The paralysis of Atlanta—and its rising-star mayor, Democrat Kasim Reed—during the first of two recent storms highlighted more than just a possible managerial deficiency. The fact that Reed had spent the morning of the storm receiving an award from Republican Governor Nathan Deal—as well as Reed’s post-storm refusal to blame the flummoxed governor—suggests something broader: a durable alliance between the Obama 2012 pit-bull surrogate and his conservative Republican governor. Such an alliance is less rare than one might imagine. In an age when people lament partisan polarization, one area of stubborn bipartisan cooperation endures: the seemingly counter-intuitive pacts between black Democratic mayors and conservative Republican governors.
National political observers detected a similar relationship a thousand miles to the north in 2012, when then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker tied himself in knots to pretend he was considering a challenge to Governor Chris Christie. Most New Jersey political insiders understood this to be a necessary feint—one that a playful parody film featuring the two men seemed to confirm. After Senator Frank Lautenberg died, Christie repaid Booker—and did himself a favor—by spending $25 million in state funds on a special election for Senate just three weeks before his own November election. It wasn’t enough to simply not run against each other; Christie ensured that he and Booker would not be turning out their own supporters (who would be unlikely to split tickets) in the same election.
Given that black Americans voted for national Democratic candidates at a 90-plus-percent clip in 2008 and 2012, why would leaders from Democrats’ most loyal faction tacitly support conservative Republican governors? What exactly does each side have to gain from these political non-aggression pacts—and are they durable or likely to collapse?
From the white governor’s side, there are several things to gain:
Direct short-term electoral benefits: By dividing urban black mayors from their party, a Republican governor can do slightly better in cities for his reelection campaign, either by winning a premium of black voters above the roughly 10 percent a generic Republican can expect, or by minimizing black turnout (not through underhanded Ed Rollins or Allen Raymond sort of way, but by dampening the enthusiasm of black community leaders who are often critical to urban voter-mobilization efforts).
Indirect short-term electoral benefits: By wrapping themselves in black political clothing, these white Republican governors are pulling a sort of reverse Sister Souljah: They are using black mayors as a vehicle to show white suburban women that they are not the scary, borderline-racist kind of Republican who howls about birth certificates, Kenya, and food-stamp presidents.
Long-term electoral benefits: For more a decade—and with special urgency since Election Day 2012—we’ve heard about the Republican Party’s acute need to diversify its electoral base. The instant elevation of Marco Rubio into a likely presidential candidate —before he was even sworn in!—and a similar phenomenon with Dr. Ben Carson are proof of the party’s desperate quest for a candidate with appeal to minorities in a rapidly evolving nation. Of course, white Republican presidential aspirants won’t cede this niche to minority candidates; indeed, one of George W. Bush’s key selling points as he positioned himself for the 2000 Republican nomination was that he had received 49 percent of the Latino vote in his 1998 re-election. (It later emerged that this figure was inflated and the actual number was 40 percent).
Chris Christie’s concerted efforts to win Latino and black votes (of which he won 51 percent and 21 percent, respectively, compared to Romney’s 27 percent and 6 percent) in 2013 suggest a similar thrust, albeit one that is likely obsolete now. Clearly, ambitious governors like Christie and Kasich use Democratic mayoral support—generally, the kind of tacit, “sitting-on-their-hands” support that accompanies tepid endorsements that mayors like Booker, Coleman, and Reed offer Democratic gubernatorial candidates—to burnish their electoral resumes for future national candidacies.
Possible entrée into the Obama White House: Republican governors who may face future primaries aren’t always keen to be too closely associated with President Obama (Christie’s infamous post-Hurricane Sandy embrace notwithstanding). Forging close ties with mayors who acted as top Obama surrogates and can get calls to the White House quickly returned can come in handy for those whose public rhetoric may preclude close relationships with the Obama Administration.
Of course, benefits also accrue to the black mayor in these détentes. Here are a few:
Direct economic benefits: This might include support for major projects (both public subsidies and assistance in lining up private-development financing), as well as political backing for initiatives that require state support. These create jobs and bolster the tax base in cities like Newark and Cleveland that have suffered steep declines. More broadly, Republican governors give mayors someone who can lean on legislative leaders on matters that aren’t too ideologically charged but can help the mayor’s city—often a leading state economic engine.
