Finally, change has come to Washington. Maybe.

Giddy out-of-towners wax rhapsodic about the new president, the once-and-future reformer the second coming of Mr. Smith, the man who will finally straighten out Washington – provided he doesn’t get sucked into a vortex of corruption and shady doings (which, given the presidential track record, is all but inevitable). Perhaps, just like the Texans and Arkansans before them, these poor Chicagoans will be no match for the septic tank that is our nation’s capital.

It is an article of faith in American political life that coming to Washington, D.C. will change you. Something about the city and its inhabitants turns even the most noble, decent public servants into boozing, grafting louts. It’s tragic how the depredations of our city corrupt these bright-eyed, fresh-faced politicians. Of all Washington’s entrenched interests – the lobbies, industries, unions and PACs – none is more maligned than the vast federal bureaucracy – that abstract place where, according to popular belief, paper-pushers burn all our tax dollars in giant furnaces.

And that’s not all. If people aren’t complaining about the government, then they’re complaining about the traffic. If they aren’t complaining about the traffic, they’re complaining about the weather – speak to someone who spent August in Washington and you might think he spent it building the Panama Canal. To add insult to injury, I recently read an article that described Washington as Hollywood for ugly people. “Welcome to Washington: miserable, corrupt and ugly.”

We don’t get no respect.

Perhaps the only place in the nation that attracts more scorn than Washington is San Francisco, but at least the good people of San Francisco have a representative in Congress – the speaker of the House, no less. In D.C., we get the worst of both worlds: Our reputation is tarnished by a government that we can’t even vote for. Somehow, when the representatives from everywhere else come here to collectively screw up, it’s our fault. To adapt Porfirio Diaz’s famous quote about Mexico: Poor D.C.! So far from God, yet so close to the federal government!

The end of this predicament may be in sight – since the Democrats are back in power, we may finally get representation in Congress. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), has wasted no time in reintroducing a voting rights bill. The measure, which failed in 2007, would grant D.C. a seat in the House with full voting rights and would allow Utah an additional representative for political balance. The 2007 version passed the House and was reported out of a Senate committee, only to die on the floor of the Senate thanks to a Republican filibuster.

With the arrival of Obama and his changeocracy, Norton hopes the bill will be passed. “We know from national polls that our bill has broad bipartisan support from the American people, and we have every reason to believe that we will have the support this year of both houses of Congress and the new president,” she said in a statement.

Given that this is perhaps the sixth or seventh attempt and that such a bill might be challenged in the courts, I’m not going to hold my breath. But it’s nice to know that most Americans think we should have voting rights. If D.C. is going to be synonymous with the train wreck that is the federal government, then we deserve to be able to help run the train off its tracks.

I suppose that if this bid for voting rights fails, we could always revive an obscure attempt from the 19th century to move the capital to St. Louis. Maybe if they were saddled with the burden of Congress, they wouldn’t be so smug about their damn arch.

Sebastian Johnson is a junior in the College and is studying abroad at the London School of Economics in England. He can be reached at johnsonthehoya.com. Tale of Two Cities appears every other Monday on www.thehoya.com.

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