The Placeholders

by chriscrawfordnh

The Washington Post and other news outlets have published stories about firms who are hired to save seats outside of major events for people who are willing to dish out large sums of cash for a good seat but aren’t so willing to wait in line.

When most people heard this story, it sounded like a well-manufactured machine of professionals who were willing to brave cold temperatures and hard sidewalks to make some money. What we saw at the Supreme Court was a different story.

Many reporters and others that I talked to asked why homeless people were standing at the front of the line at The Supreme Court. “They don’t look like the crowd that would want to go inside,” they said. Indeed, reporters and passersby viewed those first 30 people in line with a look of confusion, if not condescension.

In some ways, it seemed like a good match. Rich people who were wanted a place in line and were willing to give cash were linked with people who needed cash and were willing to wait in line. In many ways, it seems like a perfect pairing, but for some reason I struggled to feel good about the transactions.

Some PACs and other groups used a different approach. Rather than use a professional placeholding group, they paid their interns extra money to save spots in line for some of the more influential members of their team.