DC

DC

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Wagering on Our Reputation

As a twenty year old, I was somewhat politically involved.  I was a full-time college student at SUNY Stony Brook, and a part-time super market employee (I spent Friday and Saturday nights stocking the dairy aisle of the local Waldbaum's for spending money).  I was a political science major; the duly elected President of the Stony Brook chapter of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law "Fraternity" (yes, sadly, that is a real thing); and a proud member of the College Republicans (this last one may come as a surprise to people who know P3 now).  Despite all this, I still had friends and, for a time, even a girlfriend.  But I digress . . .
 
Suffice it to say, I was motivated; I was excited for the future; I had goals and ambitions, many of which were centered on law and politics.  As President of the pre-law fraternity, I often organized campus-wide speaking events involving local politicians.  As a member of the college republicans, we campaigned for Republicans running for local and state wide office.  I remember hanging out with actual Congressmen and, as a twenty year old, feeling like I was a part of something important.  I spent several election nights at the local Republican watch party (or, whatever it was called), hanging out with other like-minded people, waiting for the results to come in and the candidates to take the stage for their speeches.  Looking back now, twenty-three years later, I sort of hate my old self.  Or, at the very least, I shake my head in disdain at my naiveté.
 
Upon graduation, I moved down to Washington, D.C. for law school at George Washington University.  You'd think this would have been a fantastic fit -- law school in the center of the political universe.  Indeed, after my first year, I nearly spent the summer interning for the House of Representatives.  But, ultimately, a minor detail known as "money" sent me back home to Long Island to spend the summer working at the Suffolk County District Attorneys' Office, while living, yet again, with my parents.
 
I graduated law school in 1998.  Along with my new-found legal knowledge, I graduated with $100,000+ in debt - an almost unreal number for a twenty-four year old (of course, nowadays, I believe a JD from GW costs nearly three times as much).  I spent two years "clerking" for a judge in D.C., making, if I recall, $32,000 a year.  It was hard to live in D.C. on that salary.  And, by the time my clerkship ended, I had added nearly $40,000 in credit card debt to my financial profile.  By that point, any notion of public service was pretty much dead.  And so I did what many young lawyers do - I sold my soul in 2000 and went to work for a big law firm. 
 
Within two years, I was debt free.  Also, within that relatively short time, my perspective on many things had changed.  I had relatively little motivation to "succeed" professionally; in fact, my only motivations were to bill hours to secure the best bonus; and to have as much fun as humanly possible when I was not working.  My perspective on politics was likewise drastically altered during this period.
 
I spent only eight months at my first post-clerkship job.  I joined the D.C. office of a national firm head-quartered in Cleveland, Ohio.  It was, pretty much, a sinking ship from the moment I stepped through the door.  One of the D.C. "rainmakers" was a lobbyist and close friend of George W. Bush, and I recall supporting Bush throughout that election process on the thought that, if Bush won the presidency, our office would likely benefit.  The thought of an actual Bush presidency was a minor aside.
 
But I was gone from that first firm before the election ever took place.  I jumped ship with two partners and one other associate, and we headed across town to join the D.C. office of the one of the biggest firms in the world.  There too, we had somewhat of a horse in the Bush vs. Gore debacle, as one of the Shareholders from the Tallahassee office represented Bush in the post-election litigation.  But, more notably, it was there that I worked in the same office as Jack Abramoff and his team of "lobbyists."  Frankly, I don't even recall personally meeting Jack, aside from seeing him around the office on rare occasions.  But I did get to experience the benefits of our association, as did most of the firm's lawyers.  Jack had a luxury suite at Camden Yards.  Not the law firm; Jack.  Jack had his own suite.  It was behind home plate, and directly adjacent to the Washington Post's suite.  It was one of the various places he and his team would take those in positions of access and power to wield their influence.  Several times a summer, a bus, filled with booze, would take us associates to a game.  It was awesome . . . so long as you did not think too deeply about the basis of this perk.  More often, we'd run into one of Jack's underlings in the lobby at the end of the evening, and they'd invite us out for drinks. They always paid; it wasn't their money.  They always had a "client" to bill the evening to.  I'd be treated to free beers and drunken stories about what these guys did for a living.  The only cost to me -- whatever little optimism I still possessed about this country's political system was crushed.
 
Now, twenty-plus years after watching election night with the candidates at Republican County Headquarters, I consider myself about as apolitical as a person can be.  At least a few times a month, I'll be on the phone with attorneys from somewhere far away waiting for a conference call to start, and the small talk will inevitably lead to, "so, what's going on in D.C. these days?"  I never know.  I simply don't care.  What's the point?  The system is utterly fucked.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I have not voted in the past two elections, in part because I now consider myself a Democrat and Maryland always goes blue as a matter of course, regardless whether or not I vote.  But more so because of my disillusion with the entire political process.
 
This year, however, will be different.  I re-registered to vote; and, this afternoon, I'll leave work early to cast a ballot.  Don't misunderstand - my disdain for the process has not changed.  Quite the contrary.  I sit back and think -- "how the fuck did we get to this place?"  As a Democrat, I wonder - "HRC?  This is the best the Party could come up with?"  I'm by no means excited to cast a Clinton vote tonight.  But, I will.  Because, like, the alternative?  What. The. Fuck!    
 
