Over at the Feehery Theory blog today, John penned an item near and dear: the difference between campaigning and governing. It is a short piece and right on point. Campaigning is easy. Governing is Hard. Some folks up on the Hill should read it, several times.
You see that photo of the B-26 Marauder? If you’re on a Congressional campaign, it better feel that way, every day, or you may lose. A campaign needs to give it 110% and even then there is no guarantee. The ultimate decision is made by the voters.
Ironically, many Congressional staffers cannot stomach Congressional campaigns. I think every Congressional staffer must work at least one as a precondition for securing a job on the Hill. If we had more staff with some campaign background — not just the occasional mail stuffing party or phone bank — the work product would improve, as would communications.
There is a difference, however, between professional campaign folks and Congressional staff. The two usually do not mix well, if at all. A Congressional campaign should end after the election, but the campaign mentality does not; however, you cannot allow the latter to infect governing. And that is one of John’s points:
The campaign mentality has infected Washington, D.C., making it damn near impossible for Washington politicians to get anything done. As soon as the election is over, the first thing most Washington politicians do is to call their fundraiser to start the campaign again.
Having worked for close to eight years on the Hill for a senior Member of Congress and a Congressional Committee, as well as having worked many Congressional campaigns and the Republican National Committee, I learned that you need to separate these two worlds as much as you can. Members of Congress need a good senior support staff that understand this dynamic. As I wrote earlier this week, I think poor staffing was at the primary reason for the demise of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter.
Governing is very difficult. It has to be. But it is a challenging and very rewarding process, not a game. People who treat it that way, such as folks like Jack Abramoff, as well as many others like him that make a living off political consulting, make governing even harder to accomplish. This town is full of folks who, frankly, do not understand what governing is all about, but there are many more who understand it, respect it, and make it work well for their clients.
In the end, some of us think good policy makes for good politics. We need folks on the Hill and the White House who think that way.