Washington Insiders: Getting It or Not So Much?

Transitions in Washington can be challenging. Someone who tried hard and spent lots of money won and someone else who tried hard and spent lots of money lost.

They are not the only ones whose emotions are raw. Those who ran the campaigns and served as advisors let their minds wander to the roles they might have in the new administration.

The surprise result changed election night from an anticipated coronation to one of the most exciting sports events of the year. Somehow recovering from a last-minute defeat is more challenging than a defeat that was widely anticipated.

Washington insiders were also effectively rebuked and they were even less happy about it than some of the others.

Let’s look at two insider reactions.

Doug Schoen is pretty close to the bull’s eye on the insider-ness target: Harvard twice, pollster for Bill Clinton, founder of political consulting firm Penn, Schoen & Berland, worked for Hillary in 2008 and now a Fox News commentator.

Here is an interesting poll he has been talking about for months. Tempting, as it might be, to skim the questions, try to let them seep in because they are powerful.

  1. The power of ordinary people to control our country is getting weaker every day, as political leaders on both sides, fight to protect their own power and privilege, at the expense of the nation’s well-being. We need to restore what we really believe in – real democracy by the people and real free enterprise. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%
  1. The country is run by an alliance of incumbent politicians, media pundits, lobbyists and other powerful money interests for their own gain at the expense of the American people. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%
  1. Most politicians really care about people like me. AGREE = 25%; DISAGREE = 69%
  1. Powerful interests from Wall Street banks to corporations, unions and political interest groups have used campaign and lobbying money to rig the system for them. They are looting the national treasury of billions of dollars at the expense of every man, woman and child. AGREE = 81%; DISAGREE = 13%
  1. The U.S. has a two-track economy where most Americans struggle every day, where good jobs are hard to find, where huge corporations get all the rewards. We need fundamental changes to fix the inequity in our economic system. AGREE = 81%; DISAGREE = 15%
  1. Political leaders are more interested in protecting their power and privilege than doing what is right for the American people. AGREE = 86%; DISAGREE = 11%
  1. The two main political parties are too beholden to special and corporate interest to create any meaningful change. AGREE = 76%; DISAGREE = 19%
  1. The real struggle for America is not between Democrats and Republicans but between mainstream American and the ruling political elites. AGREE = 67%; DISAGREE = 24%

Could a reasonable person come to the conclusion that America is not enamored with Washington and political insiders?

Well, I do come to that conclusion so I find it particularly interesting when others don’t especially when the others are thought to possess sufficient expertise to draw an audience of listeners.

I recently attended such a gathering under the customary cloud of Washington secrecy. No telling who or where and, since the speaker is especially noteworthy as a critic of the evolution of politics and government in recent years, I am going to have to sanitize what he said to make the guessing game harder.

Like Schoen, he is an insider, but unlike Schoen, he portrays himself as a thinker rather than a partisan. He is old enough to know the old ways and to prefer them. Ds and Rs followed the unwritten rules that delineated theatre from reality, drank together, joined the same clubs, stood on the sidelines at the same kids games and cooperated to keep peace in the animal kingdom.

Not so any longer. Theatre has overcome reality and nobody lives in Washington so convivial drinking, club joining and sideline standing don’t happen. In light of Schoen’s poll and possibly a dose of common sense, are we surprised to learn that the formerly peaceable animals that live outside the moat (we call that a beltway now) have reared up against their keepers?

Apparently my anonymous insider is.

After a few late night TV standup jokes about Donald Trump, we heard an interesting recap of populism in this country: Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. All were responses to prevailing conditions and all fizzled when the pendulum swung back.

Here are some snippets to give you the gist: rejected establishment; de-legitimized Obama; exploited DC foolishness; nobody has a clue where we are going; no knowledge of Constitution; no impulse control; short attention span; unhinged; narcissist; inexperienced; uncharted territory; conflicts of interest.

By then I had pretty much gotten the idea that the speaker was no fan of the President Elect. Fair enough. Many aren’t. There are entirely legitimate reasons to have preferred Secretary Clinton. Policy differences and experience are high on the list.

Whether or not the speaker was specifically aware of the Doug Schoen polling data, I suspect he was aware of the anti-Washington feelings elsewhere.

With that in mind, I asked, “given your apparent strong feelings, what would you have wished had been done two, five or 10 years ago to avoid the buildup of such anti-Washington feeling?”

I was not encouraged by the answers: end Republican opposition to all things Obama (albeit with the caveat that it worked well for the Republicans in 2010 and 2012); a better health care law; mandatory voting; and hanging more Wall Street villains from lamp posts.

