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Washington vs. D.C.: How the Shutdown Pits the Government Against Its City

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
October 2013
Atlantic Monthly


Official "Washington" is wrestling with how long the government will stay closed. But for "D.C." and the less-well manicured suburban neighborhoods far from K Street and TV stand-up locations, life will continue regardless, as government workers try to figure out just how "essential" they are.

When I was a college intern working for free at a network-news bureau, a young brunette flush from the GOP's 1994 wins told me over drinks on Capitol Hill, "You really have to pick one side or the other if you ever want to work in this town." I furrowed my brow and remembered that she was from Florida; it wasn't her fault that she didn't know that a lot of us actually came from D.C. and Maryland and Virginia. We had friends and family and godparents whose jobs depended not at all on people in power keeping their power. So long as the federal government's lights stayed on, so would ours. The jobs may not have been exciting, but they were stable. And they allowed homes in Lanham and Cheverly and Temple Hills and places in between to be bought and kids to be raised by those who had them.

There is Washington and there is D.C., and they are two separate places divided only by a handful of miles. I have lived in both and can detect few — and ever fewer — points of overlap.

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