Have You Ever Had An Affair? Have You Ever Worn Blackface? Have You Ever Been Accused of A Crime?

If you are considering getting involved in the 2020 election, there are a few new questions you might want to ask your candidate. Choose wisely.

Image for post
Image for post
Governor Ralph Northam Gives Inaugural Address. 13 January 2018. Governor Northam faced pressure this year to resign over old yearbook photos showing him in blackface. (photo: Craig)

The New Political Litmus Test Questions

So, you want to work in politics?

Like the movies stars of Hollywood, and all the pomp and circumstance of the silver screen, on Capitol Hill there are the stars you see, and more you don’t.

In Hollywood, for every Brat Pitt to exist, there are at times dozens, at times hundreds of people responsible for what you see, and what you don’t see. Gaffers, cameramen, best boys, extras, directors, set directors, tech people, even caterers need their due.

Nothing happens to Pitt on the big screen without this behind the scenes team propping everything up behind him.

So too, perhaps even more so, in politics.

Behind every president, governor, congressman, senator, every elected official is a team of unsung champions. They are the man behind the man behind the man. Behind the man.

They work long hours for low pay, or no pay, often because they believe so firmly in the importance of the job they are doing. Often they do it because they want to make a difference in the world.

No one majors in Political Science or volunteers on a campaign for fortune and glory. Well, maybe some do.

What happens to these teams of highly professional, experienced, hard-working and diligent career professionals at the top of their game working in Washington, D.C., or their state capitol, when the person at the top of their employment chain, crashes and burns spectacularly to the ground.

History is filled with these unfortunates; Gary Hart, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, Larry Craig, Mark Foley. Their crimes vary from the merely embarrassing to the outright criminal.

Today’s top political names face even more scrutiny, as the scandals that recently rocked top leadership in Virginia and the Brett Kavanaugh hearing proved.

Decades-old inappropriate comments, racially-insensitive costumes, romantic imbroglios; nothing is off-limits. And in today’s red-hot stove of a political climate, even the slightest missteps can be major stumbling blocks in an election year.

Some people getting involved in politics today are people who don’t want to run for public office themselves because it is so, well, public. Life in the public eye, a public life, is not for everyone. Plenty of extremely smart, committed and talented people choose instead to hang their professional stars on someone else.

Choosing this someone well is important for a variety of reasons. Would-be political wonks, tireless volunteers and campaign donors need someone who shares their goals and values. Someone with enough potential electability to give your team a fighting chance in the political arena.

And, increasingly, someone who isn’t likely to become embroiled in a career-ending scandal involving, not their policies, but their personal life.

Political staffers are starting to ask hard questions of their potential employers, and if they aren’t already, they soon will be as the internet detective agency at large begins delving wholesale into the online lives of rising political stars. More skeletons are sure to come.

Voters considering getting involved in a campaign need to start asking the hard questions, too. And not just counting on their candidate for answers.

Increasingly, opposition research is a cornerstone of any well run campaign. “Oppo” research means your political opposition will be working very hard to dig up dirt on your candidate.

Better if you find it first.

It isn’t polite, it isn’t genteel. But the parade of dancing skeletons is a sign of reckoning in our modern age.

Pay in due diligence now, or pay in humiliation later.

(contributing writing, Brooke Bell)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store