Every year in mid-May, I have the opportunity to take a group of undergraduates from my home institution, Villanova University, to Washington, DC for a three-week program where they get to meet high-level policymakers and explore the political process from the inside. The program begins Monday, so for the next three weeks I will continue to bring you commentary on the political process with the added insight of what I learn from talking to people who are in the middle of it. My posts may be a bit shorter than usual because running the program requires 15-hour days, but in exchange I hope to offer a sense of how official Washington is reacting to what transpired during the primaries and what may be ahead.
This will be my ninth consecutive springtime in Washington, and each year the place has a slightly different feel depending on what’s happening in the political world. In 2008—the last time an administration was on the way out—the expectation of a Democratic victory that fall had already been factored into just about everyone’s thinking, and it was hard to find a Republican aide or official without an updated resume and a sense of resignation about what was to be. Democrats were ebullient in 2009, months after the first Obama inauguration, and there was a palpable sense of action and possibility. This dissipated quickly, and DC felt like an entirely different place the following year as the Tea Party election loomed and Republicans sensed their time was returning. So it will be instructive to see how Washington feels this year, just days after the heavily hyped meeting between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan. I will relate what I learn. And I promise not to lose my outside-the-Beltway perspective.