Support for urban school-reform efforts: This may come in the form of political support (urging legislators or executive branch appointees), economic backing (money for performance pay bonuses or charter-school start-up, for instance), or a hybrid of both (Christie’s alliance with Booker to attract—and spend—Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the state-controlled Newark public schools).
Long-term political benefits: Ambitious black mayors hoping to be the next Obama—or at least the next Deval Patrick—can take advantage of their relationships with Republican governors to provide a veneer of moderation. The goal is to avoid the fate of candidates like former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, who are seen as being too liberal for a statewide race (an impression driven in part by their color, political-science research has suggested), even if they’re not particularly liberal.
Fundraising: Governors can quietly introduce the mayors to their donors, and/or provide a sort of “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” with traditional Republican business donors, giving big-city mayors access to contributors who would not otherwise be inclined to support them.
But what are the costs for each side? The answer is, not many. Republican governors have little to lose by propping up big-city Democratic mayors; Republicans have almost no chance of ever competing for office in these areas. Though extra attention to urban areas could potentially have a slight demobilizing effect on rural conservatives, the effect is probably negligible.
Black mayors also have little to lose. Though their constituents have been pressed into action around election time, local black political elites have historically been excluded from state and national party strategy, instead being belatedly pressed into action around time. And of course, white statewide aspirants have been engaged in mini-Sister Souljah acts around the country for years, distancing themselves from the party’s urban base and focusing electoral appeals on white suburban and exurban swing voters. Consequently, some black Democrats feel scant party allegiance, making it easier to cozy up to Republican governors.
The biggest risk is that their Republican allies might lose. As mayors, they’ll be forced to travel to the state capital and supplicate to Democratic governors who can likely glean from a precinct analysis of urban election returns whether a mayor really worked to turn out voters in his home wards—and could probably ascertain a decided lack of enthusiasm from any number of actions or non-actions during election season.
Of course, these mayors wouldn’t be cozying up to the governors if they thought the Democratic candidate was likely to win. Politicians’ self-preservation instincts are as powerful as those of coyotes, who will without hesitation chew off a trapped limb in order to escape a bear trap.
Given the federal investigation swirling around Chris Christie, Cory Booker may already be detaching himself from his old ally. Likewise, given how widely panned Deal’s storm management performance was as we head into election season, Kasim Reed might want to consider gnawing off his own leg caught in the trap named Nathan Deal.
Also unlike Jonathan, I didn’t hate the first episode. Maybe I’ll change my mind after more episodes, but I quite enjoyed Episode 1. Sure, the Frank-Zoe (Kevin Spacey-Kata Mara) storyline infused Season 1 with some sexy tension – not to mention a scene that will forever haunt every father with an adult daughter who calls to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. But Mara is not irreplaceable on the show; I fully expect the emergence of another character who bring an erotic charge to the show. And frankly, I didn’t find Mara’s frequent coital disinterest – be it with Spacey or boyfriend Sebastian Arcelus (playing journalist Lucas Goodwin) – to be particularly sexy.
Jonathan’s other critique – that Frank’s murder of Zoe was gratuitous and unbelievable – strikes me as more legitimate. But still, it’s understandable. As someone who compounded a ticky-tack crime (approving a meeting between two former campaign aides and a consultant who planned to send out a postcard about one of my opponents) with a much more serious one (lying to the feds about whether I was aware of said meeting), I totally get how things can escalate as one’s grip on power is threatened, whether by a federal investigation or a sharp, ambitious young journalist whose knowledge of your MO has become more intimate than you originally planned.
Did Frank set out to be a murderer? Of course not. At first he just wanted to put Peter Russo in a position of power where he could leverage him for his own use. However, when Russo became a serious threat to Frank’s ambition, he had to be dealt with. Perhaps not so brutally, but once it became clear that Russo had no interest in playing ball, Frank needed a solution. Was the murder of Zoe – in a crowded subway station –riskier than Russo’s murder? Undoubtedly. But once you get away with something once, it becomes much easier to believe you can get away with it again. (That said, Frank really should’ve worn gloves.)
Aside from the Mara debate, Episode 1’s final scene left me confident that showrunner Beau Willimon’s writing chops are intact. “Every kitten grows up to be a cat,” intones Frank, after greeting the viewer for one of the show’s trademark soliloquys.
