marginalized.

So let's think about what you can do to avoid becoming a "whacktivist"

A whacktivist looks generally like this:

  • no media skills
  • no marketing skills
  • bad personal presentation
  • asocial
  • poor
  • absolutist
  • always showing up late
  • disshevelled
  • unpresentable
  • extremist
  • myopic
  • no attention span
  • no mandate or larger acceptance from people
  • disorganized
  • unfocused
  • can't work well with others
  • focuses on flippant issues, inconsequential things
  • unprofessional
  • short-duration
  • undesirable
  • stodgy
  • one-man organizations
  • always critical
  • couldn't "make it in business"
  • prideful

You want to purposefully avoid some of these labels. If you are disorganized, get organized. If you're always running late to meetings, start showing up early. Do what it takes to force people to rethink what they thought they knew about you. If you lack skills, learn them.

Use this as a way to achieve self-actualization through self-analysis. Whacktivists are marginalized, looked-down upon unfairly, and their successes are limited at best.

You don't want to become this person, so look over the list above and consider what you might be guilty of, and work on fixing and correcting those things within yourself.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Don't let your campaign fight with the little guy

This student in Missouri said something bad about Gov. Brownback on Twitter. In response, Brownback's staff alerted her high school principal who is apparently requiring her to apologize to the staff.

This is very foolish for Brownback and his staff. It screams out that they are petty, and scouring the web for any divergent opinions.

Candidates, campaign managers and spouses can have surprisingly thin skins. They can overreact to small things. They can want to use power to silence critics. But you aren't a leader unless you have people following you, and a real opposition. Critics are there to complain about people who are taking action.

So if your campaign, or you as a local candidate, run into this situation, let it slide. Don't pick fights with people when it makes you look petty.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chilling effect of campaign laws and regulations

There are plenty of campaign regulations and laws to worry about, and most people involved with campaigns worry about them quite a bit. But the law can become a burden when it starts quashing good ideas and has a 'chilling effect' over a campaign. It fosters a certain conservatism for reaching out to people, or asking for money, or spending that money. The law can become such a boogeyman that people speak about it when they don't really know what they're talking about, and it becomes a way to shoot down any good idea.
Places to find legitimate advice on what your applicable laws are:
1. Local election lawyer
2. State party attorney
3. Your state's secretary of state, elections office
The fear of lawsuits will cause most candidates, managers and consultants to avoid anything too 'out-of-the-box' or new. You'll find it hard to try something daring because people will be afraid of 'losing a tax status' or 'getting sued' or that a lit piece is 'defamation' -- you'll hear all these things as reasons why a campaign shouldn't take action.

But let me tell you this important piece of advice: unless you're very senior in a campaign, don't waste your time trying to educate others on what the law actually is, they probably won't listen to you. Even if you know the law, you won't be persuasive to others who have a longer track record than you do. You need to either be 1) the candidate, 2) the campaign manager or 3) a lawyer for people to take you seriously on this. It's just a battle not worth fighting.

Here is some situational advice based on the context of your position within the campaign:
If you're entry level: don't worry about the law and primarily just do what you're told. If something you're asked to do seems shady or illegitimate, ask your superior for advice. 
If you're mid-level: you should learn some key laws. Do some research online, call up a local election law attorney or professor, and find out which laws are most enforced in your state, and common mistakes. You want to read this material with an eye for inadvertent mistakes by volunteers or entry-level staff, the people you should be overseeing.
If you're the candidate or campaign manager: don't fear the law, just ask. Call the state party and ask if you can get a quick primer or briefing on what laws to worry about. Your primary points of concern: 1) reporting requirements, 2) solicitation, 3) disclosures. You have to report most political donations over a certain amount, you can't take money from certain people, and you often have to disclose your campaign information in a "paid-for" stamp on all your material. Those are the three main things to worry about, and getting advice from your state party attorney is a great start, and a good way to learn about any specific state laws that might be problems.
The most important thing to take-away here is that the law is not your enemy. By asking attorneys, law professors and the state enforcement agency, you can often find out what is and is not legal. Most people won't do the research but will give their incorrect opinion as to what the law is, so you can easily set yourself apart by doing the research.


Learn these skills and more, by buying the book "Getting a Job in Politics, and Keeping it" by Ben Wetmore, right away.

Roll Call: Buy this book! (Among others)

"Getting a Job in Politics, and Keeping it" was recently written up in Roll Call, the indie newspaper for Capitol Hill.

The article is also useful for identifying a few other good books you should consider if you're looking for a job in politics.

One thing mentioned, however, is the perennial advice that "networking is everything."

And if you are like me, maybe mildly anti-social, you get mildly irritated at that advice. What is networking? Just meeting with people? How does that translate into a job offer?

That's where you have to read between the lines. Many of these people frankly aren't sure how they got their jobs, they just fell out of the sky. And that can happen to you too, but it can be frustrating to wait, and there are things you can do to help your situation.

As well, there are important things, personal patterns and habits, you should start now before you get a job so that you don't get fired from your first place.

So, said plainly, you want to take the advice of "network!" with a grain of salt, and not use it as an excuse to just blindly meet a lot of people and attend many events. You should meet people and attend events, but you need to focus on practical things as well like 1) having a decent business card, 2) having a strong skill to market, 3) having your own personal pitch about yourself, selling yourself, ready.

