Dave Contarino is a political strategist and business consultant based in Louisville, Kentucky. Dave Contarino has more than 25 years’ experience in political campaigns. As a former high-ranking government official, Dave Contarino believes that living in the real world (outside of Washington, D.C.) makes for a better political consultant.
Too many consultants live “inside the beltway,” in the supercharged world of Washington, D.C., consuming and trading political news and gossip all day long, says Dave Contarino. Even the best can lose touch with the day-to-day realities of citizens whose votes they seek to influence.
According to Dave Contarino, living in the real world, i.e., hanging with regular people who hold regular jobs, is a constant reminder that politics is a sideshow to most people; in order to reach people where they live, you need to really understand them. Polling and focus groups only tell you so much, says Dave Contarino.
Discussing the political divide in today’s society, Dave Contarino says that some people say politicians are harshly divided, but the people, for the most part, are not. Others say people have become divided and the politicians reflect this division, adds Dave Contarino. Both, of course, are right.
According to Dave Contarino, many people—especially the political and ideological minorities—are far more divided than they have been in the past. They scream the loudest at their politicians, who listen to them in order to keep their jobs. However, says Dave Contarino, most people are not that political or ideological and do not reflect the hard left or right positions of the political parties.
Dave Contarino firmly believes that when consultants live in D.C., they lose their perspective on what most of the people are really like. Consultants, like politicians, listen to what the insiders and political class of D.C. say, and can then lose touch with most people in the country.
According to Dave Contarino, the exploding number of political consultants is a byproduct of the changing laws governing campaigns. Thanks in part to a Supreme Court decision, there is virtually no limit to the amount of money now being spent, mostly from Washington to influence campaigns and candidates, says Dave Contarino. This is not necessarily a bad thing if that money was used for reasoned debate and education; however, usually that is not the case.
Usually, political dialogue just pushes one extreme side or another rather than promote compromise. Consultants are essential to providing the messages, strategies and tactics that win elections. Harsh, divisive messages may serve their clients’ short term interest but do not serve the country in the long run, says Dave Contarino. Dave Contarino believes consultants can use their strategic media communications and organizing talents to help unite, not simply divide the country, and win elections too. There is a vast middle out there—that can now be reached cheaply and directly through digital media—that will listen to a reasoned message, says Dave Contarino. Consultants who live in the real world know that because they are their neighbors and friends.
“Offer solutions, not just attacks,” said Dave Contarino. “And you will hear and see some of the best ideas for those solutions coming from the very people who live all around you, in the real world.”