They seem so harmless at first – small, quiet, lapping up their saucer of milk. But once their claws get long enough, they draw blood….sometimes from the hand that feeds them. For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt, or be hunted.
And he is right. For most real-life politicians, this mercilessness takes a different form – cutting off a preacher who has made incendiary comments, or a prison-bound friend and colleague – but hey, this is television, and so to some degree we suspend reality. But the thought processes that cause Frank to desperately cling to power by any means necessary are as real as they get. Trust me.
Think Wildstein a distraction now. If he had the goods he’d be giving em up below radar. The ones feeling real heat likely Baroni/Samson.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Immunity grant Wildstein seeking pie in sky. 5K.1.1 letter in which feds request lenient sentence aftr substantial cooperation more frequent
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
The impt thing about Wildstein letter isn’t anything in it. It’s degree to which it may motivate others to flip while they still have value.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Once the feds have the dude you were gonna rat out, you’re useless – and your cooperation agreement evaporates. Thus the potential rush here
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Federal targets are like poker players: the weak hands act strong, while the strong hands stay quiet. So Wildstein may be in real trouble here
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Interesting to see Wildstein beg for attn. Feds have likely moved on to others with more/better cards to play on non-Ft Lee issues.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Big Christie problem now: tenuousness of power position renders notion that he’ll “take care” of allies who eat it increasingly implausible.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Smart- Legal survival trumps politics MT @lis_Smith “Christie has not taken q’s at a news conference for 21 days.” http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/nyregion/for-christie-a-governor-under-fire-super-bowl-brings-glee.html?from=nyregion … …
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Bridgegate fed crimes a stretch. No breach of honest services statute post-Conrad Black. W/ WH hopes fading,obstruction for pol reasons nuts
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 3
Silly how pundits write, “just as things were calming down for Christie…” Things were heating up, not calming; most US Attys aren’t sieves
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 3
Pundit silliness #2: suggesting Wildstein’s letter indicates “heating up”. Media confuses letter aimed at them for actual event of import.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 3
We knew from Day 1 Wildstein itching to sing; his letter impt only insofar as it might goad waverers to sing before their info made redundnt
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 3
A snitch can give the Feds every morsel he’s got, but if they already have it or if it’s not on the guy they want, he’ll get zilch for it.
But other than New York’s Jonathan Chait, who recognized the cumulative weight of multiple investigations at multiple levels of government, most commentators are focusing on the wrong thing: the politics of recent revelations. The few who are focused on the potential criminal violations by Christie aides (and perhaps Christie himself) are focused on Bridgegate and, to a lesser extent, the tourism ad kerfluffle. Was wire fraud committed by anyone who used email to further an illicit act? Do state crimes of willful negligence or public corruption might apply here? Was a federal crime of interfering with interstate transportation committed?
What these pundits forget—and, as Christie, a former U.S. attorney, knows as well as anyone—is the old saw that federal prosecutors can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. They don’t need a bulletproof case. And once they have a target, they aren’t limited to investigating the matter that caught their attention; public corruption probes often widen as new information emerges. Federal prosecutors rarely have just one attack route. Remember, they brought down Al Capone for income tax evasion, not bribery, bootlegging, or murder. The Fort Lee incident may be merely a bridge, if you will, to other Christie administration misconduct. As a former target of a federal investigation that started in one place and ended in a very different one, I’m all too familiar with the unpredictable directions in which these things can go. What piques a prosecutor’s interest during plea negotiations may be totally unrelated to the original crime.
Read the rest of… Jeff Smith: Yes, Chris Christie, the Feds Are Out to Get You
A few years ago, Missouri state Sen. Jeff Smith was caught lying to the feds about the funding for a certain political-attack mailer and wound up sentenced to a year behind bars. The charismatic young progressive, who has since left prison and politics behind, contributed a chapter to the new book The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis. He tells confessional, instructive stories about what he learned from his mistakes. His chapter begins with a grabber—being strip-searched as he enters the lock-up.
