I read a great article this weekend bemoaning the intern who leaked her month long experience working on the Weiner campaign as well as the low level Booker for Senate staffer who took issue with his job responsibilities of recruiting volunteers right to his superiors. Or even the Hill intern who came in still drunk and talking about his profound love for Paul Ryan... yeah that happened...
The writer, like me, has worked in politics for the last 10 years, and we've both seen quite our share of insane low level staffers filled with a sense of entitlement and expertise due to their $100,000 BA in Political Science.
I get it. You love The West Wing and House of Cards. You even like the BBC House of Cards. You were the president of your school’s college Democrats or Republicans. You tweet like crazy and read Politico. You deserve to be taken seriously. Oh wait, you don’t. You don’t know shit. I love and admire volunteers but I ain’t trying to give them the keys to the castle. You don’t blow in the door and act like you know everything. You’re not the manager, you certainly aren’t the consultant and there are 1000 reasons why that’s the case. Not the least of which is your cover story in the Daily News or your leaked email to reporters that outlines precisely how little you know about campaigns. I wouldn’t hire these two to do anything ever, and I bet these attention-seeking misjudgments will follow them around for a good while.But here's the thing... maybe it isn't that all interns are filled with self-importance and entitlement... maybe it's that you're only hiring the self-entitled interns because their parents are big donors to the campaign or they're the only ones who can afford to work for free...
I had a great lunch last week with the wife of a Congressional candidate who did a challenger race in California several years ago. I got to know them both because I was doing fundraising at the time and I knew they probably needed money from some of the big donors I had at some of our events.
So we're having lunch and she tells me I need to read the new Mark Leibovich book This Town, about the inside-the-Beltway world of how influence is bought, the revolving door of blah blah blah... we all know this.
"Oh god," I said rolling my eyes. "I hate that so much, and it's even much worse than when I was in school. Like I knew I could never get an internship in a Congressional office because my parents weren't big donors to anyone's campaign. Not to mention, I'd have to take out an extra student loan to even be able to afford to live in the city while working in the Congressional office. And don't even get me started on a White House internship. Your parents aren't important? You don't go to Harvard? You're not the Governor's kid? Then forget about it..."
"Maybe you shouldn't read this book..." she said.
I saw a comment posted under the article I linked to above. It reads:
"Millennails: generation of narcissism and entitlement" then the same person later commented "Yes, its the "mommy and daddy will pick up my slack and why should I bother" (to put it in the most simple terms) generation. I can't stand it!"Here's the problem... When the cost of college is so high that people from lower income families have to take out insane amounts of student loans to get by you have two options...
- Either you sell out and work for the person that can pay you the most out of college, or
- You spend a majority of college working several jobs to try and pay as you go (or, I suppose, you can do both.)
Either way, give some thought to the type of people who can accept internships on campaigns or in Congressional offices who can work for free and ensure their expenses are paid for. It's kids from upper income families. If you're poor and you want to make a difference in the world... sorry... this isn't for you, you can't afford it.
I was lucky. I ended up on a long-shot Congressional campaign where I could intern in the mornings, go to work after noon, and take classes at night. At one point there was a massive staff turnover and the finance director and finance deputy quit. The candidate trusted me and hired me and together we raised a ton of money. I had finance committee of women from Governor Sebelius's 2002 campaign who took me under their wing and answered every single crazy question I had and helped me every step of the way. They were my political mentors. That candidate and those women are the only reason I, as an English major and a political nobody, was able to get an edge. Today, that never would happen. I would have had to have a full time job and a part time job just to get by. Maybe I could do data entry after midnight...?
But, what we end up with today is bringing young people into politics from a "type" that is not the best representation of both our country and specifically of democratic values as a whole. So it seems like it's entitled kids who get mumzie and daddy to do their bidding and get them the "in" with their old frat boy friend who is running for Congress, while the kid whose dad works as the shop steward at the GM plant and organized the UAW workers for the last 10 years gets passed over for the sexy internship.
This is what you get. These are the entitled, self-important, young people that are tomorrow's politicians. Don't like it? Maybe we need to work as progressives to figure out how to give kids from the "other side of the tracks" a chance at saving the world too. Because the way it stands now, the next Barack Obama isn't going to be able to afford to quit working one of his 3 jobs to knock doors to run for the state senate.