You Get The Advice You Pay For

I'm afraid to need to be a Mark Penn defender, but I think Ezra's point here, while true, is also a bit unfair. Ezra accuses Penn-the-pollster as miraculously finding the exact same shape of public opinion in every single year -- Democrats must move to the right on economics. And, indeed, that does seem to be Penn's perennial conclusion. That said, finding the same result every time he goes out to do a survey doesn't, as best I can tell, differentiate Penn that much from other big-time political pollsters. Ideology shouldn't matter in the field of public opinion research but, in practice, given pollsters tend to give remarkably consistent advice year after year.

This is actually what makes the fact that Penn is working for Hillary Clinton so significant. Penn isn't the kind of advisor you hire because you wonder what advice he's going to give you. Rather, he's the kind of advisor you hire because you know perfectly well what advice he's going to give and you've decided that's the advice you want to get. Penn is hardly unique in this regard (many people have noted that 2004-vintage John Edwards sounds more like 2008-vintage Barack Obama than he does like 2008-vintage John Edwards and that David Axelrod worked for Edwards in '04 and Obama in '08) but that's just the point -- politicians aren't naive about this stuff, they pick strategists who are going to give congenial strategic advice.

Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Politics

Just In