No matter how disappointed people are in their capital, even the most tuned-in consumers have no idea what the modern cinematic version of This Town really looks like. They might know the boilerplate about “people who have been in Washington too long”, how the city is not bipartisan enough and filled with too many creatures of the Beltway. But that misses the running existential contradictions of DC, a place where “authenticity and fantasy are close companions”, as the Washington Post‘s Henry Allen once wrote. It misses that the city, far from being hopelessly divided, is in fact hopelessly interconnected. It misses the degree to which the New Media has democratized the political conversation while accentuating Washington’s insular, myopic & self-loving tendencies. It misses, most of all, a full examination of how Washington may not serve the country well but has in fact worked splendidly for Washington itself — a city of beautifully busy people constantly writing the story of their own lives. — page 10
Back in the 1970s, a friend who’d grown up in the Beltway suburbs first taught me how Washington is a company town. Just as Detroit produced cars and New York produces finance, DC is the place where “government” is the monopoly industry. The vicissitudes of the individual government-producing factories (the White House, Congress, the Defense Department) have an outsized weight in the local conversation, because of the degree to which the fortunes of every small business and civil servant and real-estate agent depend upon those factories. Perhaps the main difference, forty years later, is how much that ‘New Media’ has allowed those of us well outside the company town to see every unsavory part of the sausage-making machinery…
So far — I’m on Page 80, loving Harry Reid even a little bit more — This Town seems to betray Leibovich’s newspaper roots. It’s both eminently readable (there’s always another fun nugget in the next paragraph) and hard to pick up again once I’ve put it down (none of those nuggets seem to be leading to a wider arc).
How far have you guys gotten?
ETA: Thanks to all who participated this week!
Gonna do at least one more ‘This Town’ discussion — same time, same place, next Monday at 9pm EST.
Anybody want to argue for a different day or time, add a comment here or email me directly at annelaurie (at) verizon.net (click on my name under ‘contact’ in the right-hand column).
What’s your opinion, so far?