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INVASION OF THE OUTSIDERS
“Regular People” Infect DC
By ANCHOR DOWNS
A friend came to town recently from California. She was a coordinator for the Obama campaign in Ohio, and so we all owe her a debt of gratitude. Naturally, this was her first trip to DC since those middle school pilgrimages everyone takes – our own version of Hajj. But this trip was not about circling around that marble phallus downtown and praying. She was in town for some ‘progressive organizing’ conference. Naturally, it was the young, middle management Obama folks gathered together to exchange tips on how to best knock on doors, and figure some plan going forward, something a lot of folks in DC are doing these days. But I was shocked, talking to some of these kids, at how they had no understanding of how things really work around here.
Don’t get me wrong, all these people should be applauded for pouring their hearts into putting that godforsaken wasteland of Ohio (among others) in the blue column. It would make me happy to learn that ACORN actually did commit voter fraud there – the real affront to democracy is the notion that those rednecks in Southwestern Ohio actually get to pick who is president for the rest of us (cf. 2000 and 2004). But you should have heard what some of these kids – and I use that word very consciously, and with some condescension – were saying.
One guy, a bright, recent Yale grad with an aura of entitlement so real it splashes his piss back onto his pants, wanted to take on my standard, sneering mention of the hook-line-and-sinker adoption of ‘realism’ in the new administration. But he tried it not by attacking my attack (“Hey, at least they’re not neocons,” would have worked), but by questioning the term. “What does that even mean? That you’re going to be realistic?” he said sarcastically, clearly choosing the Socratic Method to go after me, which I admired until he started spouting some nonsense about health care reform. “Realism is a center-right school of foreign policy, dude. We’re not talking Caravaggio here.” God forbid the conversation turned to neorealism and we had to discuss Antonioni instead of Mearsheimer and Walt. Our young grasshopper was suddenly taken aback. “Oh,” he said rather sheepishly. “It is? Well…” And he continued to babble on.
And every one of these kids is among the hundreds of thousands of applicants for a few thousand jobs in the Obama administration But, and forgive me for this one, thank God those jobs are going to the same old greybeards. Send these young kids back out there, outside the beltway, where they belong. They understand those people on the outside and can talk to them. In DC, knocking on strangers’ doors will invariably get you someplace you don’t want to be – almost always either just plain old danger, or some intensely weird scene. It could be the DC cop in my friend’s building that shoots gay porn in his place.
Or take my friend Alessandro’s next-door neighbor, a good-looking Latina lady named Teri Galvez. Teri was on Mitt Romney’s Latin-American advisory board (not Latin America – Romney knew as much about foreign policy as this Yalie), is the Executive Director of the Miss District of Columbia pageant, and had the biggest fucking spider balloon I’ve ever seen hanging off of her roof on Halloween. Oh, did I mention that in October she held a Log Cabin Republican’s fundraiser for DC Ward 2 candidate Christina Culver (a hot chick “outsider” from Kansas who lost by a four to one margin and bragged about holding the incumbent to “his lowest totals since 1996”)? Okay, she was rocking a “Nobama No Socialism” lawn sign, so you probably wouldn’t knock anyway. But if you did, I guarantee you experience something you wish you hadn’t. Self-loathing gay costume ball, anyone?
But, in fairness, not all these organizers were so bad that they were just drifting through this place they’d put on a pedestal with their fluttering eyelashes. Some of these guys knew their shit and could function in the real world at large. But almost to a man, they had some deep disconnect with DC. They’d just worked their tuchuses off to put a guy in a job they didn’t have the foggiest clue about.
“So, how do you feel about some of the picks for the cabinet and staff so far?” I asked one lovely progressive Obama organizer.
“Oh, they’re great. I think it’s perfect! What this country needs right now is a good centrist government that can be effective.”
“Wait, wait, wait. You’re at a ‘progressive’ organizing conference, right?”
“Progressive,” I said, “is a euphemism for left-wing. You see how that’s problematic? You can’t call yourself a progressive and say what we need is a centrist government. Those things are mutually exclusive.”
“Well, that would be true if I thought that change started in Washington. But it doesn’t, it starts with people around the country.”
Now that made steam pour out of my ears. I guess I’m just an arrogant DC-type, too, when you get right down to it. Even though I’m a cynic and think the whole town reeks of the rotting human soul and crisp, freshly printed money, I felt like the sort of self-important bozo you see walking around downtown with their nametag hanging in front of their white-collared shirt. Suddenly I wanted another drink, but I wanted the next one at home, alone with the lights off pondering whether I should destroy myself for becoming what I despise.
