When you’ve worked in campaign politics long enough, you start to notice that themes emerge. There are just a few types of volunteers, just a few types of candidates, and just a few types of staffers. It’s the staffers that, I maintain, make or break most campaigns.
My favorite type of staffer is the dedicated idealist. She (or he) is the starry-eyed types who genuinely believed that Democrats could take back the congress last November. But she did the work to back it up, hitchhiking to New Mexico to hand out flyers, going door to door in Iowa for her candidate of choice, and working 70-hour weeks for her local candidate. Her error in calculation that leads her to believe that the revolution is just around the corner is that she believes that everybody is working just as hard as she is. She may have an unusual background, an undefined future, and a quasi-Buddhist take on worldly goods. Those candidates smart enough to hire her (and smart enough to listen to her) will do well. The more campaigns that she works on, the more experienced that she gets, the more campaigns that she will win, and the more success that Democrats enjoy. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.
Then there’s my least-favorite type of staffer, the subject of this blog entry: the resume-padding campaign monkey. Newbie candidates love this guy (or gal). He has what appears to be a stellar resume. He’s worked on at least a few campaigns in important positions. He’s friendly, lively, outgoing, and optimistic. He graduated from a well-known, at least middle-range university. He was the head of the Young Democrats chapter. He was in the student senate. He’s probably from out-of-state. His recommendations come from those with whom he’s worked on prior campaigns, who vouch that he’s the greatest guy ever. (He does the same for them.) He intends to go to law school. He believes that he will be president one day.
But the campaigns that he worked on tanked. He often didn’t show up for work, and when he did show up, he instant messaged his friends and downloaded warez — with no oversight and implicit trust from the candidate, he could do absolutely nothing and nobody would be the wiser. He was fired from one of those campaigns. His resume is woven from half-truths and lies. In honest moments, if put in a position that contains a whit of accountability, he’ll confess to his coworkers that he’s in way over his head, perhaps on the verge of tears. His glad-handing and undue familiarity is merely a trait that he’s developed to make people less suspicious of him, so that he won’t be discovered. He has no interest in this race, this candidate, even this state — the campaign is just a means to an end, the big prize of managing a U.S. Senate race or a presidential campaign. It’s resume padding and an easy six-month job, nothing more.
If the candidate never realizes that they’re being taken for a ride, they’ll lose, badly, and never quite understand why. The resume-padding campaign monkey (and, as is often the case, his coworkers who he has trained to be lazy, like him) will move onto a bigger and better job, with his fellow resume-padding campaign monkeys serving as his reference and he as theirs. A new campaign infected. Spoilt milk rises to the top. Democrats lose. People wonder why.
I’ve seen this happen over and over. Some of these dopes have moved onto bigger campaigns, leaving baffled candidates in their wakes. In one case, I’ve alerted a candidate that his campaign was being run by a resume-padding campaign monkey; he refused to believe me until it was too late, at which point he fired the guy and hired yet another resume-padding campaign monkey, having learned nothing from the experience. (I quit.)
When you spot a resume-padding campaign monkey, alert the proper authorities. If you interview one, call her former candidates (not the listed references), google her, and then send her away, tail tucked between her legs. If you realize you’ve hired one, fire her. Tell others. Drive them out. Banish her to law school, where she’ll hurt less people. Keep track of her, and if she moves on to work for another campaign, warn them.
Only you can prevent resume-padding campaign monkeys.