Political campaigns used to be short, frenzied run-ups to an election — after which the winning candidate would turn to the stately task of governing. But over the past few decades, politics and policy began to mingle. Political advisors took White House roles, and polling began to drive decision-making — “The Permanent Campaign,” as journalist (and later Clinton staffer) Sidney Blumenthal presciently dubbed it in his 1980 book.

The advent of 24-hour cable news (and later, the Internet) opened a gaping maw, ravenous for content. Politicians knew they’d be dissected constantly, not just during campaign season, with querulous Crossfire hosts debating who has “The Big Mo” and who’s on the downswing. Most people — even former political operatives, like me — can agree this is bad for democracy. But candidates have accepted it as the new normal and, with savvy teams PR experts on call, they’re making do.

The real problem, though, isn’t the impact on politicians.

It’s the fact that everyone else — including regular professionals — is also now expected to perform round-the-clock personal brand maintenance, and most people don’t even realize it.

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