Messina isn’t just a consultant; he is also the chairman of Organizing for Action, which describes itself on its Web site as an “organization established to support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012.” The site touts the necessity of investing public dollars in infrastructure and highlights the efforts of volunteers across the country to win passage of immigration reform. If Organizing for Action’s members had any say in the matter, they almost surely wouldn’t approve of the group’s chairman going to work for Britain’s anti-immigrant, anti-public investment prime minister. Indeed, if they had any say in the matter, they might ask Messina to choose between Obama’s agenda and Cameron’s. If he opted to keep working for Cameron, they might just opt for a less-conflicted leader.
How could you flip from Barack Obama to David Cameron?
On immigration, domestic spending cuts, and Big Tobacco, Messina is signing on to and in the first two cases will be defending positions that are perfectly in line with America’s Republican Party. What’s he doing?
Political consulting isn’t a profession known for its demanding ethical standards. But no matter how flexible your relationship to the truth or how sleazy your ads, there is one line you aren’t supposed to cross–going to work for the other side. The Tories aren’t the Texas Republican Party. But they are the other side.
It’s fine, in fact laudable, for a policy expert in government to be nonpartisan–meaning not free of ideology, which nobody is, but determined to work for the public interest rather than the narrow interest of one party vis-à-vis another. It’s fine, though rarer and not mandatory, for a policy expert outside of government to be the same way. It’s thirdly fine for a political commentator or blogger who never claimed to be easily classified in Left-Right terms– Andrew Sullivan, for example –to support Obama in the U.S. but Cameron in Britain…
…But someone who purports to be the leader of a party’s grassroots had better understand, and be prepared to practice, the thing that Max Weber said the leaders and followers of mass political parties “always and necessarily” must do: fight. And the mass membership of a modern party will never fight for the sake of a specified level of public debt, but only for the less compromising reasons–loyalty to a side, and/or devotion to a larger and longer cause–whose importance Messina demonstrably does not begin to grasp.
Messina can, barely, remain a political consultant to both our Democrats and Britain’s Conservatives. But grassroots Democrats will not, and should not, follow a supporter of the Tories into political battle. If Messina thinks we should, that’s all the more evidence that he’s unfit for his current job.
To campaign is to choose. Having taken the Tories’ shilling, Messina should resign from OFA. He will not lack for other work.