The Political Backdrop of DC
There are so many things I love about DC. It’s beautiful, it has a rich history, an interesting culture, and so much to do and see. But what I love most about it is that it is so infused with politics. I’ve never felt this in any country’s capital city as much as I feel it in DC.
I’ve been personally involved in DC’s political scene. Two of the times that I went there last year were for rallies—one for women’s health and reproductive rights and one for environmentalism (It was really cool to see speeches from prominent figures like Cecile Richards, Ed Harris, Al Gore, and others).
For both of these trips, I ended up lobbying at Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s office, which is a really amazing opportunity for a political geek like me. And no matter how many times I go to that office (I’ve been there four or five times now), I don’t think I’ll ever stop finding it cool that it’s in what used to be Obama’s office when he was still Senator.
My trip this time, though with the Democrat Club, was just to see the city. Even so, our stay got a wonderful injection of interesting politics.
On our first night, we finished dinner and saw the next street over from us blocked off, and we decided to stick around to see what was happening. At first, we heard that Obama was dining with David Cameron. Then we heard it was Obama and Biden. Eventually, the rumors changed to Hillary Clinton and the Prime Minister of Israel.
After waiting for a bit, we finally saw a crowd of people emerge from the posh restaurant. It ended up just being Israel’s Prime Minister; we were a little let down since we built ourselves up for Hillary, but it was still a fun experience, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I mean, have you ever seen the Prime Minster of Israel?! Plus, it was interesting to see all of the precautions that had to be taken. The streets and sidewalks by the restaurant were blocked off, and the customers who entered the restaurant had to be checked by security to get in.
The next morning, we also saw Michelle Obama as her motorcade drove by us on her way to a book signing. Later that night, we were hanging out by the Washington Memorial when we saw what was quite possibly the President go by: A huge motorcade drove by us, accompanied by two helicopters. We watched as the helicopters flew over us on the National Mall and landed at the White House.
As would be expected, we got several infusions of grassroots, state, and federal politics at the Capitol. During the time we were in DC, there weren’t any huge marches at the Capitol. We had expected to see something of the Occupy movement, but we didn’t come across any of the Occupiers. I don’t think I was the only one in our group who was surprised to find that one of the only protests we came across was a small group of people in front of the Capitol protesting circumcision.
The lack of activity outside the Capitol was made up for by all of the things that were happening within it. We had a chance to sit in on a Senate session. When I went, it was just a small group of Senators discussing legislation that might prevent what they referred to as a “cyber 9/11.” When some of the other people in our group went, they were excited to see John Kerry there. For anyone who is remotely interested in politics, these sessions are a great way to feel involved in current events.
The coolest thing we did in the Capitol, however, was to meet with Senator Sherrod Brown for a morning coffee. I liked him a lot before (both times that I lobbied at his office, we actually ended up just thanking him for his continued support in our respective causes), but after meeting him in person, I admire him even more.
He had each of the people introduce ourselves and say where we were from. I was surprised when he actually knew where my tiny village of Minster was—he actually told me a few facts about the county it was in, too. (“That’s the only county fair in the state that serves beer.”)
After our introductions, he talked to us about what we’re doing to get UC’s student body politically active. We explained our GOTV strategies and the “pledge to reg” system we’ve been using so that we can register students to vote when they move back to Cincinnati in the fall.
We didn’t have much time, but we did get to discuss some of his policies, and we loved what we heard from him. Senator Brown is genuine and charismatic and one of the most liberal senators in Congress; it’s definitely an honor to have him representing Ohio.
Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find experiences like rallies or coffee with a Senator, but regardless of whether you’re looking for them or not, you won’t be able to escape the interesting political experiences that come in our nation’s capital. I can’t wait to see what I uncover on my next visit to DC!