Given our political system, and the nature of its checks-and-balances, the President is, for the most part, constrained in the impact -- good or bad -- that s/he can have.  President Obama said it best during his (fairly) recent visit to Marc Maron's podcast; to paraphrase, "the best you can hope to achieve is some incremental change . . . to move the needle just a bit."  I'm not as worried as some about the impact a Trump Presidency would have on our country.  Rather, I'm more just embarrassed that it has come to this.  There's not much that can be said about Donald Trump than what has already been said countless times.  In my view, he's a disgrace of a human being.  I don't even get to his policies (assuming he actually has policies).  He's an asshole of a person and that, in my view, should eliminate someone from holding the highest, most prestigious office in the world.  I mean, is Donald Trump the guy you want as this Country's international representative?  Is this what we as a nation have come to?
 
Obviously, there are many people who disagree.  I'm not sure what Trump supporters base their decisions on.  I'm sure many simply refuse to vote for Clinton, either because she's a woman or because of the supposed crimes she's committed by maintaining work emails on a private server.  Many others, I'm sure, are simply fed up with the establishment's status quo and think that Trump will somehow be a welcome change.  There are, apparently, people who think that eight years of Obama have been a bad thing.  I'm not sure what these folks think Trump is going to do to improve their lives, but, if I were to guess, I'd wager it somehow involves guns, the notion that "all lives matter," and repealing "Obama Care" . . .  And, finally, others likely find accord with Trump's message - he says the things they think.  These are clearly the most frightening lot of the bunch.  I guess everyone is entitled to their voice.  At least these folks are readily identifiable and can be more easily avoided. 

It's no secret that Trump's base is largely comprised of uneducated men.  When it comes to deciding a President, this can't be a good thing.  In a related note, it's also been shocking to witness the role of social media in this campaign season, specifically, the amount of false-information being disseminated across platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  This too plays right in to Trump's base -- people who are unable, or refuse, to look behind the meme and base decisions on fact rather than spin.  Frankly, what I've witnessed on social media these past few months, even from friends and relatives, has been embarrassing.   
 
I'm going to vote today.  Then I'm going to stay up, nervously, awaiting the election results.  Regardless of the outcome, I'm not sure there will be any real winners among us.  If Clinton wins; cool.  I'm fine with four more years of the same.  And if the misogynistic, egomaniac and likely, mentally ill, former host of Celebrity Apprentice wins this thing, I'll still be fine.  Hell, my consolation prize will likely be more money in my pocket, which is nice.  But if Trump does somehow win this election, I'll spend the next four years living in shame of what we as a country did on this day.             
 

14 comments:

  1. Our system can't come up with a better choice than these two? Call me a cynic, but imo it's an indictment of our system that is broken and probably can't be fixed.

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  2. Great post, nice to learn more of your back story (I'm @wendoverwill on twitter). It's funny my twenties as a young USAF officer and my trajectory to today is similar to yours (but I'm 7 yrs older). Hope to play a hand or two of poker with you some day!

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  3. I don't know if you are a South Park fan or not PPP but suffice it to say they have boiled down the 2016 election as a choice between a giant douche and a turd sandwich. Sigh...

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  4. SIDE NOTE: Minnesota did eventually live down having elected Jesse Ventura as their governor. I was surprised Trump did not choose Jesse for his VP pick.

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    1. who would want Jesse? big time liberal, at least Pence is a strong social conservative, who mentions God and how much of an influence he has on his life. no wonder his characters so much better than Trumps.

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  5. Hillary called the Donald and congratulated him on his victory and apologized for how ugly the campaign had turned. The phone was silent. Then Hillary asked the Donald if he had anything that he would like to say to her? To which the Donald replied: “go make me a sandwich”.

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  6. I'll admit - I never saw this coming. I never thought trump had a legit shot at president. Still in shock.

    s.i.

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  7. It is the opposite with me. As a young man I was a care free liberal (had a heart). Since approx. age 35 after becoming a parent and starting a business, I became a conservative (found my brain). As for what the lame stream media (arm of the Democrat party) has convinced you what Trump supporters are, it is false. I suppose you would be happy with all the welfare cheats, drug addicts and godless people picking our president, again. I own a business and can tell you what many of my associates and fellow business owners and I have gone through the last 8 yrs. For one, back in 2012 just before election, business was booming in hopes of a Romney presidency. When Obama won his 2nd term, it all dropped dead. Now since Trump is going to be president, the orders are coming in like mad! Phones ringing off the hook, we can't keep up. Have to hire more people. Think of what this means throughout our country. More jobs, better paying jobs! Is that not better than creating a larger welfare state like what the Democrats constantly do? That and social engineering is what the Dems seem to focus on the most.

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    1. I appreciate the perspective. I don't know what type of business you run. I'm sure certain businesses will flourish under the administration. And, obviously, some percentage of "blue state" electorate supported Trump. As mentioned above, on a personal level, I too will likely benefit from Trump.

      My grip with him is that he's an asshole of a person. And, frankly, your rationale for voting for him is likely different from many, particularly people in red states. He sold them snake oil. I mean, what kind of jobs do those people want? What are they qualified for? Is Trump going to bring manufacturing back to those areas? Fuck no. Trump talks a good game; yet manufactures his own shit in China. I still believe a vast percentage of the people who voted for Trump had no fucken clue about what he realistically could/would attempt to achieve for them. And, if the rumored Cabinet appointments are true, Trump is going to be pure shit-show.

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    2. Remains to be seen. I am an e-commerce merchant.

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  8. Sell mostly to other businesses B2B

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  9. Just saw this now. Great read. One of your best posts; prescient points about many things that have been widely reported subsequent to the election.

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