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Social Advocacy & Politics: Obama's Former Field Team's Training Program Stirs Up Controversy

This is the story about President Obama special campaign strategy; specifically, it is about the new you-pay internship being offered by former Obama for America 2012’s field team leaders. Under the name 270 Strategies, Jeremy Bird and Mitch Stewart’s one-year old political campaign firm is providing a 5-week internship, where you’ll be placed in a current electoral campaign for $5,000. Sounds like great pay for an intern until you realize the intern has to pay 270 Strategies and the campaign gets the labor for free.

While other critics of this new apprentice program say that the cost is extraordinarily high compared to other programs (like New Organizing Institute). That is not my concern here. And I am not focused on the fact that the scale of the Obama campaign is huge compared to any of the Congressional campaigns the interns will be placed in (and that makes lessons from one hard to transfer to the other). Others make this point. Nor am I taking issue with the fact that since the Obama campaign, 270 Strategies has a losing record.

And I am not casting aspersions at a progressive campaign firm that is charging interns in an era when most progressives are advocating paying interns minimum wage. No, I will let others do that.

These criticisms may be true and worthy of concern, but my issue is with the mystique. There are many approaches to campaign strategy. And many have succeeded aside from Obama’s. And while the strategy 270 is offering has a great track record at the presidential level, its mixed results at the Congressional level is a problem. It is specifically a problem when more and more people start to believe that it is the only game in town. When we get too dogmatic in our methodology, we become fragile and evolution becomes difficult. That means in the short run, the new approach looks great. But in time, it likely unravels.

I have always been an advocate of mastering multiple methodologies. So I am a fan of learning Bird and Stewarts; but never to the exclusion of other strategies and tactics. And that brings me back to the $5,000 fee. In and of itself, charging for training is a fine thing. But the larger the fee, the less likely those paying it will invest in other trainings. The 270 training runs the risk of creating the impression that the Obama campaign methodology is, to paraphrase Sean Hannity, “the greatest, best strategy God has ever given man on the face of the earth.”

Let’s not go there.

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