Dale McFeatters: Looking for work? Why not run for U.S. Senate?
So you’re about to turn 30. You’re living in your mother’s basement. You don’t have a job. You have no skills to speak of. That master’s degree in 15th-century Russian literature has left you pretty much unemployable, not to mention $100,000 in debt. The military insists that you shed 25 pounds of beer fat before it’ll even take a look at you.
You’d sort of like a career of some kind, but one that’s not too demanding.
Congress has come to the rescue with a job program of sorts. We know. You thought Congress’ role in unemployment was to take credit for any improvement — or blame the other side for any slippage, even though the whole thing is largely out of lawmakers’ control.
But they seem to have stumbled into a program that, for the lucky few, promises highly paid indoor work, with no heavy lifting. How does $174,000 a year sound to you? And this is for about 33 weeks of work, a “week,” for these purposes, generally considered being only four days.
They don’t just give these jobs away — well, sometimes they do. You have to grovel, beg and pander, but these are easily learnable skills and they transfer to many other fields of work.
Here’s the deal: The two major political parties — that would be the Republicans and the Democrats; one of the few qualifications is that you know that; the difference really doesn’t matter — are having difficulties recruiting people to run for the U.S. Senate.
We know this because The Wall Street Journal says so: Top-tier candidates in Iowa, Michigan, Georgia, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, to name a few, are not lining up to compete for jobs in the 100-seat chamber.
The prospects are even better in the House because there are more seats — 435 — and they all open up every two years.
So take a shower, put on your grown-up clothes and present yourself at party headquarters and announce that you’re running for office. Trust us, they won’t laugh. A lot of people even crazier and less qualified than you have run — and been elected.
In 2010, a complete political novice, Christine O’Donnell, knocked off a highly respected, veteran Delaware politician in the Republican Senate primary on the slogan, “I am not a witch.” She lost in the general election, perhaps because her Democratic opponent was not a witch, either.
So you’re over the hump of having no apparent qualifications for this or any other job. Now you need a staff. The Washington area is full of unemployed campaign managers, press spokesmen, speechwriters, advance men and strategists who will work for you on the understanding that, if you win, they get a nice $65,000-a-year job on your congressional staff or committee payroll.
Let’s not kid ourselves. The campaign itself is grueling — what with appearing at factory gates at dawn, endless coffees, chicken dinners, baby-kissing, handshakes and laughing at stupid jokes. But as long as you begin your speech with “My fellow Americans” and end it with “God bless you and God bless the United States of America,” you can get away with any amount of nonsense in between.
When raising campaign funds, try to look like a pleasant and malleable doofus. If you win, campaign donors will be waiting in your outer office as soon as your committee assignments are announced. Let your campaign treasurer handle the money. Take care of your donors, but do not make any specific commitments — at least not ones that can be secretly recorded.
If you’re at a loss for words, grip the donor by the shoulder, look him squarely in the eye and give him a heartfelt, “God bless America!” It works. And in the fullness of time and the workings of the old congressional adage, “To get along, go along,” you may find yourself pressing the flesh as you work your way down the House aisle to the speaker’s dais and hear those magic words, “Mr. Speaker! The President of the United States!”
It’s either that or watching nonstop “24” reruns in your mom’s basement. You choose.
Dale McFeatters is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.