Is the book literally a practical guide for politicians who’ve stumbled, or does it have a broader purpose? To some extent, it’s designed to be a guide, but in a broader way, it’s designed to give anyone who’s going through tough times a lot of ways to handle situations more appropriately, more effectively, in a way that’s healthier. For instance, let’s say you’re a salesman and you’re trying to sell widgets and the company you’re selling to says, “You knock 10 percent off that $1.7 million you just quoted me, and we’ll make it worth your while.” These things are often not so blunt, though. People in everyday life encounter ethical dilemmas in everything they do. The book provides a lot of insight into the mistakes that those of us in the public eye have made that mushroom out of control. Hopefully that can help a lot of people prevent their situations from ever getting to that stage. Most people are not going to be Eliot Spitzer or Anthony Weiner, plastered all over the tabloids, but we all live in a constant state of trying to do the right thing.
The book offers tales of woe from a bunch of former politicians being painfully honest, more so than you usually expect from politicians. We are all pretty vulnerable in that book. We’re getting deep, talking about the lowest moments in our lives, and we’re hoping it transcends people’s typical views of politicians as full of crap and constantly dissembling. There’s not a lot of that in this book.
How did you get involved with the Recovering Politician blog? There are two guys—the former secretary of state of Kentucky and the former treasurer of Kentucky—they started it. My ex-girlfriend had worked in Kentucky, and I met one of these guys. The two of them got together and brainstormed at the time I had just come out of prison, and it came together by happenstance. They asked me to write an essay about my experience, and it went from there.
In a candid column for the Recovering Politician website, you wrote about how the revelation that you’d spent a year in prison got the attention of a group of jaded young people at a party in Brooklyn. Is that a weird feeling, to have a certain street cred by virtue of having served time? Yeah, it’s weird. But you have to try to always let people remember a couple of things—that a lot of people in prison aren’t very much different from them, and that even the ones they think are very different aren’t as different as they think. I try not to let people “go slumming” off my experience. What I’m concerned about is the complete lack of rehabilitation in most prisons and the effect that has.
You’ve had some time, since November 2010, that you’ve been out of prison and the halfway house you went to after prison. Have you gotten some emotional distance from everything? Yes and no. I’ve gotten involved in a lot of activities related to prison issues. Compared to 2011, well, then I wasn’t ready to engage in a lot of stuff like that. But in the last six months, I’ve been spending a lot more time on those issues. I gave a speech at the Cleveland State Prison in Texas to several hundred graduates of one of their programs. The experience of being back inside was emotional. I’m working on a book about my experience in prison and how it’s informed my views on prison policy, and about how we can do a better job leveraging of the untapped talent in our prisons and cut our spending and reduce our recidivist rate.
In 2010, you told SLM’s Jeannette Cooperman that academe “does not even resemble the real world… One of my objectives is to try to explore ways to better connect poli sci with real-world politics.” Now you’re the assistant professor of politics and advocacy at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at the New School in New York. Is that what you’re doing there? Yes. In fact, in the next week or two, I have to turn in my dossier, which is my giant file of everything I’ve done in the past few years, for my job renewal, and the opening of that is a statement of purpose, what you’re trying to do in academia. My goals are to help infuse academia with more of an understanding of real-world politics and to give students a better understanding of how things really work, what people who haven’t been in the game might not know. Conversely, I try to bring some of the social-science discipline and analytical training into the public world.
By Jonathan Miller, on Mon Dec 16, 2013 at 1:30 PM ET
If you are a fellow #upper, particularly a fan of the Steve Kornacki version of MSNBC’s “Up,” you undoubtedly have watched the best political game show on TV — “Up Against the Clock.” Typically hosted by Kornacki, the all-time leading scorer on the show had been contributing RP (and MSNBC “The Cycle” co-host) Krystal Ball.
Well, this week. Krystal guest hosted for Steve, and the game show featured new contestant, and fellow contributing RP, Jeff Smith. And who’d have thunk it, but Jeff emerged as the Greatest Of All Time Up Against the Clock contestant. Watch him stumble over a Judd Gregg question, and then make a miraculous recovery to claim the all-time championship:
Q. I work for a New York state assemblyman who has consistent turnover of attractive female staffers in the office. I recently heard that one reason behind the turnover is that he has slept with more than one of them. At least he’s not married, I guess. Even though it’s not exactly ideal, do you think it is problematic enough that I should leave, or does it sort of come with the territory in politics? —No name or initials, obviously, New York City
Is this kind of thing more pervasive in politics than elsewhere? Perhaps; as Kissinger said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” But that doesn’t make it right. If he’s slept with multiple members of his staff who have then quit or been fired, then yes, this is problematic enough for you to leave.
