They’re taking down all the photos in my office. Laying strewn about the carpet are the faces of my colleagues, the Secretary, the Vice President, and the President. My inbox is filling with goodbye messages, 27 at last count.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel… numb.
Most of you probably know that when a presidential administration changes, the cabinet secretaries and senior appointed officials leave, to make way for the new administration to make their own political appointees. That’s the circus going on in the news right now, the cabinet secretaries appointment process. What many people don’t know-what the President Elect himself seemed to not know on November 9- was that in every agency there are political appointees intertwined throughout, at every level. In my office, 3 of 8 of us are political appointees. We have political appointees answering the phones, and political appointees making decisions. Everyone between me and the Secretary (including the Secretary) is a political appointee. And on Monday they will all be gone, like some sort of office rapture.
Political appointees can get a bad wrap. It can smell of cronyism when done poorly. But when done well, it is a process that brings literally the most passionate and committed souls and the brightest minds into an agency to transform the culture and change national policy. And I can safely say, with admittedly a few notable exceptions, that it’s been done exceedingly well in the people I have worked with over the last 6 years.
Now, this diaspora would happen even if Hillary had won. It happens often between Presidential terms, too. But the mood in the office today is somber. People aren’t necessarily going on to better things. Many don’t have things to go to. I’m sure some Trump supporters will cheer for this, see it as an example of draining the swamp. All I see are dedicated public servants being unceremoniously shown the door, with no one to replace them (as I write this, we’re still waiting on notification of who might). To quote Aaron Sorkin via Ainsley Hayes, “say they’re smug and superior, say their approach to public policy makes you want to tear your hair out. Say they like high taxes and spending your money. Say they want to take your guns and open your borders, but don’t call them worthless. At least don’t do it in front of me. The people that I have met have been extraordinarily qualified, their intent is good. Their commitment is true, they are righteous, and they are patriots.” (She finished with, “I’m their lawyer,” which, while technically true for me, is not, you know, the point here.)
So, I don’t have a good way to end this, because I don’t know how it ends. It doesn’t feel like an ending, honestly, it feels like the beginning of something hard and different, and while change is always hard, it’s harder when the smart, committed, competent, passionate people have left the room.
Goodbye, and good luck. I’ll see you on the other side.