I found this melancholy reflection by Tom Ricks, who used to be a very big deal Washington journalist, to be moving and instructive. He was a military correspondent for the Washington Post, and went all over the world doing his job, loving every minute of it. Until the Iraq War. Excerpt:
In short, I no longer could see the capital’s actions as a “game.” Washington’s actions had gotten hundreds of thousands of people killed and maimed. It made me sick, and worse, made me sad.
I didn’t see it so clearly at the time, but I needed to leave Washington. I was done.
He and his wife moved to the Maine coast, where they’ve lived year round for the past few years. Changed his life very much for the better, he says.
Then came Trump. Now, I feel like we got out just in time, before the slow-motion train crash began. Even from here, I find Trump disorienting and disgusting. I don’t know how I would be able to stand being in the same city with him. It is a great time for journalism, but it wouldn’t be for me. I admire people like Peter Baker, an old colleague now at the New York Times, for their stamina and persistence. I would not be able to do it.
I’ve been thinking about this because a few months ago I flew down to Washington to be interviewed by C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb about my recent book on Winston Churchill and George Orwell. As I walked around Capitol Hill, watching the conservatively attired young staffers hurry to and fro (the prevailing mode of those associated with Congress is “small town bank branch president”), planning their next moves, the thought occurred to me: “This is no longer my city.” I didn’t enjoy it at all. It wasn’t just disoriented, I was alienated. I’d see the staffers chuckle as they walked and I would think, What are you people doing? What events will break your hearts?
I couldn’t wait to get to the airport and head home.
I’ve had similar thoughts on the occasion that I’ve been back to Washington in the past few years, though I was never remotely close to the center of action as Ricks was. Last time I was on Capitol Hill, I looked at the young men and women who were the age I was when I was working there (mid-twenties), and wonder why they’re there. I mean, I know why they are there — same reason I was: because that’s where the action is. I really have a hard time relating to that now, and I can’t tell if it’s because the game has changed so much, or that I have. Probably more the latter than the former, I dunno.
Whatever the truth, it’s hard for me to imagine that idealistic young people want to go to Washington these days. Are you one of those idealistic young people working in Washington? Tell me what you see and why you stay. Make the case for doing what you do.
If you left, tell me why you left. Do you regret it?
Are you thinking about leaving? What do you fear about leaving?
UPDATE: By the by, the Republicans who have been running for office for decades against Washington, but who get there and go native, are especially awful. You watch: a lot of these “drain the swamp” people today will turn into swamp creatures overnight.