D.C. Is An International Political Playground

For this blogpost, I would like to share two observations. The first is on my experience visiting New York this past weekend. The second is on my continuing internship in Washington, D.C.

New York

This past weekend I had the luxury of visiting New York again. This time I went to New York to visit my friends. And I noticed something about New York that I didn’t notice the last time. When you are walking around New York’s packed sidewalks, there is a sense in which a person’s unique individuality melts into the collective whole, an ectoplasm of people moving from one point to another. That sense of being one of many, I think, drives many of the behaviors that I observed this past time.

When you are one of many, you are much more egotistical, more wanting of the attention that distinguishes you from everybody else. One manifestation of this egotistical desire is the legendary work ethic that I observed in New York. Having crisscrossed the country interviewing over the last couple of months, I can say with a modicum of certainty that the office culture I observed at New York was different.

Another inclination fomented by this atomization of the human experience is a desire to reclaim uniqueness. For my own part, I reached back into my Armenian cultural heritage. Instead of visiting notable landmarks and museums, my friends and I sought out pockets of Armenians in New York. Indeed, one of the pictures you will see is of me in front of one of the oldest Armenian businesses in New York, Baruir’s.

Washington, D.C.

When you live in Berkeley, you know you are living in a politicized environment. Posters and flyers and chalk remind you that your community is engaged in civic life. Every once in a while, you might even see a transient reading “The Stranger.” D.C. is also politicized, but in much more subtle ways.

One example of such politicization that is somewhat sinister is Russia Today’s placement of billboards near Farragut West that criticize Colin Powell. Russia Today, for those who do not know, is the Russian state-sponsored media. Farragut West is a major metro stop that nearly all individuals who work within the White House get off at.  In other words, people who work at the White House are greeted by criticism from the Russian government every day on their way to work.

Politicization is not always sinister. Politics is a topic of discussion and spirited debate in a way that it is not in Los Angeles, where I am from, or even Berkeley. This was particularly true during the midterms. And for the record, I suspect that the conservative midterm victory should lead to an improvement in governing. Not necessarily because more conservative policies will be enacted but because if conservatives would like to win a presidential election, it is incumbent upon a solidly conservative legislature to deliver policies instead of stymieing President Obama’s efforts.


David Mkrtchian is a UC Berkeley senior studying economics and law. He is interning with the President's Council of Economic Advisors as a Matsui Washington Fellow.