Politics, Public Policy, and Activism
Politics will always offer openings for those seeking elected office. It is still possible to enter politics at the local level on a shoestring budget, but funds for advertising and for staging campaign events can be an advantage. Running for higher office requires raising massive amounts of funds. In the 2019/2020 election cycle, candidates for the House of Representatives had raised a total of about $901.6 million; candidates for the Senate had raised nearly $527.3 million. Some candidates for higher office are independently wealthy or attract a wide range of donors, but the reality is that most campaign contributions come from individuals or organizations that want something from government. As a result, it seems likely that increasing campaign expenditures and the increasing anonymity of campaign donors (through super PACs) will lead to increased political corruption.
The coronavirus pandemic, which began in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, impacted politics, public policy, and activism around the world. The pandemic caused a public health crisis, repressed the economy, and triggered social and political disruption. Amid the pandemic, a light was shone on anti-Black racism in the U.S., with the world's awareness heightened by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Many other racially motivated murders and hate crimes prior to and after Floyd's brought masses of activists out to the streets to protest. Racial inequalities were also brought to the public's awareness due to the communities that were more gravely affected by the virus outbreak than others, and their limited access to virus testing and treatment. In response to the economic strain by the pandemic, many government agencies reduced their budgets and staff to curb costs. Pandemic protocols were established in many states, including business lockdowns and social distancing requirements, to reduce the spread of the virus. Relief programs were also established to help ease the challenges people have faced due to the pandemic, such as loss of income, eviction from homes, and food insecurity.
As described in a Business Economics article, "The politics undertaken to deal with the crisis will have important implications for the length of the recession and the strength of the recovery. The pandemic will also affect the conduct of fiscal policy once the crisis is past, given the projection of rising debt, the long-lasting effects on the economy, and the effects of the crisis on the U.S. political imperatives." The accelerated rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 is expected to bolster the economy. Post pandemic, the long-term impact of the crisis on politics, public policy, and activism is yet to be determined.
The total number of jobs for legislators expands only very slowly as the population increases, and competition for the offices is sometimes keen. In Congress, job turnover is rare. In the Senate, the re-election rate of incumbents has never fallen below 70 percent in the past 50 years and recently has averaged around 80 percent; in the House, it has not fallen below 80 percent and recently has averaged above 90 percent. The average re-election rate in state legislatures ranges from about 65 percent for states that have term limits to about 80 percent for other states.
Even though the deck is stacked against challengers, losing an election is not entirely a bad career development for those interested in shaping public policy. Even a losing campaign shapes the public conversation about issues. In addition, losing candidates have usually achieved enhanced name recognition and have defined their stand on various issues, which may help them succeed in a later election or find employment as a political appointee, executive of an interest group, or political commentator.
Government is a very large employer, with more than 9.7 million employees, of whom nearly 7 million are employed at the state and local level (excluding state and local schools and hospitals). The political movement to rein in the size of government and the economic limitations of many states and municipalities struggling to balance their budgets have slowed the growth of the public-sector workforce. The outlook is considerably better in the not-for-profit sector for employment in political and social advocacy organizations.
Some key occupations in this sector have good outlooks. Public relations specialists are projected to grow by 6 percent through 2028. Political and social advocacy organizations like to use conferences to help members exchange ideas and raise their level of enthusiasm, so employment of meeting, convention, and event planners in this sector is projected to grow by 7 percent through 2028. Seeking help with marketing and communicating their messages, these organizations will employ 20 percent more market research analysts and marketing specialists through 2028.
Lobbying appears to have decreased in recent years, both in terms of the number of registered lobbyists (which peaked in 2007) and the money they have spent (which peaked in 2010). This may be the result of the recession that began in 2007 and the increased public scrutiny of lobbying activities. On the other hand, some analysts note that lobbying firms' income has declined only very slightly and suggest that lobbying activities may simply be better concealed than before. Also registering as a lobbyist requires the person to spend more that 20 percent of their time lobbying. Many have preferred not to register and only spend a small portion of their time lobbying. This keeps the number of lobbyist down. It is only since 2017 that the number of registered lobbyists has increased slightly each year.
The Internet has the potential to be used for many kinds of activism by allowing like-minded citizens to communicate easily. On the other hand, in the realm of politics, where changes in public opinion are supposed to result in policy changes, it sometimes seems as if the power of activism is diminishing. Opposing political parties, reinforced in their intransigence by highly slanted media, frequently become deadlocked and thus fail to implement changes. Some political scientists and politicians say that the best opportunities for making change happen are in cities and metropolitan areas, where politicians feel a greater loyalty to where they live and work than to their parties.
In 2017, the former president had issued an executive order banning administration officials from lobbying for foreign governments at anytime and a five-year ban after leaving their position on other types of lobbying. He revoked this executive order at the end of his term in January 2021.