“I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp, spending my evening with all of you with a much, much larger crowd and much, much better people.” -Donald Trump, Remarks in Pennsylvania on the 29th of April in 2017
While the fact that Trump would purposefully scorn the people who ACTUALLY got him elected is not surprising, it’s still non-traditional for a modern President to not attend the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Through the late Bush and Obama administrations, it became a sort of venting space for the holders of America’s highest office to express their sense of humor (or at least the one they had written for them), a properly humanizing venture away from the constant thrusts and parries of the 24 hour news cycle. However, Trump, who is alleged to almost completely lack a sense of humor, is once again back to his strange cycle of public denouncement and private reconciliation, holding his own rally on the date of the correspondents dinner in some mixture of spite and unwillingness to face a hostile crowd. However, like many people, I’m honestly burnt out on active rage against Trump- while I loathe the man, there’s little citizens can do to face the executive when the legislative branch is a much more important target. Instead, I feel I should look at a more common piece of political rhetoric in our day and age- the description of the fine city of Washington DC as a “swamp” that needs to be drained.
I had never thought to question this description as anything but a clever bit of history. It’s a common story in history classes that the city was built in a particularly swampy region of the mid-Atlantic, situated at the intersection of two major rivers (the Anacostia and Potomac) with countless other small tributaries nearby, which reportedly made summers here unpleasant. So imagine my surprise when I saw a link to this article in the middle of the election cycle, alleging that DC’s swampy nature was about as real as Comey’s investigation into Clinton. So, we’re confronted with the question- why do people keep repeating something that is evidently a lie?
It perhaps naive to ask a question with a quite obvious answer- it’s just a bit of rhetoric used by those who consciously position themselves against the “corrupt Washington establishment.” We tend to thing of swamps as negative- dark, dirty, filled with all manner of ungodly creatures and strange folk. Why not add this on to the constant barrage of negativity our fine city receives by degrading it more? It’s not hard to look and find politicians who campaign on the idea of punishing DC for being a flourishing urban area, even when they can’t find proper evidence of it. All this is to say that, much like most of our modern political sphere, falsehoods that feel good continue to be effective. C’est la vie, I suppose.