Five days until the 2010 mid-term elections. This is my third election season in Washington, DC and exciting because Republicans are poised to take back the House. 2006 was the most exciting because I was a fresh-faced intern, tasked with getting quotes from bar hoppers on Election Night. The newspaper paid my tab to get the dish and snap a few photos for their gossip section. I made the rounds at the swanky Lounge 201, a GLBT-themed part at Capitol City Brewery, a lowkey round of beers at Union Pub and sparsely attended gathering at Tortilla Coast. I had just moved to Washington and within months been able to meet Newt Gingrich, attend a private interview at the Governor’s Mansion in Maryland (Robert Erlich, whose now trying to reclaim the seat he lost that year) and sat in numerous editorial board meetings with high profile Congressional candidates. I was in Washington intern heaven and it was perhaps Election Night 2006 that fueled my decision to remain in Washington indefinitely. This was my new, exciting life.
Now, four years later, I’ve been there and done that. The excitement of DC has tempered quite a bit though the awe of The White House, the Capitol, the tv cameras, the fantastic world power just around the corner. In an episode in the first season of the West Wing, when Charlie is hired as President Bartlett’s personal aide, the President is giving a national speech. The two of them are standing just behind the cameras, just outside the glare of the spotlight and it’s magical. Charlie tells Josh, “I’ve never felt like this before.” Josh says to Charlie, “It never goes away.” I knew exactly what he meant in that moment.
When I went to Bob Novak’s book party and met Novak and then — to my great surprise — the current Vice-President Dick Cheney, I had never felt like that before. When I stood inside the staff/press area at the House Call event on Capitol Hill this year — where thousands of grassroots conservatives gathered on the National Mall to hear from GOP Leaders, I had never felt like that before. When I rode in the car with Congressman Pence — just he and I — to film a video for the event I was organizing, I had never felt like that before. When I stood before Sarah Palin at a recent speech and asked John McCain a question on a conference call, I never felt like that before. I’ve gotten to meet famous Reagan speechwriters, groundbreaking leaders like Phyillis Schlafly and presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. When I sat in the White House press briefing room, among legendary reporters — and met America’s most beloved WH press secretary, the late Tony Snow — I never felt like that before. Every time I walk into the Capitol — into a meeting — or sit with a Member of Congress for a conference call or meeting I’ve helped arrange, I feel the magic again.
There is something that sparkles about Washington, DC — about knowing you are in the midst of real leaders — of those ultimately in charge of the fate our great nation. As an intern I strolled up and down K Street blasting “Suddenly I see this is where I’m supposed to be.” And, though, that was the anthem for every 20-something bursting onto the career scene, it felt like my personal theme song. It gave me the courage to stay away from home and pursue whatever life had to offer here. To meet my new best friends, to have my heart broken, to have my fears put to the test, to do things I never imagined doing when I grew up in a little house in a cul de sac in Indiana.
It’s in those moments (and when I watch The West Wing!) that I want to move up in the ranks on the Hill. How cool would it be to work for the White House?! I know that it’s not in my blood to have that kind of demanding job. I care too much about my personal life, having a family and enjoying a balanced life in general to take on that kind of responsibility. But I feel lucky to have been here, to have felt what I never knew I could feel — over and over again. And so, I anticipate those feelings coming to life on Tuesday — when everyone’s excited again — and where I personally know so many of those ready to for a fresh 2 years of leadership. And the newbies coming in — how excited they will be to arrive in Washington.
It’s always most exciting in Washington, DC, where stakes are highest for people’s jobs and hopes. New opportunities await many of us on Wednesday morning. The dreams of many candidates die on Tuesday night. The one vote that decides the fate critical coming legislation could be born in a fresh faced game changer.
The truth is — I don’t know how long I will live in DC — and sometimes it seems this phase may soon come to an end. But I’m excited for a victorious Tuesday, when America regrasps some common sense. When they vindicate the bad decision they made two years ago. Whatever happens, the magic will live on.