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How my time at Georgetown showed me that DC can be fixed

How my time at Georgetown showed me that DC can be fixed

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Published by majesticabdomen03
We learned quickly that not all groups like this need devolve into the pettiness and conceit of toda
We learned quickly that not all groups like this need devolve into the pettiness and conceit of toda

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Published by: majesticabdomen03 on Jul 31, 2014
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How my time at Georgetown showed me that DC can be fixed
We learned quickly that not all groups like this need devolve into the pettiness and conceit of today'spolitics. But one sure has.Schedules were hectic that summer, but roommates and friends would find time for dinner, coffee,drinks, and parties between days that spanned from nine to nine between internships and classes.From Newt Gingrich's encouragement in the 1990s that new representatives keep their families athome and refrain from making friends amongst the Washington elite, to attacks on HouseRepublican leader Bob Michel's close relationships with Democrats, to the Clinton White House'sskepticism of the Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn-style Georgetown social hierarchy, Washington hastransformed over the past two decades.The state of modern Washington is a Frankensteinthat all can take credit for. If we accept that, we canlet them do their jobs.When Nancy Reagan arrived in Washington in theearly eighties, she made a point of seeking out therelevant social circles, the Senate wives, and, inparticular, Washington Post publisher andGeorgetown grand dame Katharine Graham. I'm sureGeorgetown will let us borrow my old apartment.. In a great meritocracy like the United States, by the time you're able to run for federal office you'velikely amassed some wealth and some culture. The more we reward populist fervor that demonizescompromise or an 'elite' governing class, the more animosity our leaders will tow to Congress withthem. While many of today's Congressional Republicans employ a visceral reaction to the idea of politics stopping at the Potomac's edge, they aren't the only ones to blame.In a leafy enclosed courtyard of Georgetown University's Henle Village housing complex, nicknamed"the fishbowl" by the Hoyas, four roommates and I would begin most mornings in the summer of 2012 by pouring coffee into huge mugs bearing witty Lincoln quotes or the Georgetown crest andscouring our living room, half-dressed, for lost ties and notebooks. By punishing our representativesfor friendships and social circles we see as part of an elitist way of life, we compromise the one thingtheir status and, frankly, arrogance can do for us. We were a group of people thrust into the capital,from every corner of the country and from varied ideological standpoints, some consumed by ego,some by ambition, many by a desire to serve. Clubby, cliquey Washington kept the country smoothlyoperating and embodied the best of American community.Today's anti-elitist, anti-insider, anti-friend, anti-talk Congress is a foreign beast. No one said athing. In short, we were nothing at all like modern Washington. After a few drinks on Fridays it was easy to joke that parties in my townhouse were junior versionsof Katharine Graham's famous cocktail soirées (friends and insiders only, thank you) but it wastrue that much like our own friendships, yesterday's Washington smoothed out philosophical andlegislative with great help from the social scene. The inability to build bridges in DC has hampered
our national progress more than any arugula the President has eaten or any horse the Romneys havebought.The result has been a town where harried commuter Congressmen rush to catch planes as if a long-term stay in DC will expose them to radiation. Much like Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill, we werefriends after six.The relaying of the experiences of a group of Georgetown-educated twenty-somethings almostexclusively from pricey-private and flagship-state schools would smack of elitism to many of today'spopulists who'd rather hear the tale of a gutsy couple from Podunk who married straight out of highschool, had three kids by twenty-one, and opened a hardware store.But not even populist political firebrands are born of thin air, and key political players are crafted inthese DC summer programs. If they're in Congress, they're just not all that down-home anymore.Love of country and our strong friendships were always more important than policy squabblesthough, and we took time to understand the backgrounds that informed our worldviews and builtenduring friendships across ideological gaps. Certainly, the retirement-aged Reagans had muchmore time to drink cocktails and play cards, but not much more than the Fords, who came to 1600with a teenage brood in tow, or the Kennedys who had two toddlers running around the Oval Office.The rift is more emblematic of the nation's politics at large and a culture where voters punish cozyinsiders and reward rhetoric like that of the reality-TV-heartthrob-turned-Wisconsin-Congressmanwho pledged to take his lumberjack's axe to Washington. In fact, it's most of the problem. The nextgeneration starts now, and I'd like mine to launch with a lesson.Not long ago, everyone was friends after six at bars and Georgetown dinner parties. Most of us hadbeen accepted into a study/internship program with the Fund for American Studies at Georgetownwith no prior experience of living in the capital, and we all lived some definition Condo VsTownhouse Vs Duplex Capitol Hill DC of "far" (my apartment of five alone represented Iowa,Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New Jersey).
We quickly became each other's dinner guests, gymbuddies, social company, party hosts, and best friends.The Senate Wives Club was a thriving institution wherecharitable works, luncheons, and genuine friendshipswere shared by women (and later men) whose childrenattended the same schools and whose families spentweekends and holidays together. It's plain that what isneeded more than anything for a real rehabilitation of  American government is a return to community.If Congress wants to get serious about this, my fellowSummer Hoyas and I will be more than happy to returnto DC and throw them a dinner party. Both partiesshould stop trying to look like they're the champion of the people by mudslinging and out-Heartlanding eachother and actually champion their constituents bymaking the relationships necessary to good governance.Some would point out that Democrats since Camelothave had trouble schmoozing in DC partially because allthree modern Democratic first families have had school-aged children in tow. Now fast forward and imagine thehellfire that awaits the next Republican First Lady (or Gentleman) if she or he makes the fatefuldecision to host a cocktail night with Maureen Dowd.But DC isn't off the hook. It was simply the way our country's movers and shakers socialized smartly. And telling Sean Duffy to put down his flannel and pick up a bottle of Scotch probably wouldn't work - not because our representatives wouldn't be good at being part of Hickory Hill society, but becausewe, the voters, partially demand they stay aloof. The DC social circuit kept relations not only civil,but friendly. The morning routine of young, bright-eyed interns that summer was not unlike theroutine of so many Washingtonian power-players, but our incessant tapping on smartphones andiTouches aside, we would soon come to consider ourselves more emblematic of a bygone era thanthe capital's present. Where President Eisenhower once had drinks with Soviet Premier and EnemyNumber One of the United States Nikita Khrushchev in the White House, President Obama feelsuncomfortable even inviting Senators. M Street restaurants, West End cafés, waterfront bars, andmy own apartment - with its kingly perch atop the fishbowl - became the backdrop of our casuallives. In the balmy, humid capital heat we ran for buses to take us to the Metro, hurried downcobblestone streets for coffee with new contacts, and jumped in taxis for Foggy Bottom policybriefings. If Congress had actually taken a literal pledge to act dysfunctionally socially until theystarted to act dysfunctionally legislatively they couldn't have done a better job. We condemn therelationships that build great nations by holding Congress to an overtly populist standard. And whynot act that way? As far as many Americans back in the district are concerned, DC is radioactive.While many of us worked for competing media outlets, in the offices of rival politicians, or atorganizations with contrary policy agendas we became great friends in spite of our differences. AsMSNBC's Chris Matthews, who has been promoting his Reagan-O'Neill-era memoir highlightingsome of these problems, attests, it's just different when you can have a casual drink in the WhiteHouse residence as opposed to a planned hour-long drink at the Sheraton.In the particular case of the outsider Obamas, they bear some resemblance to the Clintons and theCarters in respect to ill-fitting the Washington clique. A couple famous quick dinners with members

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