Mandatory voting? Really? When Washington’s lost those poll questions by an average of 79% to 16%?

Do the anonymous insider’s answers sound like the culprits or are you more persuaded by Doug Schoen’s data pointing to Washington insiders as the problem?

Some will always get it faster than others but it seems time for the Washington political industry to move a bit more briskly.



16 Responses to “Washington Insiders: Getting It or Not So Much?”

andrew j glass, December 07, 2016 at 7:35 pm said:

HRC lost because too many people resented her outsized sense that was “her turn” without giving voters a definitive reason to support her other than she wasn’t DJT.


Haven Pell, December 07, 2016 at 10:25 pm said:

Well we certainly had two of the most flawed candidates in recent history but what if there had been no swamp in need of draining?


Ashley Higgins, December 07, 2016 at 8:45 pm said:

That is a really good question. Pitiful answer.


Barrett Seaman, December 07, 2016 at 10:01 pm said:

I’d like to hear your source round out his views–and his solutions. A lot of people, myself included, want to return to a culture, if it a system, in which opposing parties (ideologies) sit down and work out compromises. But so far, I see nothing in Trump’s choices to indicate he is going in that direction.


Haven Pell, December 07, 2016 at 10:36 pm said:

He would, you would and I would too. It is long past time and the effort needed will be far greater. It is sad the system was permitted to fall into such decline.


Brandy, December 08, 2016 at 8:22 am said:

Oh what entertainment! The folk getting coffee at the WAWA has more Common Sense than the Political class inside the Moat. DJT maybe a interesting choice but he does accomplish things = old USPS office into hotel employing people, providing a desired service, paying taxes, etc. And you just know Bill Marriott is miffed. The Tool Belt’ers from Fly Over Counties bounced the DC types on their presumptive heads.
Kinda like the storming of the Bastille 🙂


Haven Pell, December 08, 2016 at 9:19 am said:

Torch and pitchfork makers are the hot neinvestment opportunity


Gaetano Cipriano, December 08, 2016 at 8:45 am said:

The Federal Government continues to wrack up debt, yet nobody seems to be paying attention.
Someday we will reach a Gladwellian tipping point, and all hell will break loose in DC. I guess Congress never read Benjamin Franklin’s advice that a stitch in time saves nine.
The refusal of both the legislative and executive branches of government to execute the most basic of its duties, namely careful stewardship of the national exchequer, is both infuriating and puzzling. Maybe Mr. Trump will try to make one of his famous deals to contain spending and balance the budget. Hope springs eternal, but I haven’t seen any will from either the GOP or the Democrats to actually do their jobs in that regard.


Haven Pell, December 08, 2016 at 9:22 am said:

Not a sound in the campaign about the 3 Ds: dollars, debts and deficits.


Rob, December 08, 2016 at 9:19 am said:

So if 80% of the people think Washington sucks, how come: (1) 95% of elected Washington officials are always re-elected; and (2) the new president we get every 8 years acts pretty much exactly as the old one did?


Haven Pell, December 12, 2016 at 8:31 am said:

Rob, I think you have answered your own question. The huge re-election rate results from Gerrymandering. Elected officials choose their voters instead of voters choosing their elected officials. The similarity of Presidents (if it exists) results from the need for the President to satisfy the goals of those who allegedly make Washington work. Put all of that together and, if the result appears to be unresponsive to what people want, 80% conclude that Washington sucks. Maybe they are angry that there is nothing they can do about it? That would help to explain a concept like “drain the swamp.”


Jim Weekes, December 08, 2016 at 4:57 pm said:

Schoen should have had a question about term limits. That and mandatory voting, like Australia, would politicize a lot of people.


Haven Pell, December 12, 2016 at 8:36 am said:

Jim, I am not sure Schoen was asking about solutions as much as he was asking about problems. It has always seemed to me that term limits would simply create more “former elected officials” who would then become lobbyists. As to mandatory voting, is there a difference between the 128 million low information voters we had this time and 200 million low information voters that might result from mandatory voting?


Jim Weekes, December 12, 2016 at 12:19 pm said:

Haven, Thanks for your answer. On the mandatory voting, I believe that you opened my eyes a bit. Obviously the 78 million who didn’t vote were probably less well-informed than the vast majority who did vote.

I do think that a two-term retired congressman would have less luster as a lobbyist than a twelve-term entrenched good ol’ boy. Not enough time to put out tendrils as the whole first term would be ensuring a second term.

I guess the main need really is people willing to compromise.


Haven Pell, December 13, 2016 at 6:25 am said:

As political life has evolved, compromise has become pretty much extinct. Something significant would need to happen to bring it back.


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