Operationally, you have to be impressed by the conservative movement’s message discipline and ideological control. Here’s one interesting way that’s achieved.
With a Republican takeover of the House quite likely, new conservative politicians will be coming to Washington looking to hire staff. So the House Republican Study Committee, headed by U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, recently sent out an email advising job hopefuls how to proceed. According to Roll Call, the email strongly encourages applicants for House jobs “to submit your résumé and complete the ideological questionnaires at the following two websites.”
The two sites listed are a job bank for conservatives run by the private Heritage Foundation, and a similar operation at conservativejobs.com. Both sites appear to serve as clearinghouses for conservatives seeking employment within the right-wing establishment.
At the Heritage site, applicants are asked where in the movement they seek to be placed: In academia? On congressional staff? As a lobbyist? In a faith-based group or think tank?
Then, in addition to standard questions such as job experience, education, etc., applicants are asked a series of ideological questions designed to test their unswerving loyalty.
For example, they are asked if they agree or disagree with a series of policy statements, such as:
- “The education industry should be opened to increased competition through vouchers or tax credits for private schools.”
- “People should be able to invest a portion of their Social Security payments in a personal account.”
- “The U.S. needs nationalized health care.”
In addition to questions such as “name your personal hero/heroine” (the correct answer is surely “Ronald Reagan”), applicants are then asked for reactions to a list of organizations and individuals:
At conservativejobs.com, the positions available include a job at the Koch Foundation in Arlington, Va., a development officer at the Bill of Rights Institute, and a systems administrator for “Western Senator.” And the system used to vet candidates for those jobs is similar to that at the Heritage Foundation.
On a scale of 1 to 5, applicants are asked to rate their agreement with a long list of statements, including:
- “Homosexual activity should be incompatible with service in the U.S. military forces.”
- “The U.S. should get approval from the United Nations before engaging in any military action abroad.”
- “Political action committees should be further regulated so they cannot abuse our election process.”
- “Employers should be allowed to replace striking workers permanently with new employees.”
- “America is a land of many cultures, therefore no mandated preference for one language over another is acceptable.”
As Roll Call reports:
Mike Gonzalez, Heritage’s vice president of communications, said the service has helped place “good conservative staffers” in congressional offices for years.
“There is obviously a lot of interest by conservative groups in finding and placing good conservative staffers in potentially new positions,” he wrote in an e-mail. “ Heritage has a full time employee running our job bank and it has been finding and vetting good conservatives for years — we place around 100 people per year and have numerous congressional offices every year seek out potential employees.”
The clear intent and effect of such a system is to discourage thinking outside the box and painting outside the lines. In the long run, such enforced uniformity is probably harmful — to both conservatives and by extension the country — because new ideas and ways of thinking are effectively squashed.
But in the short term, the message discipline is highly effective.
(H/t to Steve Benen at Political Animal)