Last year, my good friend Derek Newberry and I, along with our staff adviser Professor Alex Dent, conducted a research project that focused on the culture of low level staffers and interns on Capitol Hill. Our findings were just a scratch on the surface of a huge world and culture of politics that has had very little anthropological work done in its field. There are many things that all play an intrinsic part of the framework of politics, from the subtleties of the way you greet someone (ie a firm vs. weak handshake, or presenting a business card) to the way people are reached, or not reached as in taking messages, returning phone calls, or eluding conversations by saying that they are "in a meeting." Our main focus was the way new staff members, or even members of congress are treated. In many cases our research drew parallels to the way fraternities work. The more experienced staffers or congressmen would assign menial or senseless tasks in order to break them down. However, as time wears on, staffers and congressmen get a large view of how the whole scheme of politics works. This is often referred to as "Washington insider knowledge" used with people whole live "inside the beltway."
Anyways, I was watching a lot of CNN today, as the big democratic takeover is taking place. As I watched, and listened to analysts like Wolf Blitzer, Lou Dobbs and all the cronies at the top of the media, new stories were emerging for the first time, my favorite being the amount of money lobbyists are shelling out, financial earmarks on bills and whether or not one should greet Nancy Pelosi with a kiss on the cheek or not. These are all things that are at the heart of politics, and coming to light with a very inexperienced, and less "inside the beltway" experience. Is this enough to actually cause change? Or will these stories get swept under the rug as the newbies embrace the insider learning curve? Just as a college student and waiter in Washington, I feel like I know what really goes on in politics. This leads me to believe that Wolf Blitzer knows all these things too, and has for a while, but didnt report them. Will he continue down this path of "new" information, or will Washington up its ante and put a stop to the enlightenment?