Do As I Say: A Political Advice Column by Jeff Smith

Do As I Say: A Political Advice Column by Jeff Smith

March 3, 2014

Q. I watched your documentary and two things stood out for me: (1) You seemed to be working, like, 18 hours a day, and (2) I never saw you with a woman. I know you weren’t married yet, but were you totally single, or dating seriously? If the latter, was your girlfriend a big part of your campaigns, and did you consider getting married? I ask because I’m thinking about running for office in 2016, and I’m in a fairly serious relationship, and so I’m wondering if you think it would be helpful if I were to get married in advance. I’m 28 now so it wouldn’t be that weird or anything if I were single, but since politicians are constantly featuring their family in all their mailings, etc., I wonder if you thought that being single was a handicap for you. Thanks for your candid reply! 

—Jersey Boy, Location undisclosed 

A. Being single was not a handicap for me, other than having opponents proclaim that I was gay, which hurt with some voters and helped with others. 

More to your point, being single was the only way I could have worked at that pace. I’m sure this will sound like an exaggeration, but I didn’t take a waking hour off for 10 months, other than time spent teaching (my livelihood). And even that time served the campaign, since many of my students ultimately became volunteers or interns. 

The point is, it’s a double-edged sword. Sure, there may be some voters who would like you better if you were married. But unless you want to be a crappy husband, being married is likely to take away time that could otherwise be spent campaigning. That said, your significant other could soften you and make you more likable, in the way that many commentators thought Ann Romney did for Mitt. (Having recently seen Mitt, the new documentary covering his two campaigns, I agree.) 

But I just reread your question and realized I’ve totally missed the mark so far. So let me go back to square one and start my answer over. 


There’s your candid reply. If you take nothing else away from this answer, it should be this: Far more voters would be repelled to know that you gamed out an engagement decision for political benefit than would be swayed by the fact that you were married, single, gay, straight, bisexual or asexual. 

Q. Here’s my situation: I’ve been sleeping with the chief of staff in the office of the politician I work for. She is actually two rungs above me, so she was not my supervisor…until a couple weeks ago, when I got promoted. The thing is, I’m not really that into her. You know what they say: Wouldn’t brag about it, but wouldn’t deny it. (Of course, it’s all on the down low.) What do you think I should do? 

—Some Guy Writing From a Remote, Undisclosed Location 

A. I think you should start looking for a new job. As long as you’re both employed there, you’re in a no-win situation. Either you stay with her and remain faithful, in which case you’re wasting your prime dating years on someone you’re not into, or you break up with her and risk suffering professional consequences at the least, a lot of tension or awkwardness at best. Now that you’re reporting to her, I just don’t see how this ends well, so if I were you I’d quietly be sending résumés out. 

Q. How important do you think sex appeal is on the campaign trail? Did you ever do anything while campaigning to intentionally try to use your looks to your advantage? 

—P.K., Manhattan 

A. Ha ha. What looks? I’m an average-looking guy—no false modesty there. But—to answer your question—that did not stop me from trying to use anything I had to get votes. You name it, I was guilty of it. Flirting with coeds to try to get them to volunteer for me? Check. (I was in my 20s then, so maybe that’s not as bad as it sounds. Maybe.) Flirting with middle-aged housewives? Check. Flirting with women at senior centers? Definitely. Flirting with dudes dressed in gladiator outfits at the Pridefest Parade? Maybe my most effective tactic. 

As we all know from being sentient consumers of American advertising, sex sells. There is no reason we should expect politics to be any different in that regard. So if you happened to see this pic over the weekend, you’d understand what it means: He’s probably running. 

Q. Is it dumb to date a politician? Every day I turn around and there’s another headline about a politician cheating on his wife. I’m afraid that if I marry the guy I’m seeing, who plans to run for office, I’ll end up in the same boat as all the rest of the wives who get left by the wayside. 

—Anonymous, Somewhere in Missouri

A. Various studies show that nearly half of all men cheat on their wives. So how much worse can the odds be if you marry a politician? 

Seriously, though, there are cheating dentists, carpenters and accountants. They just don’t end up on the front page when they get caught. So, no, I don’t think politicians are inherently more likely to cheat than other professionals. I do think they have more opportunities, and so statistically may end up cheating slightly more often, but I have no evidence to back that up. In sum, I’d advise you to size up the guy you’re with. Does he have one eye on you and one over your shoulder, checking out the other girls at the party? That should tell you much more than his career choice. 

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Jeff Smith
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