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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Return of the Wonks

Media Matters’ Paul Waldman suggests that Team Obama is determined to shift the ratio of “wonks to hacks” (to use Bruce Reed’s useful dichotomy of the two types of people you tend to get in high-ranking White House jobs) from the hack-heavy habits of the Bush White House, where Karl Rove was what passed for a policy intellectual.
Meanwhile, Dayo Olopade has a good summary of the vast amount of advice being hurled at the Obama transition operation by progressive think tanks, which have learned from conservatives how to hit the ground running when there is a change of administration.
I had a spasm of nostalgia while reading Olopade’s reference to the Progressive Policy Institute’s 1992 transition tome, Mandate for Change. This effort, to which I contributed a chapter on crime policy, was so unique at the time that it was translated into several languages, and was reportedly a best-seller in Japan for a while. This time around, there are so many books, pamphlets and memos coming out with suggestions for the Obama administration that you can’t stir ’em with a stick. And that’s a good thing.

One comment on “Return of the Wonks

  1. J. Peter Nixon on

    I don’t think PPI’s 1992 efforts were particularly new. When Reagan was elected in 1980, the Heritage Foundation came out with a three volume “Mandate for Leadership” which, at the time, did seem to be something relatively new. The success of that effort seemed to spark a small industry of these things during subsequent presidential transitions. I remember the Institute for Policy Studies doing something similar in 1988, although I think it came out in the summer and obviously didn’t have much impact on the Bush administration that was subsequently elected.
    No criticism of your work, of course. Just adding some historical perspective.


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