Y’know, I really do hate those fuckers around this town, and there are loads of them. Most of them, like me, will never see a glimmer of real power, but nonetheless they’ll force their business card on you and insist that you call them, which I never do. Opinions, it turns out, are like assholes. But not because everyone has them; it’s more because no one wants to hear yours. These guys love to talk to me because I got this press pass (in my back pocket unless I’m somewhere that requires me to have it out, and even then, you wouldn’t catch me dead with one of those plastic slips or one of those ball chains that looks like miniature anal beads). Every time one of those pricks shows up in the news, they tell their assistants (if they have one) to shutter their office while they J.O. to their own quote. “Doris, the Times made their piece with me as the kicker quote – hold all my calls for ten minutes and bring me a towel.” So you can imagine how badly they love to talk to me. I’m practically creating tailor-made porno for them.
It’s from those douchebags that the establishment pulls the best and brightest (or in the case of Patrick Clawson, the gayest and brightest hair-colored) to fill their ranks. Some end up in government posts, and some end up in think tanks. Quick aside: Think tanks are more than a refuge for outgoing opposition appointees – they actually serve a powerful function in forming policy. It’s basically a form of ideological outsourcing.
Anyway, the thought that those typical DC assholes actually do populate the halls of power almost makes you want to call the organizer kids back out. Give them a seat at the table and find out what the people behind all those fucking doors they knocked on are actually thinking. See how much these outsiders – who change “starts with,” remember – can do with the government. I wonder how Joe the Average from New Holland, Ohio, would do to regulate complex securities. And you think Margie Churchgoer, of Vega, Ohio (Las Vega?) will do a good job at the State Department? I can see it now: official embassy dinners around the world to serve MickeyDee’s and Miller High Life (easily arranged in Baghdad, where the world’s largest imperial outpost is little more than the offices of the U.S. prefect plus a massive suburban-style strip mall). The people, or as the preamble says, “Them the People of the United States,” would do a bang up job. After all, I’m sure the population of Pink, Ohio, was all over the wrong-minded decision to go to war in Iraq – I can see the massive street protests like it was yesterday, or never.
See, that’s the problem. Change doesn’t start with the people, and the Iraq War is the perfect example. The dregs of Ohio had as much say in going to war as the dregs of the Capitol Building. Exactly nada. The choice to go to war was made by, at most, a few dozen people. From there, it was the easiest sales pitch in the world. Good advertising spokesmen (Colin Powell is to war as John Madden is to tough-actin’ Tinactin), and a concerted media campaign is all it took. I mean, I don’t want to get all conspiracy theorist on you (if for no other reason than 9/11 Truthers are the most impossible people to have political conversations with), but the Project for a New American Century guys made the decision in the late ‘90s that Saddam had to go. The advertising agency of Bin Laden, Atta, and Associates gave them the perfect sixty-second ad, and there was no question what was going to happen. A few dozen people! Not the people.
So now, a few years after the people dropped the ball on the decision to invade, they wise up a little. They finally buy the idea that it was the wrong war, but they are regular consumers, and they know there are strict return policies. The Iraq War is that book that George Costanza took into the bathroom – it’s been flagged and no one is taking it back. You can’t, for example, refund 4,000 plus soldiers’ lives and God knows how many Iraqi ones. Or half-a-trillion dollars, for that matter, which could probably bail out the big three and even buy the U.S. government a stake in a few good car companies, like Toyota or BMW.
But, alas, the people aren’t going to get the real power anytime soon either. Sure, Obama may placate the organizers by starting some kind of WhiteHouse.gov Facebook page, and everyone can be Facebook friends with the administration. But that’s about as far as it’ll go. The Obama kids have all left town now and returned to their job hunts. But don’t you worry: They’ll be back for another weekend visit soon. A Tuesday visit, actually, in January. Four million of them. The thought makes me shudder, as I can already barely stand to ride the metro anytime between four and seven.
Throw in a little DC-style police state security, and the inauguration is going to be a real shit show. All these organizers will be sleeping twelve to a room like those Irish immigrants next door when I was in college in Boston, and the DC-types will be crashing in their offices to avoid the crunch. Then there’ll be a lot of hoopla, followed by balls. The organizer kids, of course, won’t have any balls (in every sense of the word) and will probably be going back to their shared apartments to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon after they get rejected from every full bar in town. Perhaps after two or three in the morning they can stumble in some joint in the city, but I don’t know about that. They’ve declared 24-hour bars for the inauguration, and combined with a housing crunch, that sounds like a recipe for bars full of the homeless-for-a-day. Just thinking about the whole deal makes me want to vomit.
That’s why I’m doing the only decent thing I can think of: Getting the fuck out of Dodge. I’ve already booked my round-trip week-long ticket to the Rockies for a week of isolation. I’ll be sitting in front of the boob tube watching next to a roaring fire, and laughing to myself as The People get crushed against police barricades. I’m sure the locals at my vacation spot will wonder what the hell a guy from DC is doing out there when everyone is going to DC, but the people never got it anyway.
Anchor Downs is a professional DC reporter who attempts to soothe his ragged conscience with anonymous BEAST editorials.
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