The New York Times recently published a piece highlighting the lives of six people leaving their careers to get into politics. The idea is that Trump resistance is leading to new people getting into politics. However, it’s the same type of people and is not indicative of shifting the image of politics.
Two months ago, I wrote a piece called “The case for career politicians,” which addresses the criticism behind “draining the swamp” and running on a platform as a political outsider. The idea is that career politicians are more qualified than an outsider. With that said, the real problem is the type of people who decide to make a career in Washington D.C.
When I read The New York Times’ headline “Want to Resist Trump or Make America Great Again? These People Switched Careers,” I felt optimistic. Is it possible that the issue I wrote about two months ago is being addressed?
Nope. Let’s break down the six people featured in the piece.
Breanne Butler, 27, New York
According to NYT, Butler is an accomplished pastry chef, worked in the kitchen of Facebook’s New York office, and started her own business making expensive edible jewelry.
Butler went on to become an activist, not a politician. However, a successful business owner who worked for one of the largest companies in the world sounds like every other political leader since the beginning of time.
David Abroms, 33, Atlanta
Described as a “successful entrepreneur,” Abroms started as a public accountant, then started a company dealing with natural gas for vehicles.
Abroms is a Republican who opposed Trump and was greatly disappointed when he won. So what is Abroms going to do about it? He’s running for office.
And he is able to do so by financing the $250,000 campaign with his own money. A rich guy running for office under the Republican party. How is this a new thing?
Mark Hansen, 26, New York
Mr. Hansen has worked as a coder for a start-up called Shotput. As NYT puts it, Shotput offered Mr. Hansen a good salary and access to the Silicon Valley elite. Also:
“After moving back home with his parents in New Jersey, he found a cheap apartment in New York and started Hey Mayor, a bot he hopes will bring 311 systems to small cities… Mr. Hansen, who walked away from a nearly six-figure job to develop Hey Mayor, has not yet figured out how to pay himself.”
There is no such thing as a “cheap apartment” in New York, unless $2,000/month for a studio apartment the size of my closet is considered cheap. Another financially well-off individual getting into the political arena.
George Polisner, 57, Lincoln City, Ore.
Polisner worked for the mega-huge tech company Oracle for many years. His salary? $200,000 a year.
When Polisner discovered Oracle’s CEO was joining Trump’s transition team, he decided to leave the company. When you’re making $200,000 you can decide to just get up and leave. According to NYT, “he decided to get involved in politics and founded Civic Works, a nonprofit that aims to get citizens more engaged in issues like health care, education and climate change.”
The one thing Polisner has going for him is that he doesn’t live in a large city like the three before him, giving him a better sense of the reality that most people in this country experience. But his high income makes him no different than anyone else in politics and takes him further away from the average American.
John Carney, 44, New York
Former editor at The Wall Street Journal. I should just end this entry right there, except for this:
“Breitbart was one of the few places that seemed to understand the pulse of the nation and the direction we were going better than much larger news organizations,” Carney said. “They saw what was going to happen more clearly than everyone else.”
First of all, I’m upset that a WSJ editor saw any validity in Breitbart, let alone enough to leave WSJ for it. I’m just glad he got out of WSJ. He doesn’t belong there.
With that said, Carney is another high-paid professional who had the money and the résumé to drop everything and do whatever he wants. Something that 99 percent of the U.S. population cannot do.
Dex Torricke-Barton, 31, Los Angeles
Here’s a man that everyone can identify with: An Oxford graduate who “secured a series of influential jobs.”
“He wrote speeches for executives at Google, became Mark Zuckerberg’s speechwriter at Facebook, then joined as head of communications SpaceX, the private rocket company founded by Elon Musk.”
Torricke-Barton is now leading a nonprofit organization called Onwards. Better than politics, sure, but just like Breanne Butler, his background has the same tone as every Congressperson who has ever existed.
New face of politics is just a mask
The NYT piece wants us to believe that Trump’s presidency has inspired a whole new group of people to get into politics and activism, possibly changing the dynamics of politics in the future.
However, when you look at the curriculum vitae of the six people featured, there is absolutely nothing different about them compared to the politicians of the past 200+ years: Rich, white, well-educated, above-average success.
What Washington and the American people need are motivated people who actually represent the average person. Just because someone does not have a huge bank account and impressive résumé does not mean they are not qualified to lead a city, county, state or nation.
But the barriers guarding the door at Capitol Hill stops those people from entering. A political career requires a large bank account. An Ivy League education and high-earning jobs are practically required for people to believe that a person is qualified.
As long as the rich, white, well-educated, above-average success profile of a politician continues to be the norm, nothing is going to change. Average people can only be represented by another average person. The six people above are not average. If this is the “new” face of politics, expect the same old bullshit.