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August 21, 2014 12:04 PM Job Security For Pollsters & Consultants

By Ed Kilgore

So have you been wondering whether the pounding Republican pollster John McLaughlin has received this year for really, really inaccurate polling affected his ability to land clients? Wonder no more: WaPo’s Ben Terris has a reasonably long piece on the Beltway culture that provides all sorts of job security for highly-paid political consultants.

There’s really not much of a defense offered for this situation other than “personal relationships,” a nice euphemism for “cronyism.” And it’s obviously not limited to pollsters:

It may not be shocking to hear that behind-the-scenes D.C. isn’t a pure meritocracy. It’s the land of second opportunity. So what if Vice President Dick Cheney miscalculated the situation in Iraq last time? It didn’t stop him from co-writing a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the situation there this summer. Karl Rove will appear on television until the end of time despite his election-night kerfuffle with his own network about whether President Obama had won Ohio. Get into the upper echelon of official Washington, and it’s hard to completely fall out of favor.

This is particularly insufferable within a Republican Party committed to presenting itself as a meritocratic organization championing the values of this, the most meritocratic society in human history. I suppose the way some of these birds look at it is that when an individual—or maybe a generation, a gender or a race—has “proven” its competence, that certification just lasts a long, long time.

UPDATE: Consultant cronyism is not, of course, exclusively a Republican problem. Its existence among Democrats at a time when they were not winning much was memorably documented by Amy Sullivan for the Washington Monthly back in early 2005. It’s definitely still worth a read.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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