How and When to Switch Political Parties, Part 2

Posted September 9, 2014 at 11:50am

So. Many. Choices. Well, really, just two.  

Switching parties isn’t for everyone, but the original Hill Navigator post (How and When to Switch Political Parties , Aug. 26) received enough feedback to warrant a follow-up.

Q. My question is sort of a follow up to your column on August 26th. Are there any situations, even regarding positions focused on policy rather than politics, in which bipartisan experience can be positive as opposed to limiting?

A. Short answer: Yes.  

To be clear, any meaningful Capitol Hill experience is valuable, even for the party with which you are not aligned. As a Capitol Hill staffer, you will often be categorized in the party that you are working for, but there are ways to change that, as discussed .  

There are also a handful of situations where bipartisan experience can enhance your résumé on Capitol Hill, particularly in a local or regional context, or pegged to a specific issue area.  

All politics is local, and some offices — such as offices belonging to new member on Congress seeking some continuity from a predecessor — may opt to keep some of the previous staffers on board, especially in positions with strong local ties, like constituent services.  

If you have a specific area of expertise, particularly on an issue that is not strongly partisan, having strong relationships and an understanding of the positions of both parties will serve you well. Committee work, while largely viewed as an extension of partisan considerations, still provides opportunities to work in nonpartisan or bipartisan policy fashion.  

If your expertise and connections are centered around a specific piece of legislation, such as reauthorization of transportation programs, then you might be able to apply for jobs on either side.  Some issues split along regional, rather than strictly party lines, such as certain agricultural policies. A member whose views align with your current work may ask you to come on board to cover that issue, even if your previous job was under another party.  

But in each instance, it is the relationships made on both sides of the aisle that expand your options. Those relationships, in addition to the Hill experience, will follow you to your next job. So even if you’re on the far left or far right, having a colleague on the other side of the aisle will serve you well in any position: Republican or Democrat.  

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