How Wingnut Welfare Hurts the GOP

Wingnut welfare, the career path for professional movement conservatives, seems to be affecting the party’s political fortunes (boldface mine):

But the data and digital divide, while getting most of the attention, is only a symptom of a larger problem that cuts fundamentally to how the Republican Party operates—not just at a tactical level but also a philosophical one. The well-worn pathways of the party’s operatives, in which every low-level staffer commits his or her career to becoming a well-paid TV specialist, must change. The party’s best and brightest need to emulate the career arc of their Democratic counterparts, who devote themselves to data and fieldwork, areas where races are increasingly won or lost….

A December study by the progressive political firm New Organizing Institute found a wide chasm between the number of staffers on Democratic versus Republican campaigns—nationally, the ratio was close to 3-to-1 in favor of Democrats. In swing-state Nevada, where Republicans had hoped the housing bust and vibrant Mormon community would lift Mitt Romney to victory, the totals were even more lopsided: 498 Democrats worked the state, to only 20 Republicans…

Unlike unions, those GOP-leaning groups don’t invest much in the ground game, which, to many GOP operatives who do work in the field, is part of a bigger problem. The GOP’s political class simply doesn’t value that kind of work, even if it’s increasingly important in the 21st century.

Most young Republican operatives view organizing as a mere entry point to a career that will eventually lead to bigger, and better-paying, gigs. “Democrats actually set up and train people to think about those jobs as careers,” said Brian Stobie, a partner at the GOP data-management firm Optimus. “A field-organizing [role] can be a career over there. In our world, it’s a $27,000-a-year job you can’t wait to get out of.”

“All you’re thinking the whole time is, ‘I can’t wait to get out of this and be the political director,'” he added.

I think it’s a little much to claim that the professional incentives are good for Democratic operatives, but they are better than those that exist for Republicans. If your rank-and-file operatives aspire to being the next David Brooks or Mary Matalin (I just threw up in my mouth), you’re going to have difficulty finding people who want to canvass the hoi polloi. There’s a fundamental conflict here, analogous to Democrats who need to raise money from the wealthy, since field operatives don’t make that much money. It might pay better than $27,000 per year, but I can’t see many movement conservatives making, well, teachers’ salaries for life, when the current model of either pundit or well-paid TV specialist is far more lucrative.

Incentives are a bitch, I guess.

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1 Response to How Wingnut Welfare Hurts the GOP

  1. Min says:

    “Unlike unions, those GOP-leaning groups don’t invest much in the ground game, which, to many GOP operatives who do work in the field, is part of a bigger problem. The GOP’s political class simply doesn’t value that kind of work, even if it’s increasingly important in the 21st century.”

    Well, the ground game was important in the 19th and 20th centuries. But the Republican approach has been remarkably effective in the late 20th century and early 21st century. We can talk about the right wing wingnuts of today, but the right wing wingnuts of yesteryear have become respectable. They may even gain ground in the elections this year.

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