I’ve always been a political junkie. One of the reasons I can’t see myself leaving this area is the irresistible allure of being surrounded by it all. Being in the midst of such an exciting election season should only add to it.
However, since I’ve actually been living in this most political of cities this year, I’ve felt something unexpected. In a way, I feel more disconnected from the political process than I ever have. Sure, one can’t go two feet without overhearing a conversation about the latest SNL spoof or Obama’s amazing fundraising machine. In that sense, I’m immersed in it. But. for the first time, taxation without representation is more than a slogan.
In the midst of the bailout debate, one of my friends who works for a senator told me about all the calls they were getting and what the tally was for and against. Being an engaged citizen, I considered calling my senator (okay, I know they don’t really care about the calls, but that’s the sort of thing one should do in a democracy), only to quickly remembered I don’t have one now. I suppose I could have called one of Maryland’s but what was I going to say, “Hi, I live in the part of your state that, well, isn’t.” Then after the vote, being a nerd, I ran to CRS to see the final vote count. My usual habit of checking on how “my people” voted was entirely irrelevant. It was a very odd realization for someone who has been engaged in politics since the age of 12.
At a time when there is so much talk about post-partisan politics and moving away from the divisiveness of business as usual, it’s the height of hypocrisy that the spirit of the constitution is held hostage by that very brand of partisan political calculating with barely a blip of recognition outside our fair city. The U.S. mint wouldn’t even let the slogan be on DC’s quarter. Apparently we’re enough of a “state” to be represented in the state quarter series but only if we don’t raise this issue.
In a semi-related aside, when I expressed my reticence to register to vote in DC because, as someone who is fascinated by international relations, I didn’t like the idea of giving up congressional representation a friend pointed out that local representatives have the greatest impact on day-to-day quality of life. This was right after the “Adams Morgan crime wave” story broke and he pointed out a senator or congressman wouldn’t be doing anything about that. Although that is obviously not a rebuttal to my original point, I thought I would embrace the spirit of that thought and attend the next Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meeting. Basically ANCs are the lowest level of elected representation in DC. Turns out the next meeting was more than a month away, as my local ANC only meets about every two months. Not exactly the real-time addressing of issues for which one yearns and just contributed to my feeling of alienation from the political process as a DC resident.