Andy Ferguson, who seems incapable of writing something that is not worth reading, has penned a piece for The Weekly Standard that takes aim at those who criticize Washington, D.C., while enjoying wonderful (and often profitable) lives thanks to their careers in the nation’s capital. Andy’s target in this particular case is Rick Santorum, but he is just one of a seemingly endless list of candidates. Ferguson, who is also a monthly contributor to COMMENTARY, describes them as a Washingtonian of a particular type:
The anti-Washington Washingtonian—an AWW, a contented resident of the nation’s capital who has based his career on his loudly declared disdain for the nation’s capital, particularly the federal Leviathan residing there. The AWW campaigns against Washington, catalogues its harmful effects, extols alternatives, and contrasts it with the “real America,” which he vows to liberate forever from its depredations — while never admitting that Washington is the very thing that makes his life worth living.
This critique gives voice to something I’ve felt since almost the day I arrived in Washington in the 1980s.
Many of the same people who would criticize Washington with zeal, acting as if it’s a sacrifice and terrible burden to live here, are the same ones who would rather surrender their first-born son than leave D.C. The dirty little secret is that most of the political class who live in Washington thoroughly enjoy it. And the dirtier little secret is (as Andy documents) they have every reason to enjoy it.
I know it’s fashionable for Washingtonians to second the words of Harry Truman, who said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” There’s only one problem with this critique: It’s wrong. Over the years I’ve made countless friends, people who are intelligent and informed and care deeply about public affairs. I’m fortunate to have regular lunches and dinners with some of the brightest columnists and commentators in the country — the very heart and soul of the much-derided “establishment” and “ruling class”—and they are thoroughly uplifting and enjoyable affairs. There’s not a cynic among them. And for those, particularly on the right, who constantly criticize people who live and work “inside the Beltway,” speaking as if they are alien beings, I have news for them: the nation’s capital is part of the “real America.”
The people who inhabit D.C. and the surrounding suburbs (I live in McLean, Virginia) are no less (and no more) admirable than people I’ve met anywhere else in the country. They’re active in their neighborhoods, their schools, and their places of worship. They attend PTA meetings and Bible studies and prayer groups; they coach soccer and basketball and baseball.
I have no interest in idealizing D.C. But I do think it’s helpful from time to time to puncture the fiction — perpetrated mostly by conservatives, to be honest — that D.C. and the surrounding suburbs are simply comprised of knaves and fools, of people who are unprincipled and out of touch. Like most of the political class who live in the D.C. area, I consider it a blessing to be able to call it my home. A lot of other people do, too. I just wish they’d do us all a favor and say so.