Burris’ Missed Campaign Lessons

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It’s often observed that campaigns are fundamentally flawed ways of selecting our elected officials because the skills needed to campaign well are not the same skills needed to govern well. There is some overlap, of course, but George W. Bush’s two terms and at least half the members of the House of Representatives are evidence enough that this adage mostly true.

But there are a couple things a politician and his staff learn over the course of a campaign that come in handy once in office: message control, disaster response, even basic PR. These aren’t skills that help a politician govern well, but they are skills that help him stay out of trouble and keep him from embarassing his party. As Jason Zengerle notes in TNR, Roland Burris illustrates this perfectly. If Burris had gone through an election for the seat he currently occupies, he and his staff would be far better equipped to handle the almost daily mini-crises that seem to emerge around him. And President Obama wouldn’t have to compete with his Senate successor for airtime.

Of course, if Burris had gone through an election for the seat, all of his funny business in Blago-land likely would have come out and he wouldn’t have been elected in the first place. Not that that’s such a bad thing, either.

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Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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