Public Citizen News / January-February 2019
By Peter Cohen
This article appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of Public Citizen News. Download the full edition here.
From fundraising for a nonprofit to coining the phrase “don’t double down on trickle down,” David Rosen has worn many hats throughout his career. As Public Citizen’s communications officer for regulatory affairs, Rosen handles communications for Public Citizen’s regulatory work as well as for the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards and the Clean Budget Coalition. He writes press releases and statements, handles reporter inquires, develops communications strategies for campaigns and helps Public Citizen’s staffers write op-eds placed in national, local and online publications.
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Rosen received his bachelor’s in philosophy at Tufts University in Massachusetts and obtained master’s degrees in political management and political psychology from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He moved to D.C. in 2007 to manage the Government Accountability Project’s individual giving program. He also worked as a messaging strategist at Media Matters. Before coming to Public Citizen, Rosen founded and ran a public affairs consultancy, First Person Politics, specializing in the strategic applications of political psychology.
Q: How has your bachelor’s degree in philosophy applied to your work with Public Citizen?
Rosen: Studying philosophy was an extension of my involvement in a Lincoln-Douglas debate in high school, where I leaned on the ideas of Kant, Rousseau, Locke and Rawls to win debate rounds. Philosophy grapples with the really big questions about politics, morality and existence. At Public Citizen I get to take on some of those same questions in a more practical way.
Q: Why did you move to Washington from Texas?
Rosen: I wanted to pursue a career in politics and public affairs – and I’ve always been interested in national politics. Washington has far more opportunities than Texas.
Q: Why did you pursue advanced degrees in political psychology and political management?
Rosen: I wanted to be a better strategist. I believe that the study of political strategy and the study of how human beings actually think and behave around power must go hand in hand.
Q: What made you want to start First Person Politics?
Rosen: I wanted to show people working in politics and public affairs the strategic applications of political psychology, and I made First Person Politics my vehicle for doing that. I taught people about the psychology of ideology, social and situational influences, political personalities, generational theory, political messaging and more.
Q: What’s it like handling communications for the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards and the Clean Budget Coalition?
Rosen: Everyone comes to each coalition with their own priorities and approaches to strategy. The trick is to find messages and tactics that engage as many members as possible. Both coalitions have shown the power of solidarity. When progressives stick together, there’s a lot we can accomplish.
Q: How have you applied what you learned in political psychology to your current job?
Rosen: The psychology of communications and messaging comes into play practically every day. When I write and edit, I focus on connecting with the audience, anchoring the message in broadly shared values and emotions, and keeping the language simple, compelling and clear.
Q: In October 2017, a Public Citizen activist dressed as the Monopoly Man sat behind Equifax’s CEO at a U.S. Senate Banking Committee hearing, and it went viral. You had a major hand in this. Where did this idea come from?
Rosen: There were many inspirations: TV shows like “Black Mirror,” fantasy novels like Daryl Gregory’s “Pandemonium,” and even playing the Monopoly board game as a child. Public Citizen already was planning to deliver Get Out of Jail Free cards to all 535 Capitol Hill offices, so it made sense to have someone deliver them dressed as the Monopoly Man. I was just lucky to have a multi-talented colleague who could play the part!
Q: What do you do for fun?
Rosen: For much of the past year, I’ve been working on sprucing up my apartment, which is still a work in progress. But I enjoy hanging out with friends, wine tasting, watching science fiction and fantasy TV shows, and tweeting about politics from my personal account @firstpersonpol.