Young Republicans Don’t Wanna Be Field Hands

If Democrats face a host of disadvantages in 2014, and they most definitely do, there’s one area in which everyone seems to concede they maintain a big edge over the competition: savvy in data applications and field-work, both probably more critical in midterms than in presidential elections.

According to National Journal‘s Alex Roarty, the gap between the two parties isn’t just a matter of how much is spent in these area or even how well the money is spent: it’s a “cultural” difference that goes back to the hopes and dreams of young political operatives and what they want to become when they grow up:

The well-worn pathways of the [Republican] 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….

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.”

It’s an interesting issue, beyond its impact on current political campaigns. If young Republican operatives all go to sleep at night dreaming of becoming media consultants raking off big bux from ad buys, they are not exactly going to be swift about insisting on the kind of big shift from ad budgets to other priorities that Democrats are increasingly undertaking. And that could cost them for years, since it’s a self-reinforcing prejudice.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.