When I arrived in Washington the day after the election, a friend from Minneapolis sent me a text to ask about the city's atmosphere. Was there excitement in the air as a result of the historic national vote? I texted back with an emphatic "yes!" Indeed, the city felt abuzz with a new energy; change was coming.
Of course, this is Washington, DC. Change comes with every election as some elected officials (and by extension, their staffers) win or lose a job. I remember in 2006 when the Democrats took control of the House and Senate in the mid-term elections. A professor who had been active in politics for a number of years told me to watch for the city's vibe to change with the influx of new faces. "Watch the style section of the Washington Post," he said, as apparently the exodus of Republicans meant we'd be seeing less "pearls and pumps." This time around, a local radio station ran a program dedicated to what kinds of new restaurants Washingtonians might see pop up to meet the tastes of Capitol Hill's new residents. It's as if the city completely reinvents itself every couple of years, and those of us who live here get to enjoy the ride.
This year is decidedly a bit different. The first black president, a strong repudiation of the long-time occupant of the city's most sought-after residence, and celebrations that filled the streets of DC on election night have created a special kind of buzz that I didn't feel in 2006 and probably hasn't been felt for many years. I stumbled across a good representation of that excitement at the Lincoln Memorial a couple of days ago. An enormous sign had been set up at the bottom of the memorial's steps, just in front of the reflecting pool. It was congratulating Obama on his victory and calling for the world to join together. You could feel the optimism in the air, and as a fan of anything international I thought it was pretty cool to see people from all walks of life (and all corners of the globe) contributing to the message.
Of course, I really just hope that a Chicago-style pizzeria comes to town.