Presidential Debate-DC Style

Although the election this year is causing a greater than average amount of chaos in the Congressional Fellows placement process, it is absolutely amazing to watch this process from a ringside seat in Washington DC.

I have already been paying closer attention to the national elections than ever in the past, and that is true of my fellow Fellows as well.  To avoid needing to change offices in January, it’s best not to work for someone in jeopardy of losing his or her seat.  It’s OK to work with someone who has a comfortable lead, though, so we all regularly consult the polls of the Senate races on www.electoral-vote.com.  The House is a rules-driven body that functions because of strong procedures.  Since those procedures are established by the majority party, the minority party has significantly less influence, so every House race is important, and it’s a bit more challenging to find information on those races.  The Senate races are also important since the majority has certain privileges involved in shaping committees, but the Senate is considered to be a group of equals, so being a minority member is less restricting

Pre-debate preparation proceeded with all the deliberation of planning a Super Bowl party.  Where will we watch the event?  Who has cable and a big screen TV?  Do I want to be with fans who will cheer for my team?

My own preparation for watching the debate took me to a wine store.  I asked for advice on a nice bottle of Chardonnay, and the wine manager asked, “What are you having with this?”  I replied, “A Presidential debate.”  Without turning a hair, the manager selected a bottle in my price range and announced, “This one goes down very smoothly and should be just right.”

I arrived at the debate party only about five minutes early since I had neglected to allow my normal 10 minute buffer for my inevitable disorientation and bad choice of direction when I emerge from a Metro station.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much I look over the google map in advance or how long I ponder my choice when I arrive, I always start walking away from my destination.  I suppose I need to simply accept this will always be the case, and if I actually make a correct choice, I’ll have cause to celebrate!

This particular party was one where no one knew anyone else, and as often happens at those parties, it was a rousing success.  I was enchanted that we were each handed Debate Buzzword Bingo cards to mark up while the candidates talked.  I’m including a photo of my own winning card.  It did get a bit distracting at times when my fellow party-goers would triumphantly call out, “Obamacare” or “Democrats” at random times, but I felt the outbursts really enhanced the quality of the experience.

My winning buzzword bingo card

It was a hoot to spend the debate with a group of fledgling policy wonks who could knowledgeably announce that a certain study had been discredited and even that the people who published the study don’t believe it anymore.  I’m not sure if the next two debates will be quite as exciting, but this one was great fun.

As for the Chardonnay, it did indeed go down smoothly.  That part wasn’t debatable.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Presidential Debate-DC Style

  1. Virginia Pence

    Thank you for a delightful description of what Fellows do while listening to a debate. It sounds as if you had a great time, made some new friends, and the one thing I find missing in you debate card is WOMEN. I think I picked up the challenge to watch for that word from AAUW, and I’ve noticed since then that a great many other people were also disappointed that, yet again, the men forgot that women also vote. MOM WOW

  2. All of our bingo cards were different, so it’s vaguely possible that someone else got that card, but I suspect it’s not likely. We were watching on CNN, which had a graph on the bottom showing the reactions of undecided voters while each candidate was talking. When Obama spoke, the lines were both generally positive, but the women’s line was higher than the men’s. When Romney spoke, again the lines deflected positively, but the men’s line was higher than the women’s.

  3. Bob

    Your experiences are all very interesting, but I’m astounded that after a full month you still don’t even know who you will work for or what you will be doing. Perhaps that’s normal for DC.
    Soon you will have enough experience to get a job as a guide on the duck tour!
    (Your bells miss you)

    • I miss the bells as well, Bob. I will say that two weeks of my “working” was orientation, so it’s not quite as bad as it seems, but indeed, we are starting the third week of placement, and ten out of 30 of us are still hunting for the right office. I have great sympathy with job hunters these days!

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