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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


There’s a fun article in today’s Washington Post by DeNeen Brown that captures a bit of the slow-motion riot associated with a change of partisan control of Congress. Sure, the important thing is that Democrats will control the flow of legislation in the House and Senate, and the agenda of committees. But underneath the surface is the human drama of Very Important Members becoming nonentities, and all sorts of havoc at the staff level. For one thing, the majority party controls a significant number of committee and subcommittee staff positions. The turnover of congressional staff jobs doesn’t create the kind of employment tempest associated with a change in the Executive Branch, but it still produces a ripple effect throughout the political world; suddenly unemployed high-level Republican staffers will displace all sorts of people in think tanks, law firms, lobbying shops, and so forth. Conversely, it’s a good time for Democrats to move in or move up in Washington. Moreover, the majority party gets the really good offices on Capitol Hill. Given the rabbit warrens most congressional staff occupy, a few extra square feet make a big difference. All these small, subtle but significant changes on the Hill won’t be fully implemented until the next Congress is sworn in next January. But the political culture of Washington is already adapting to the New Regime. Since 1994, Capitol Hill has been a strange right-wing cigar-and-martini-bar enclave in a very Democratic city. To paraphrase David Bowie, that’s about to ch-ch-change.

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