In Washington, Conservatives Are Never Really 'In Power'

Government service attracts few conservatives in large part due to basic philosophical differences between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives hate big government and do not want to be part of extending its power and control ever further into our lives. On the other hand, liberals love big government and believe the federal government has the power to regulate every facet of American life. Thus, applicants for career positions are overwhelmingly liberal in their political outlook. The makeup of the federal workforce is very similar to the nonprofit sector and academia, where liberals also predominate.

When it comes to hiring, these liberal career civil servants replicate themselves. They make sure conservatives do not get hired. In my case, I only found out later what a miracle it was that I was hired. Career employees will toss out the resumes of qualified applicants if they see anything that shows conservative leanings, such as being a member of the Federalist Society, which in their eyes is the equivalent of being a member of the KKK. The only way this can be stopped is when political appointees actually supervise or participate in the hiring process for career employees to prevent this kind of discrimination.

Unfortunately, this almost never happens. Most appointees do not understand the fundamental rule that "personnel is policy" or do not get involved in the hiring process for fear of being criticized for "politicizing" hiring. It is the rare Republican political appointee who pays any attention to the hiring of career staff within his agency. Thus, this kind of discriminatory hiring by liberal career managers continues even in Republican administrations.

Democratic administrations make a point of only hiring liberal career staff very aggressively with nary a peep of criticism from the Washington Post. When Republicans simply try to guarantee that conservatives will not automatically be considered unqualified by career staff, a firestorm of critical news coverage about "politicizing" the career hiring process will erupt, as well as inspector general and congressional investigations. The Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice had two dozen open career slots in December 2000. As soon as the Bush v. Gore case was decided, the Clinton appointees got busy. In a federal government that normally takes months to fill an open position, they had all of the slots filled by January 20, the day of the inauguration. The email traffic showed that the Clinton political appointees wanted to find applicants who would be "loyal" to them. They quickly hired people (including from organizations like the NAACP and NARAL) to fill the career positions and the same thing is already happening in the Obama administration.

The Democratic IG at the Justice Department showed no interest whatsoever in investigating this blatant political hiring -- just in the hiring procedures of the Bush administration. The hiring process has long been "politicized" by career managers, but no one cares when they are hiring liberals and blocking conservatives. In fact, the career staff that I met at the Department of Justice were some of the most intensely partisan liberals I have ever encountered, inside or outside of government.

These types of practices are one of the reasons there are so few conservatives in government, and why life can be very difficult for them. Being a conservative career employee (if you can get hired) is like being a Special Forces commando dropped into enemy territory. You are vastly outnumbered and surrounded by people who hate you and want to ensure that you are ineffective. I was shunned by my fellow employees when I started my job. I was a dreaded "conservative" who had somehow gotten through their screening process and had mistakenly been hired -- they made it clear that conservatives were "unqualified" to be public servants.

Upcoming Part II: Can a conservative "win" inside the Beltway?