Shutdown & Show Up: Expectations Essay

It is certainly a chaotic time to be arriving in the District of Columbia. A clock ticks and ticks on national news channels, tallying each second that has passed since the government shutdown first began. Uncertainty plagues the nation as 800,000 or so federal employees wait to see their next paycheck. Bipartisanship seems at its all-time low as all attempts to cooperate have so far failed. It must be the perfect time to evaluate what our democracy really means in the heart of all the confusion and unpredictability.

My expectations have been upended the last few weeks. I have had the fortune to be in Washington for a whole month — I interned before my sophomore year in Summer 2017. Although that time was chaotic, it didn’t have the urgency of a shutdown and a newly divided government. In this trip, I expect to be challenged. I expect to question the purpose of even having a politics major in times like these. I want to ask myself how to show up and protect the values I care about when there seems no way out. I expect to wonder what it all means — why does any of this even matter in the first place?

Issues that will continue to concern me are the rule of law and successful cooperation. Corruption has been at the heart of the legacy of this administration, and I am incredibly worried about the continued legitimacy of our country as we anticipate the reports from SDNY and Mueller. Last time I was in DC, I walked by the Watergate hotel and found myself awestruck at the cycle of history. I also hope for a reinstatement of working across the aisle. How do we center the benefit of all Americans in our work? How do we go beyond the “politics” of it all to create real, successful policy? Is our dysfunctional government beyond repair?

I hope to come to conclusions about what this newly divided government signifies about the American people. I am fascinated by voter behavior and reactions to ongoing issues. Argumentation is at the heart of what it means to be American. But can it have resolution? I want to go into government relations (and I do hope to network with professionals in that field — both in firms and nonprofit organizations), and I’d like to deeply reflect on the reason behind the profession in the first place.

I hope to have something tangible to bring home to Iowa. Elizabeth Warren announced her candidacy at the end of 2018, and more will probably throw their hats in the ring within the next few weeks. But what kind of Democrat can even survive the turmoil that is today’s politics? Who will show up and bring sanity? Who wins at the end of all of this?

Let’s make some sense out of this chaos.

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