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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Swamp People

The D.C. metro area is, in its odd way, a special place. 
Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

D.C.-area natives have their own weird thing. I did not realize this until I went away to college; previously I had thought of “the DMV” (DC-Maryland-Virginia) as any other bland suburban nowhere, the imperial monoculture of Calvin and Hobbes and Malcolm in the Middle. It was only when I got to know people from cities and towns where Congressional hijinks aren’t local news that I understood that the D.C. metro area is, in its odd way, a special place. 

I went to a good-not-great Catholic high school in the Maryland suburbs, and most of my fellow students were the children of bureaucrats, scientists and engineers for contractors or the federal research agencies, the respectable sort of Beltway arms dealers, intelligence analysts, administrators for lobbyists and trade unions’ Washington offices—in short, the children of a company town. It turns out that this is not the case elsewhere.

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It was an oddity among many other the other oddities: the easy familiarity D.C. people have with power and politicians, born of seeing congressmen and Supreme Court justices at church; affluence in the absence of extreme wealth, there being no Washingtonian Palo Alto or even Greenwich; the area’s relative racial integration. Friends from outside D.C. are shocked that a man like my father, a die-hard child of the Reagan Revolution, could speak with real affection about the repeatedly disgraced but unflappable Mayor for Life, Marion Barry. 

Nic Rowan, my fellow DMV native (although from the wrong side of the Potomac), brings some of this odd social melange out in his review of Mark Judge’s memoir, which is a sort of local drama or tragedy flowing back in time from the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It’s out from behind our paywall; as we like to say around here, read the whole thing. You’ll get a little taste of that swampy water.