Two questions (if that’s okay!):
What have you been up to since leaving office?
What areas of policy (local or otherwise) do you think are most ammenable to impactful change?
(Most of this is from the frame of trying to reduce expected opposition.)
The potential success of most example policies or policy areas I can think of are going to be highly dependent on region and political milieu; for instance, animal welfare measures have a good chance in Berkeley, California but not Ames, Iowa.
Potential, non-region-specific reforms would be ones that aren’t (yet) strongly red or blue coded, such as approval voting, which I’m moderately bullish on.
One way to reduce expected opposition is to focus on locations under single-party rule going into 2021 (or whichever year you’re reading this) and pick policies that match that party’s brand but are currently unsexy or non-salient enough that no elected official will care enough to champion them unless a constituent suggests it. E.g., even though Democrats won all federal elections in New Hampshire, Republicans will have control of the state executive and legislative branches, so this would be a good biennium for occupational licensing reform, which isn’t particularly exciting or topical.
Besides minimizing expected opposition, another way of minimizing expected effort is to find someone who’s already planning on pushing a package of reforms, and ask them to tack on just one more related thing that has good evidence behind it.
In areas with split-party leadership, I recommend going with one of two strategies, each of which has its own corresponding policy space.
Boring. Pick something dry and technical that has outsized effects, probably something in the regulatory sector. The goal here is to fly under the radar and not attract attention. Plenty of bipartisan bills pass this way.
If you can’t be boring, sidestep expected gridlock by picking an issue that cuts across party lines. Something that splits Republicans so that some of them will vote with the majority of Democrats or vice versa. This is going to depend on what preexisting fracture lines lie within your local or state political parties.
(Question 1) 2019 was entirely composed of taking a break as much as possible from political things. I was pretty burnt out and needed to recover. I worked as a nanny, which is something I really enjoyed for its own sake even though I didn’t have an intention of continuing with it long term.
Early in 2020 I left my nanny position and started doing a fair amount of exploratory work around land use reform, registering an org with the Secretary of State, having a lot of conversations with YIMBY types in my area, etc. Some time around June, I had a very self-reflective day, where I sort of realized that even if I left behind criminal justice reform as a cause area (and thereby attempt to avoid the emotional toll that kind of work was taking on me), there were several aspects of any public-facing career that were incompatible with the kind of life I want to lead. (One example would be the high levels of self-censorship required.)
For a few reasons, I’d long thought it would behoove me to acquire more “hard” skills. Some of the policy-adjacent but non-public-facing roles that I’m most interested in require a background in data science, so I’ve been enrolled in a pretty intense data science program since late August. I expect to graduate at the beginning of March.
I’ll put my answer to question 2 in a separate comment. =)
Thanks for this excellent AMA! Could you elaborate on the “policy-adjacent but non-public-facing roles” in data science that you think are impactful?
Sure. I’m mostly thinking of things like data analyst positions at think tanks and research centers that help steer policy recommendations for governments both local and abroad.