One of the more interesting aspects of the presidential campaign is watching the expertise of the campaign organizations. The Democrats, anyway. President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 made innovative use of data analysis, audience targeting and social media. Both parties now use detailed information about individual voters to craft campaign messages and deploy armies of volunteers.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has raised electoral science to an even higher level of sophistication. Whether or not you agree with the politics, you have to admire the organizational mastery at work. The Clinton campaign has mobilized some of the nation’s smartest technocrats and managers into a model of what every organization aspires to be: efficient, thorough, motivated and responsive. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Democrats are the best in the world at running an election campaign.
Running the country, not so much. If the campaign organization is Seal Team Six, the people in charge of the government are the Keystone Kops.
President Obama’s campaign employed some of the top information technology experts in the country. But the Obama administration was unable to get the Obamacare website operational without spectacular cost overruns and system failures. And security breaches such as the hacking of federal personnel files have become increasingly common.
It’s not just technology. We’re seeing a steady drumbeat of government failures. Veterans die while waiting for care at Veterans Administration hospitals. The Environmental Protection Agency pollutes a river. Engines on the Navy’s brand-new littoral combat ships keep breaking down. Victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 are still waiting for disaster relief. Delays in tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service have become routine.
And it’s not just the Democrats. Republicans are equally inept, though their preference for smaller government may result in a little less damage. Both parties share the blame for the VA’s long-standing problems and the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to modernize the 40-year-old air traffic control system.
When inspirational campaign promises are routinely sabotaged by bumbling bureaucrats, it’s no surprise that fewer than half of Americans trust the government’s ability to solve problems.
So here’s the mystery: Why do politicians hire talented people to get themselves elected and then turn the government over to stumblebums? What happens to those brilliant campaign technocrats between elections? Why aren’t they running the Obamacare website or organizing patient care at the VA?
This is more than idle curiosity. We elect politicians to run our government, and most of us will tolerate moderate levels of waste and corruption so long as things get done. That’s the deal: If the streets are clean and the garbage is picked up, I’m willing to overlook my city councilman’s sticky fingers and loose morals.
But when government is incompetent, the politicians aren’t keeping their end of the bargain. At some point voters will decide that the deal’s off and vote for the other party.
So I’m amazed that politicians don’t appoint their best and brightest campaign operatives to run government agencies. Delivering value to the voters (what a concept!) will keep their party in power. If those talented campaign experts can persuade us to elect someone like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, imagine what they could accomplish if they were doing honest work!