Do people in supervisory positions occasionally fall in love with subordinates? Sure, and yes, it can be complicated. But if it’s happened multiple times and caused “consistent” turnover (your words), then it’s not a fairy tale connection between principal and aide. It’s a pattern, and one with which you should avoid any association, because politicians (or bosses in any field) whose offices have patterns remotely like this don’t typically have bright futures (see: Filner, Bob).
Q. I work in a charter school in New York City and believe in the mutually beneficial relationship between a public school and its community, though in the charter world that’s hard: We are often treated as outsiders and insurgents. Relatedly, I am very concerned with what happened in the mayoral campaign around charter schools. Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy, with a few other schools, held a rally and march across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was obvious from the media coverage and the way it was discussed internally that the intent was to warn one of the mayoral candidates that opposition to charter schools would be dangerous. My concern, shared by many of my colleagues, is whether such a protest is unethical—or even worse. The organizers seem to have made a point to keep the rally from [using] obvious campaign rhetoric, but it seems that a rally about an issue that has been a source of debate in the campaign, held during a general election period, is inescapably political in the way that bars public schools from participating. The twist, perhaps, is that charter employees are not government employees, unlike district schools’ staff. Our schools’ budgets rely on public funds, yet the workforce is made up of private individuals. The call to action was done during work time; thus, while we were being paid with public dollars, flyers sent home to parents were printed on a copier paid for with tax dollars. I’m curious what you think about both the legality and the ethics of such an action. —Concerned, New York CityThe narrow legal question is whether the protest organizers acted inappropriately. By using taxpayer resources to engage in political activity during work hours, the answer appears to be yes. (I am not a lawyer, and—for the uninitiated—I violated election law myself a decade ago.)
The broader question relates to this assertion: “[A] rally about an issue that has been a source of debate in the campaign, held during a general election period, is inescapably political in the way that bars public schools from participating.”
I completely disagree. Even if charter school employees were government employees, lots of public employees have interests that are “inescapably political” around which they organize during election season. Have you ever heard of AFGE (a union of federal government workers) or AFSCME (state and local government employees)? Their members don’t take vacations from political organizing because it’s election season. Quite to the contrary, election season finds them at their most active; elections focus the attention of voters, journalists and candidates, so timely activism is savvy. No one—unless their job specifically requires them to refrain from partisan political activity—should be precluded from participating in political activity during election time or any other time. And charter schools in particular—whose very existence hinges upon state law and local regulation—may find employee (and family) mobilization critical to their survival.
Yes, that’s an intentionally provocative framing of the question, but given recent events, the idea warrants a deeper examination.
In stumping for the health care reform bill that bears his name, President Obama promised dozens of audiences (37 in all in the past four years) that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” But he knew that over half of those who had purchased insurance on the individual market would lose their plans during implementation of his health care reform bill, and his administration assumed that, given the typical churn in the individual market, people would not notice the difference.
House Speaker John Boehner told two undocumented teenage girls that he’s “trying to find some way” to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. Yet, with a sufficient number of Republicans having publicly declared their support for such a bill, everyone in the Capitol knows that the votes are there to pass it if Boehner would simply agree to bring it to the floor despite it lacking the support of a majority of Republican legislators.
And Toronto Mayor Rob Ford recently claimed that he was prepared to admit smoking crack cocaine well before his ultimate admission; it’s just that reporters were asking him the wrong question.
Surely two of our nation’s most powerful leaders would be aghast at their inclusion in a category with the buffoonish Rob Ford. But there is a common thread: a lack of public candor by leaders who feared that transparency would damage them politically. Faced with similar challenges 50 years ago, our nation’s young president could not have responded more differently.
President Kennedy’s stunning candor following the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco seems quaint now that spinning, exaggerating, parsing words, and shading truths have become accepted parts of our nation’s political dialogue. But when leaders make mistakes, be they in the public or private sector, anything less than complete candor can empower rivals, the press, or, worst of all, law enforcement, to seize on a false statement, turning a speed bump into a full-blown scandal. As President Nixon taught us, the cover-up is almost always worse than the crime; it is a lesson I learned all too well.
