Jun 28, 2013 | By Bethan Johnson, NETWORK Intern
In a week of 5,000 postcards, 40 hours of work, 13 hours of Texan filibustering, 11 Senate office visits, 5 Starbucks trips, 4 major Supreme Court decisions, 3 wrong stops on the Metro, 2 Congressional sittings, and more weight gained because of delicious food truck lunches than I’m willing to admit, at first glance my first week interning with NETWORK would appear to boil down to the number one—one successfully Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Having never worked in federal politics, my knowledge of Washington came almost exclusively from The West Wing and The New York Times. When imbibing information from these kinds of sources, certain nuances get lost. For me, Washington became the manifestation of pure belief in statistics.
In a town seemingly obsessed with numbers and among people who rely upon figures to write policies, vote on legislation, and even to understand themselves, I wondered how I would fit in amidst the figures. As I rode the bus to work I thought back to the emails I had received in the weeks before arriving: “think federal budget, taxes, and debt limit.” The email seemed to confirm my suspicions: everything in Washington boiled down to numbers.
My boss told me to prepare myself for work on appropriations and taxation, which would—theoretically—shake out over the course of my stay Washington. I wondered what, aside from making coffee and drafting meeting minutes, I could add to anything so calculated and divisive.
You see, numbers and I never seemed to get along. I never could sit through a math class without my mind drifting and I decided upon History and English for majors in college in part to escape math. In short, the sum total of my mathematical capabilities is my parlor-room trick of doing simple computation in my head. And even though I’d spent years arguing for social change and studying America’s political movements, the concept of belonging to such an official and intense political community felt foreign. I wondered how long it would take before they spotted the intern.
Although the answer to that question proved to be “not long,” it was soon overshadowed by the mountain of work left before the truly life-altering decision on comprehensive immigration reform. I walked into the office to be put to work almost directly. I was thrust into meetings on strategy and development before I’d even figured out where the bathroom was.
And then, before my very eyes, my intern life began. I quickly discovered that as