Coursing Ahead

Politics Magazine, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Coursing Ahead


Everyone in the business of politics is now trying to glean lessons from the 2008 cycle. Add to that list all the young operatives-to-be who are still in the classroom, hoping their coursework will help launch a stellar career. What are the smartest things these fledgling politicos can do to set themselves apart from their peers? We asked several of the nation s top academics for their answers.

Apply your online skills                  THE LAST FEW election cycles
Julie Germany, director of George         have increasingly relied
Washington University's Institute of      on the Internet to drive
Politics, Democracy and the Internet      fundraising and
                                          mobilization, and we have
                                          every reason to believe the
                                          Internet will play an even
                                          greater role in future
                                          elections. Students should
                                          learn to apply what they
                                          already know from using the
                                          Internet in their daily
                                          lives--from organizing
                                          parties on Facebook to
                                          posting videos on YouTube--
                                          politics. Internet literacy
                                          is a skill set many students
                                          already possess. They don't
                                          have to learn it, and
                                          older consultants will
                                          continue to look to them to
                                          help with blog outreach,
                                          video editing and online
                                          activism. However, this
                                          expertise isn't merely
                                          technical. You can design a
                                          fabulous website or platform,
                                          but unless you really
                                          understand how to apply those
                                          skills to campaigns, you
                                          will miss the boat. This
                                          includes understanding
                                          how ideas travel through a
                                          social network and how to
                                          organize people. If you
                                          can combine a practical
                                          understanding of politics
                                          with a technical
                                          understanding of the
                                          Internet, you'll be a
                                          great addition to
                                          any campaign.

Focus on statistics                       ONE THING WILL be constant,
Donald Green, director of Yale            no matter how campaign
University's Institution for Social       operations evolve: The
and Policy Studies                        student who has dreams of
                                          becoming a political
                                          operative needs to take two
                                          or more courses in
                                          statistics. Even those who
                                          manage campaigns, as
                                          opposed to doing survey or
                                          evaluation work, rely
                                          implicitly on their
                                          knowledge of statistics. … 

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