There are many memorable photographs of former President Bill Clinton, but perhaps the most memorable is the one of a 16 year-old Clinton representing Arkansas at Boys Nation, beaming while shaking President Kennedy’s hand. Kennedy, of course, was Clinton’s role model. But there was one area in which, at a critical moment, Clinton departed from Kennedy’s playbook: crisis management.
The Bay of Pigs debacle was an unsuccessful 1961 invasion of Cuba by a CIA-trained paramilitary group who hoped to overthrow Castro’s government, which routed them in three days. The media clamored for Kennedy to address the events, which he did with clarity and candor. First, he acknowledged the United States’ role in the coup, and admitted the coup’s failure: “The news has grown worse instead of better.” Kennedy confessed surprise and disappointment in the outcome, showing a vulnerability rare among leaders as he described “useful lessons” from the “sobering episode.” He pledged to “re-examine and reorient our forces of all kinds.” Last, he fully he accepted responsibility.
There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan . . . further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I’m the responsible officer of the Government.
He did not blame the CIA for insufficient planning, or blame his national security team for offering poor information or guidance, or blame anyone for anything at all.
Read the rest of… Jeff Smith: What John F. Kennedy’s Legacy Teaches Us About The Value Of Candor
Q: I just started working full-time on my first political campaign, and I have noticed that many of our decisions are guided by polling and not by a firm belief one way or the other. It has been disheartening to see how someone I believed would be a strong leader is so easily swayed by the polls and is apparently only concerned with getting elected. Am I working for the wrong candidate, or is this what I signed up for? —L.D., St. Louis
The way I interpret your question, I don’t think that’s what you signed up for. But let me explain.
Nearly every candidate worth her salt—at the state legislative level and higher in most states, at this point— uses polls. But good leaders don’t use polls to figure out their positions on issues. They use polls to figure out which of their issue positions they should highlight and which they should downplay. They use polls to figure out how to talk about the issue positions they want to highlight. And they use polls to figure out which attacks merit a response. That’s being poll-savvy, which is smart—not poll-driven, which can be pathetic.
So think about whether your candidate is poll-savvy or poll-driven. And even if he is the latter, ask yourself: Is it awful for a candidate to poll voters before taking a position on an issue or issues? Is that not in some respects what representative democracy is about? Taken to an extreme, obviously, it’s troubling—no one wants to vote for a weather vane. But if a candidate doesn’t have an established position or strong feelings on an issue, I don’t see a problem with taking the pulse of the electorate before deciding.
So is this what you signed up for? No. But I think that may be more about you than it is about him.
Q: Are you following the race for New York City Council Speaker? Seems like any one of a number of people could win. When it gets down to brass tacks, how do legislators make up their minds on leadership votes? Do they vote based on the candidates’ ideology, race, gender, geographic roots or intangible leadership qualities? —A.M., New York CityNone of the above. In my experience, legislators’ votes in leadership races are almost always about one thing: themselves. Now, I know this sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out.
Suppose you are the Economic Development Committee vice chair and you want to chair the committee. The current chair, whom you despise and often quietly disagree with, is running for Speaker against another member whom you like and generally agree with, and you expect the vote will be close. You will probably vote for the person you despise, because—unless power in that particular legislative body is completely centralized— the chance to chair Eco Devo is probably more alluring to you than the chance to have someone as Speaker whom you like. If power in the chamber is absolutely centralized, and if you totally trust the candidate you like to depose the current chair if she wins (a rare move in most chambers), and if you trust her to appoint you as the new chair, and if you then trust her to give you some power as chair, then you may want to vote for the person you like. As you can see, there are a lot of ifs there.
To take a somewhat simpler example, if you are a freshman Council member who first and foremost aspires to be Speaker, and one of your closest allies, also a first-term member, is running for Speaker against a second-term member whom you dislike, you’ll probably vote against your ally, because if she is elected Speaker and consolidates power, you will likely be termed out before there is another open seat race for Speaker, since you wouldn’t challenge an ally who is the sitting Speaker.
These two examples serve to make a broader point: Leadership votes are usually as much if not more about the ambitions of rank-and-file members than they are about the qualities of the aspirants.
Read the rest of… Jeff Smith: Do As I Say, A Political Advice Column