Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Blame the consultants?

David Sirota makes an interesting point. All the recent bashing of the entrenched consultant culture in the Democratic party (most notable recent example in "Crashing The Gate") misses something essential: it is the politicians who are responsible for hiring those consultants.

... to focus more blame on consultants - as opposed to the politicians who hire them - is to avoid the real problem. In many cases, that is deliberate avoidance, so as to prevent raising the ire of politicians many in Democratic circles are still afraid to challenge - no matter how many times they sell us out. It's like pretending that when you get sick the real problem is your stuffed nose, rather than the cold that is causing the stuffed nose in the first place. Actually, it's worse: it's like blaming the stuffed nose because you don't want to make the cold germs feel bad.

I don't quite go along with Sirota's suggestion that those who criticize consultants are deliberately avoiding criticism of the candidates because they don't want to piss of those candidates. I've seen a fair share of criticism of Dem politicians for just that (several post-mortems of the Dean campaign raked him over the coals for not doing a better job of managing the people who worked for him). I also think it is important to remember that many politicians, especially in low-level races, are naive about the system they are entering. They are sheep who can be easily rolled by the wolves in the consultant culture.

But I think Sirota's point is a useful caution to those of us who might be looking for a singular explanation for Democratic woes. The consultants are not THE problem. But they are certainly a major part of it.


Blogger Computer Bruce said...

I've been told that a lot of campaign consultants are, in fact, media planners/media buyers, and take part or all of their compensation in the percentage of advertising normally charged for media planning/buying. Is that true?

How does that skew the kind of advice they give and the "strategies" they adopt?

9:31 PM  
Blogger Chris Andersen said...

For the Democrats it sometimes is true. That's part of the problem. The incentive for the media consultants is to place ad buys, not to place ad buys that actually help their candidate win.

1:54 PM  

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