Project Wonderful

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Campaign Fellowships for Experienced Staff Are Complete Bullshit

Here is an article about Hillary Clinton making experienced organizers who want to work for her work for free. And here is me saying it's bullshit.

I wasn't super thrilled at the Obama Fellowship program either (mostly because let's call an internship an internship) but at least that was geared toward individuals who had not been paid campaign staff before and wanted to break into "the movement." Even unpaid Capitol Hill interns are ostensibly learning a skill and theoretically have time for a second job. What are these volunteer second and third time organizers learning that could possibly justify not paying them? Don't even try to tell me it's your unique brand of organizing. Neither Barack Obama, nor Hillary Clinton, nor Bernie Sanders invented the wheel. Besides no other profession (except grad school) asks workers to go through months upon months of unpaid eighty-hour-a-week training.

Not to mention that it is antithetical to Democratic party values. I can't tell you how insulting and undermining it is to build a career out of something and have the biggest name in the business value that work at 0. I don't care how passionate you are, no reasonable person should be expected to want to work for free for the privilege of doing a job where you get crapped on all day. Field organizers have enough trouble getting respect when they are paid. They have enough trouble making ends meet when they are paid. The Democratic party has enough trouble recruiting diverse staffs when we pay them. And we wonder why we have a diversity problem. The Clinton campaign wonders why Bernie Sanders is gaining ground.

My friend (and ironically former intern) Kate Kight put it perfectly:
We all know what this means for racial and socioeconomic diversity and that is shameful enough, but I've been a part of too many campaigns that try and foster an environment of working hard for the cause instead of for a paycheck...which is noble, but there isn't anything wrong with wanting to get paid. And if you start your career thinking that working 7 days a week for less than minimum wage is the only way to be successful, it teaches you to not ask for more in later life- and it teaches you to turn around and take advantage of youngsters in turn.
I make no secret of being a Clinton supporter. When I post articles that are critical of Bernie Sanders' campaign they are met with skepticism (or often vitriol) because I'm voting for someone else. I have no illusions that either my blog or my Facebook wall is the New York Times editorial opinion page. Most of the people who read what I write are firmly in one camp or the other and I can count the number of undecided early primary state voters I'm friends with on one hand. I'm not trying to convince a Bernie Sanders supporter to support Hillary Clinton; I'm trying to advocate that we demand better of our candidates and of ourselves.

It isn't Hillary making these staffing decisions just like I doubt that it was Bernie Sanders' idea for his supporters to shout "We Stand Together" over Black Lives Matter activists. Any staffer will tell you that the only way to be sure you can control your candidate is to run for office, but we are the ones who decide how campaigns are run. Let's make better decisions.


  1. Apparently "spade" is racial slur that I don't think anyone my age has ever heard, but since that was clearly not my intention I am in the process of changing it.