The nation’s polarization since the 2016 presidential campaign and Donald Trump’s election has been intense. Now, it seems that this toxicity has even filtered down into the relationships between rank and file Capitol Hill staffers.
It used to be the case that staffers were able to associate with one another when they were not working, but those cordial, civil relationships between Democratic and Republican staffers are no more. A report in Roll Call says the following of the relationships between rookie staffers on The Hill:
“As the pre-2016 crowd moves into more senior positions — or says ‘See ya’ to the Hill for gigs on K Street — many veteran staffers fret that the 20-somethings taking their places are not making as many strong friendships across the aisle. Republican and Democratic staffers who spoke to Roll Call for this story agreed that the heightened partisan social rigidity since the election of President Donald Trump is more to blame than any other factor.”
One GOP staffer lamented how judged people on his side of the aisle felt when it comes to how they are viewed by their Democratic counterparts:
“There are plenty of Democrats who will judge you, even if you don’t work for the president or anything, [because] you’re working for the Republican Party in this era. They view all Republicans as shills for Donald Trump. And given how they view him, it can be tough for some of them to be accepting.”
On the other side of the aisle, one staffer believes that Trump has emboldened Republican staffers to “feel freer” to say unsavory things, given how Trump himself speaks. The Democratic staffer continued:
“I think we can all agree right now that the Democratic Party is kind of operating from a standpoint of very high moral standards and a low threshold for outrage.”
One Democratic staffer offered a blunt assessment of why associating with Republicans is something they have no interest in:
“I don’t really hang out with Republicans, and I don’t really have any interest. Why would I? I mean, we have nothing — values, ideology — we have none of that in common.”
It seems that Donald Trump really has changed Washington from top to bottom. It remains to be seen if things ever go back to the way they were in the pre-Trump era.
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Shannon Barber is a progressive queer feminist and budding political scientist. She is passionate about issues of social justice, including but not limited to racial equality, criminal justice reform, pro-Black politics, and LGBTQ equality. She hopes to change the world, one mind at a time.