The culture of outrage and the end of the Liz Mair affair

It was only yesterday when Noah spoke of the toxic political environment surrounding the Iowa caucuses and how it had embroiled political strategist Liz Mair, then a new hire on Scott Walker’s campaign. Seemingly within hours of announcing Mair’s employment, enemies of Walker were already pitching stories to the press about some of Liz’s comments on social media regarding Iowa. By last night the complete non-story had erupted into a full blown political kerfuffle and Liz “resigned” from the campaign.


Veteran Republican strategist Liz Mair told The Associated Press that she was leaving Walker’s team just a day after she had been tapped to lead his online communication efforts, citing the distraction created by a series of recent Twitter posts about Iowa’s presidential caucuses.

“The tone of some of my tweets concerning Iowa was at odds with that which Gov. Walker has always encouraged in political discourse,” Mair said in a statement announcing her immediate resignation. “I wish Gov. Walker and his team all the best.”

Mair had been the latest political operative tapped to join Walker’s growing political operation as he ramps up for a 2016 presidential bid. The Republican governor has intensified travel to early states in the presidential nominating process, including Iowa, which hosts the nation’s first presidential caucuses.

First let’s get to the full disclosure part: Liz and I have been friends for years. We are generally in touch on a weekly basis and I make a point of trying to meet up for coffee every time I’m in DC. She is smart, efficient and can be a ruthless fighter, whether for a cause or a client. She is also a wonderful person and a joy to get to know. She’s quite vocal about her passion for better government and engages people of all political stripes on social media and in person alike. But above all else, she’s a consumate professional. When she takes on a project, the job gets done.

It’s true that she’s let her opinions fly on Twitter about all manner of subjects. We don’t agree on everything, and in fact we’ve argued like cats and dogs at times over policy issues, but it’s never affected our friendship or personal relationship. She makes no bones about being a “big ole RINO” on some social issues, but never lets that impact her work for a client who feels otherwise. Some of her other “dangerous” opinions obviously included the pointless circus that is the Iowa caucuses, and it seems that was the weapon of choice which was selected to bring about this sad state of affairs. But so what? So she said aloud what I guarantee you most of the presidential candidates are already thinking. Iowa is a pain in the backside which most of them wish they could avoid. They just don’t say it.


The point here is that the political hobgoblins who cooked up this ambush were never going after Liz. Nor were they particularly offended on a personal level on behalf of poor Iowa. They were looking for a way to embarrass Walker and get in a quick, cheap shot to weaken his position as a presidential candidate in the primaries. Liz, unfortunately, was collateral damage.

Our colleague Erick Erickson already wrote an impassioned defense of Liz against so called Christian conservatives who were trying to hound her off the field of play. I endorse every word of it. But after the news of her “resignation” broke, he added this.

I see from the Associated Press that Liz Mair has resigned from Governor Walker’s campaign. Given Liz’s work history, I will put it to you this way — Team Walker has botched this. There’s just no way Liz Mair resigned with it being her idea. I haven’t talked to her yet, but there’s just no way. So instead of Walker owning this, he’s passed the ball and made a staffer off herself. That’s unfortunate and plays into the “not ready for prime time” theme already developing around Team Walker. At least it is early.

But the voices who decided to stir this pot need to DIAF as far as I’m concerned.

Erick is absolutely correct, including the part about the weasels who set this situation up needing to die in a fire. But what’s been exposed in this entire, sordid mess says absolutely nothing about Liz Mair. It speaks to the dangers of working in a professional field populated by people who are not, in reality, easily outraged, but rather people who are perpetually seeking something to look outraged about. And in that never ending quest, no amount of friendly fire damage is too high a price to pay in exchange for a few days worth of headlines which will quickly be forgotten.


In the broader sense, what does this sorry episode say to other young professionals who may consider venturing into our political Game of Thrones? Should candidates only hire people without Twitter accounts? Or, worse, only people and organizations who run “safe” and sanitized accounts devoid of any fun, snark, personality or – God forbid – opinions which stray from the herd mentality on the issues of the day? I know plenty of groups and individuals who have Twitter accounts like that. They’re about as interesting as watching paint dry and do absolutely nothing to get me to buy in to their goals and positions. One of the reasons Liz has been so successful is precisely because she’s a real, fearless human being who speaks her mind.

I agree with Erickson on one more point here. If this story turned up something negative, it wasn’t about Liz Mair. It was about Scott Walker. He could have stood up for a fine person who his team had wisely hired and demonstrated the type of conviction and loyalty which the average voter could relate to. Instead, he bent a knee to Iowa once again, as he seemed to do for King Corn at the AG summit, and damaged the career of someone who might have gone a long way toward helping him win the nomination.

Welcome to politics in America. We’ve really managed to turn it into a garbage dump some days, haven’t we?

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