Matt McMillan, CC ’03, in front of a political campaign org chart
Last night Peter Sterne learned pretty much anything you would want to know and probably a lot of stuff you wouldn’t about how to have a career in politics.
Last night, Matt McMillan, CC ’03 and internet consultant for Democratic political campaigns, showed a group of about 40 undergraduates in Hamilton 602 what it really takes to break into politics. Although good-humored, he did not mince words. McMillan freely admitted he had an overly idealistic view of political campaigns as an undergraduate and believed politics to be “more of a meritocracy than it actually is.” Now, he sought to show students of his alma mater exactly what they had to do to actually succeed in becoming political consultants.
McMillan’s own experience is telling. After graduating from Columbia, he quickly discovered that an Ivy League education didn’t help as much as he thought, since political campaigns valued experience over education. Fortunately, he happened to have the right skills at the right time. “In ’04,” he explained, “when internet consultants were still being laughed out of the room,” he was able to create a website for a dark-horse candidate that was much more successful than anyone anticipated. Soon, he received calls from more important political campaigns in the United States, and was even given the opportunity to work for some international campaigns. Unfortunately for those who aren’t already successful internet political consultants, his meteoric rise to prominence would be difficult to repeat these days. Since campaigns now realize the importance of web presence, they hire internet consultants the same way they hire political consultants: a combination of friendly referrals and relationships that McMillan derisively terms “political nepotism.”