The recent election was still the topic of choice among people in the D.C. area. Many of the young people I met were either elated or despondant at the turn of events. “It’s a tough time for a Republican to get a job,” one young man lamented. “The market is glutted with resumes.”
This morning, Hugh linked to this article on the impending shake-up in the House office space. While it seems trivial, my amazing host in DC works in a Congressional office and was distraught over this very issue. If nothing else, the shake-up means that Republicans will have a more difficult time doing the work they need to do on the Hill. Divide and conquer is the Pelosi strategy, and it will work.
But the deeper issue for Republicans, and one that went totally unnoticed before the election, is the loss of personel that the new Democrat majority will mean. Because Republicans were able to chair committees, they were given more staffers–staffers that will now be replaced by Democratic staffers. Even more perniciously, because Republicans have had the majority for so long, they have been able to build up an infrastructure around staffers who have been on the Hill for years and do their work very well. In otehr words, the loss of the Republican majority means lots of good Republicans beyond the politicians themselves are out of work.
This is, I dare say, a devestating blow to the Republican party. It is worse than I realized before being in DC. Prior to the election, everyone focused on the ramifications on policy that Democrats would enact. What no one said was that putting Democrats in charge would undercut the Republican infrastructure that has been in place some 10 years.
While it is possible that the infrastructure was bankrupt and needed a shake-up anyway, such an argument is thoroughly short-sighted. Talented staffers with years of experience who are now out of work will be hard to draw back to the Hill. The costs of this election will extend beyond the policy decisions of the next two years. Teams take time to build, and people take time to train. And offices take time to move.
One final thought: it is possible to dwell too long on defeat and not look forward to the future. Republicans, though, seem in no danger of doing so. Rather, they could stand to think hard about the decisions they made and force themselves to learn any lesson possible from this election. One such lesson, I think, that will need to be learned is that elections are not necessarily just about policy or Representatives or Senators. They are about the staffers, the grunts, the office space that make it easier to do work Republicans need to do. Keeping a permanent Republican majority, though noxious to Democrats, is a worthwhile goal if only because stability allows good work to be done.