Visitors to Washington who want to see democracy in action traditionally waste their time at the viewing galleries of the Capitol building where -- if they are lucky -- they might see one or two legislators mumbling mechanically for the C-Span cameras. It is, as everyone knows, a big letdown -- a disillusionment that is cited whenever smart young people relate how they got to be so wise to the world.Wait, the "conservative years" ended? Heh, I needs to go make a restaurant reservation now, only it's not for me (dudes, like, for real -- it's my job!). And then I think I needs me a Manhattan.
However, had those same visitors merely walked across the street to Charlie Palmer Steak, they would have seen the machinery of conservative governance in action. This was the place for political spectatorship, where you could see the questions before the nation actually being resolved -- and you could do it over a meal, too, saving yourself a trip to Applebee's later.
You could start with the miniature lobster corndogs, a nod to the deep-fried treats of your red-state youth (but made with lobster, get it?), and then you could slyly bribe yourself with a plateful of the domestic Kobe sirloin, sixty-eight dollars. If you were smart, you would wash the whole thing down with a half dozen Manahattans -- you'd need them. If you looked around while you ate, you would have noticed that this was not the dim windowless steakhouse of your weekend debauches in Topeka. It was light; it was open; its polished limestone walls were accented with delicate Wedgwood blue; a curtain of glass showcased the prosperous diners to the sweating world outside. And did you notice that pond burbling fountain in the middle of the restaurant? And the heavy steel ingot that propped up your menu?
It's because of classy touches like those that your congressman never did move back to your home state, regardless of what he used to say about "sharing your values." Speaking of that congressman of yours: If you were lucky, you'd see him here. Indeed, for the price of that steak you could watch him and his fellow members make decisions on matters that would affect you for the rest of your life. And you might have noticed he was making those decisions in close consultation with nonmembers -- people just like you, in fact, only with better hair, better clothes, better teethc, better manners, and a better job working for far richer and more important people than you.
There is nothing new about persuasion-for-hire in Washington. What was new in the conservative years was the size of the lobbying industry and the blithe acceptance of its enormous role in matters of public significance...
Friday, August 12, 2011
Perversely Amusing Quote (long)
Readers, you have no idea how much Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew is amusing me. Here's another quote: