DC isn’t cool. It’s boring. The hip and cool new DC residents brought to town to work for the Obama administration? Uh, they’re “hip” and “cool” in a really, really relative sense. Like, cooler than 50-year-old Heritage Foundation senior research fellows.
DC is boring. It’s small: 591,833 residents, with a “daytime population” of a million. (Some like to enlarge the “metro area” to include Baltimore, making it the fourth-largest such area in the country, which is like claiming Philly is a part of New York) And if you’re counting the whole metro area, you’re counting people who live in the least cool places in America: the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
Sure, 30 years ago DC had Bad Brains and Minor Threat, and today it still has, uh, Ian Svenonius (the Sassiest Boy in America!), but the intervening years have gentrified the hell out of a quarter of the city proper and kept the rest in abject urban poverty, more or less. Not a great recipe for “cool”!
There’s no “creative class” of monied young jerks showing up in DC with the express purpose of wasting their funds making indie dance music, starting literary journals, or even buying researching jobs at Vanity Fair. The biggest celebs are TV pundits. There is no DC equivalent of a Beatrice Inn, except maybe the entirely non-exclusive (and so old!) Cafe Milano.
And even if we’re just talking about DC stealing New York’s thunder with the death of the financial sector, trust us: they’re not going to enjoy the spoils of obscene imaginary wealth with the same flash as our bankers once did.
Your DC congressional staffer is typically a well-meaning (or formerly well-meaning) dork who dresses and drinks like he did in college. Or they’re just fratty assholes. The career bureaucrats managing the money at Treasury and the Fed? No bonuses = no bottle service (this is a pretty good argument for moving all the money to DC actually, btw).
(There is still a lot of cocaine, though.)
Just today, Lady Peggy Noonan summed up her own warped interpretation of the mood of New York: “And now Washington becomes the financial capital of the country, of the world. Oh, what a status shift. Oh, what a fact.”
Well, if New York is no longer America’s financial capital because all the banks have been nationalized, that probably means DC is not actually the world’s financial capital, so much.
(In fairness, the Air and Space Museum is pretty cool.)
Send an email to Alex Pareene, the author of this post, at firstname.lastname@example.org.