These kind of practical things can help you and maximize those situations where you are meeting a lot of people.

You could meet someone looking to hire, and just by lacking an available business card, forget a name and a great opportunity. It happens all the time.

Many of these other books are very good, and I don't discourage you from perusing them. But keep the practical stuff in mind, and remember that you not only need to meet a lot of people, you need to be in top form so that you're an appealing hire.


Buy "Getting a Job in Politics, and Keeping it" by Ben Wetmore, right away.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The universal political dress code: never more casual than bus. casual


Generally this is what business casual should look like for men.

The old adage “dress for success” holds true, but your dress code should always be business casual at minimum.

For men, this means that at your most casual, you should wear a button down with no tie. There’s a very conservative dress code for campaigns and politics. You want to dress as though you’re one or two steps more informal than a formal religious service.

If you have any question about the dress code, assume it’s business dress with a button down shirt and tie. Correspondingly for women, go with dark colors and conservative business-type dress. While a dress may seem appropriate, it isn’t for any kind of business function.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Voter Fraud, imaginary or real?

There's this odd particular theory going around right now, I hesitate to speak for the zeitgeist, but you'll see it around, that there's no such thing as voter fraud. It's essentially the demand for someone to 'prove' that there is voter fraud in elections.

Here's Andrew Rosenthal at the New York Times pushing that challenge to the online community.

Election Law Professor Rick Hasen is also working on a book called "The Myth of Voter Fraud" which predictably challenges each voter fraud claim and attempts to quelch the voter-id movement that has caused several states to enact ID requirements to vote.

Of course it happens. People are in prison for making it happen. This attempt to whitewash the problems of voting is disingenuous. It would be more honest to say that any continental election involving tens of thousands of workers, watchers and what not will likely have problems and fraud.

But that's just an idle statement, it's one person's opinion. Where, you might ask, is the 'proof'!

I don't offer this for any particular partisan or ideological reason. I offer it to foster a normal, natural and healthy concern you should have for the process, and in running campaigns, a justifiable concern about your candidate losing because of a flawed process. Democrats in Republican districts and Republicans in Democrat districts should both be concerned about fraud, knowledgeable about the law, and ready to act when they see violations.

So, as a way of showing that these violations are real, listen to one government affairs director in New Jersey explain what he saw on election day:

Friday, November 4, 2011

The top five best political movies

George Clooney decides every 5-7 years to make a lackluster political movie. His upcoming "The Ides of March" looks to be in the same vein: gloss and vanity inside politics without anything of substance. The line summarizing the movie is "one politico's loss of innocence."

Don't warp your sense of politics by lining Clooney's pockets, there are plenty of other good, lesser-known movies about politics that you should try out, here are my favorite five:

The best political movie: Dave, with Kevin Kline.
It's not overly cynical, and it shows a good guy
who gets involved and tries to do the right thing.
1. Dave - Kevin Kline portrays a lookalike who ends up standing in for the President. It's a nice film about doing the right thing.
2. The Distinguished Gentleman - An under-appreciated movie by Eddie Murphy about a con-man who runs for Congress.
3. Wag the Dog - Cynical, but entertaining, the movie is more about the media than it is about the political process. As a 1999 film it's definitely dated as being pre-9/11.
4. War Room - You'll hear this one discussed as an insider's choice for "what a campaign room is really like" which is more true if you're running a multi-million dollar Presidential campaign twenty years ago. It's dated, but it's still good. It shows the background of a campaign in a way that few other films do, it's worth a viewing and a good standard-bearer for campaign films.
5. All the President's Men - It has many problems, but it's still a classic. And it's so continually referenced, that you need to see it. It's tiring in parts and very dated in others, but you have to see it.

There are a variety of supposedly "political" movies that are either just awful or so thick with partisanship that they're unwatchable. I'd lump Warren Beatty's "Bulworth" and "The Contender" and "Bob Roberts" in this category. Depending on how you feel about controversial filmmaker, you might like "JFK" or "Nixon" for their historical and political angles (Personally I love both).

There are a few action movies that have a hint of politics in them, such as "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger" and "Air Force One" and "In the Line of Fire" and "Absolute Power" or the tv series "24", but politics is more of a backdrop to the action in those films rather than politics really being a part of the story.

The various shows from around and about DC, such as "The West Wing" and "K Street" became more of a soap opera than a political show. They become revealing because so much of their writing and writers aren't from within politics, so their storylines don't involve the mechanics as much as using them as a backdrop. There are also some older historical movies such as "All the King's Men" which was pretty obviously directed at Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long, "Dr. Strangelove" and "Primary Colors" about Bill Clinton's 1992 race, and comedies like "Black Sheep" with Chris Farley that are worth watching. A few documentaries about individual campaigns, such as "Journeys with George" about Bush in 2000, as well as a wonderful campaign film, "Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?" which I'd recommend.

And there are many movies with a connection to politics that are well-done, but not directly about DC. "Traffic" with Michael Douglas, and "Charlie Wilson's War" both come to mind.

And as for general media, marketing, lobbying and general politics, the comedy "Thank you for Smoking" is excellent and highly recommended.