Culture

The L'Enfant Code

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Fans of the dog whistle genre of political punditry might enjoy this attempted entry from U.S. News blogger Jamie Stiehm. After a meandering intro (did you know the cities of Madison and Washington "have the sweet scent of democratic government in the autumn air, along with rustling leaves"?) we get to the ineffable argument:

Fargo North, reporter

David Pfouffe, organizer for Obama's appearance at the DAR Constitution Hall in the nation's capital, invited multitudes to come to hear the president speak in Washington, "D.C." Ouch. Return with regrets to sender, please.

Adding the "D.C." to Washington every chance they get is part of the Republican code. Haven't you heard the way they speak the name? George W. Bush was a master of this art, adding his best prep school sneer to the two extra syllables. It is a distancing mechanism, a way to telegraph to listeners a distance–and a fundamental disrespect–for the federal government.

This not-very-nice nuance is a common practice among Republicans in Congress: speaking of Washington as if it's foreign. As if they are not standing on the ground in this graceful city, under a marble dome inspired by ancient Rome. The city of "magnificent distances" doesn't deserve to be "dissed" like that.

I probably don't have to spell this out, but here on Planet Earth we call Washington "D.C." to distinguish it from Washington "state." Comforting though it would be if anyone who added that suffix to the city's name had a healthy libertarian disrespect for the feds, I'm not nearly optimistic enough to believe it.