The Shift

Mark Leibovitch, chief national correspondent for the NYT Magazine recorded his impressions of Washington DC,  the town that melted down.  He paints a portrait of Sean Spicer trying to survive "in the shadow of a capricious force".  He sketches John McCain, in a permanent funk "traveling the globe to the point of weariness, seemingly on a personal mission to reassure allies unnerved by Trump." He describes the institutional Republicans walking around looking "as if they were bracing for a chandelier to drop on their heads".  Most compelling of all are cameos of the bit players: the staff members, lobbyists, newspeople, policy wonks in permanent agitation, seeking almost religious consolation in the "old-normal rituals" of a world gone by -- like the Congressional baseball game -- only to see them turned into a shootfest by a Bernie groupie.

Is there no balm in Gilead?  None apparently.

Things used to reliably fail in Washington, Leibovitch recalls. "In 2013, I published a book called 'This Town,' an anthropological snapshot of the gilded, inbred carnival of early-21st-century Washington. It portrayed Washington as a permanent feudal village of bipartisan politicians, former officeholders, celebrity staff members, lobbyists, journalists, hangers-on and usual-suspects of all stripes. No one seemed to ever leave, because why would they? So-called change elections came and went — Obama in 2008, Tea Partyers in 2010 — but nothing seemed to change, except that the people involved seemed to grow richer. Washington kept celebrating itself while the rest of the country became more and more disgusted. The book’s original subtitle, 'The Way It Works in Suck-Up City,' reflected a city of norms, fixed positions and predictable guidelines. This was a static system, and you could always figure out how to game it if you stuck around or paid someone who did. This was the Swamp that Trump had promised to drain."

But at least it was predictable.  Now this smug city has turned into a haunted  "Tokyo-on-the-Potomac" cowering in the capricious presence of a brooding Godzilla.  But maybe Trump isn't Godzilla after all: only his shadow.  Mark Zuckerberg, on a visit to Williston, North Dakota described an encounter with a primitive force.  In his Facebook page Zuckerberg produced this dispatch from the frontier.

The invention of new techniques to fracture rock (fracking) to extract oil led to a boom where tens of thousands of workers moved from all around the country to pursue new jobs in this industry. ... They come here because these are good jobs where people with a high school diploma can make $100,000 a year. ... The school superintendent told me about how the school system went from shrinking and closing schools to surging from 500 to 1,500 students in less than a decade. ...

When the Dakota Access Pipeline was approved, that removed $6-7 per barrel of cost from producing oil in the region, which brought more investment and jobs here. A number of people told me they had felt their livelihood was blocked by the government, but when Trump approved the pipeline they felt a sense of hope again. That word "hope" came up many times around this. One person told me the night the pipeline was approved, people lit fireworks and rode trucks with American flags down Main Street to celebrate.

It's interesting to see this perspective when science overwhelmingly suggests fossil fuels contribute to climate change, which is one of the great challenges our generation will have to deal with.

Many people I talked to here acknowledged this, but also feel a sense of pride that their work contributes to serving real needs we all have every day -- keeping our homes warm, getting to work, feeding us, and more. They believe competition from new sources of energy is good, but from their perspective, until renewables can provide most of our energy at scale, they are providing an important service we all rely on, and they wish they'd stop being demonized for it. ...

I believe stopping climate change is one of the most important challenges of our generation. Given that, I think it's even more important to learn about our energy industry, even if it's controversial. I encourage all of you to get out and learn about all perspectives on issues you care about too. Regardless of your views on energy, I think you'll find the community around this fascinating.