There are 3 million civil servants who work for the U.S. government today. Many take entrance exams, they have standardized pay scales, they work in the State Department or the Department of Energy or the Department of Homeland Security, regardless of which president or political party is in office.
But this hasn’t always been the case. For the first 100-plus years of the country’s beginning, government jobs were basically handed out as political favors to people who, in many cases, had no qualifications or relevant experience. And it was a system rife with corruption and patronage.
So, how did one of the greatest beneficiaries of this spoils system end up being the president who passed civil service reform?
Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold and Stateline executive editor Scott Greenberger tell the amazing story of Chester Arthur's personal transformation, from a political hack in the New York Republican party machine of the late 19th century to a president who began cleaning up the corrupt system that helped him rise to the top.
Listen to the episode here or on iTunes:
In previous episodes of the Presidential podcast, we've explored topics like Abraham Lincoln's language and the violent life of Andrew Jackson. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.
As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what’s ’presidential’ has evolved over the years and how each president—esteemed, loathed or nearly forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation’s highest office.
A new episode comes out every Sunday. Here's how to follow along:
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