Are the majority of career federal civil servants Democrats? At least important groups seem to think so. They are, many if not most, Democratic politicians and most Republican politicians. Since at least the 1960s many Democratic politicians have assumed they had the local fed vote while many Republican candidates and incumbents figured there was no point courting civil servants.
Why would they think that? First, a little background:
Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, represented a congressional district right outside of Washington, D.C. from 1981 to 2015 when he retired. Wolf was a good friend to feds. During both the Clinton and Bush years, Wolf and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) headed a group of Virginia Republicans and Maryland House members to help out federal workers.
Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) were part of the bipartisan pro-fed coalition. It started when President Bill Clinton proposed a zero pay raise, the bipartisan coalition did a quiet legislative end run that produced a pay raise over Clinton’s objection. They did that for four years, then continued on when President George W. Bush (Republican) proposed smaller increases.
Hoyer’s top aide on civil service matters was John Berry, who later became director of the Office of Personnel Management. Because the bipartisan group was working against the President, they did it quietly. Hoyer was both majority leader and minority whip, a post that gave him lots of clout and kept the White House relatively quiet.
In fact, the only tip-off that the annual federal pay end run was in play was when Berry, usually very comfortable with the press, disappeared from view. He had gone to ground until Congress stuck bipartisan language in some veto-proof package giving feds a much bigger raise than the President wanted. It happened regularly for eight years. Feds are much, much better off financially today because of that sort of bipartisan cooperation, which ended when Rep. Tom Davis and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) left after each had chaired the important House committee that handled most legislation involving federal workers. They were famous for their bipartisan approach to fed matters.
A top aide to Wolf once told me that although at least one (maybe two) federal unions donated money to his campaigns through their Political Action Committees, they didn’t want the candidate to thank them publicly. Why not? Turns out that while they were grateful, they were embarrassed to be giving money to a Republican. The unions regularly endorsed Democratic presidential candidates (as did all but one in the recent election) and didn’t want to be exposed/embarrassed by helping out a friendly Republican, even though he was a friend.
While there is no DNA evidence to prove it, people looking for proof might not need to look any further than the Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs of solidly Democratic Washington, D.C. Although it has a Republican governor, Maryland and particularly its D.C. suburbs, are Democratic. There are no elected Republicans in affluent Montgomery or Prince Georges counties in Maryland, which both share a border with the District of Columbia where only a handful of people voted Republican.
On Nov. 8, three of the most populous and affluent counties in Virginia — Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, plus the city of Alexandria —voted heavily for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. All are full of federal civilian employees and their families. Of course, there is a huge uniformed military family vote in Virginia that many “experts” assume tends to vote Republican.
So is the federal family largely Democratic as many “experts” assume? Or do feds tend to vote like their neighbors in Huntsville, Alabama; Ogden, Utah; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Denver, Colorado and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina?
If it’s the former — or if most people think it’s true whether it is or not — that could mean a continuation of the gridlock, beat-the-feds mentality of the last 16 years. And Democrats can safely go on thinking (true of not) they’ve got feds in their back pockets without giving back much.
If the latter is true — that is feds tend to reflect the politics of the time and their location and don’t automatically have blue blood flowing through their veins — Republicans might get off their backsides, stop hammering feds and seek to revive the bipartisan coalition that helped feds regardless of which party controlled the White House.
The metro Washington area is not lacking in experts, real or self-designated. But they’ve missed a lot of calls this year. But…