In 2010, my boss (a Democrat) lost his seat. To make ends meet, I took a position at a local think tank doing research. I genuinely miss the Hill, but there are no…and I mean NO…jobs for Democrats.
I’m a registered Independent, and my former boss was a Blue Dog from a conservative area. Do you think it would be wise to start looking for work in a Republican office? Would a Republican Member even consider hiring me?
Many budding politicos come to D.C. without fully formed political views. These newbies fall somewhere in the moderate middle with a tilt to one side. As a result, many young Hill applicants don’t relegate their job search to one specific party. But what some don’t realize is that once you select a party, you’re branded for life.
Once you’re a Jet, if you want to switch to the Sharks, you have to accept that the Sharks may not be so welcoming. And that once you trade jackets, you’re a Shark for life because the Jets will now be suspicious of any attempt to return. (Insert Broadway-style finger-snapping, here.)
This is not to say that no one has ever bounced between parties like a rubber ball. But those people are incredibly rare, like Unicorns, and they usually have some hideously unique skill that makes them too valuable to be bound by party.
Typically, these mythical creatures are committee staffers who are far too knowledgeable about an issue to be lost in a partisan shift. Finding another expert on U.S. Mint policy or the nuances of TRICARE is just too difficult.
So to sum up, yes, you can jump. But if you jump, you will be tethered where you land.
Now, will a Republican hire you?
It’s certainly possible. Of course, it depends on what kind of think tank you’re working at right now. If you’re at Center for American Progress, you’re stuck. But if you’re working at Third Way, Cato or an issue-oriented think tank, then your outlook improves. But moderate Republican jobs are just as rare as Democrat jobs, so I’m not sure you’ll be better off switching.
If you were my employee, I would tell you to hold tight. After all, it’s an election year, and we’re getting to the point where vacancies created in the summer might not be filled until December. Also, post-election is when most Hill Staffers move on to other work. So it’s likely that jobs could open up then.
I’d wait and not do anything drastic that I might regret. Unless you’re absolutely sure that you cannot wait, and completely certain that you’re happy playing for the other side, I’d just exert some patience and start networking like a beast so that when jobs open up, you’ll know about it.
Of course, all of this advice is moot if you have a genuine change of heart in your political beliefs. In that case, it is recommended that you try to switch rather than simply go along with beliefs you no longer agree with. But there is a difference between being a moderate who feels they could work for either party, and a person who has genuinely switched parties.