Despite the social dominance of Republicans for nearly a decade, a liberal network also exists. Oddly, it’s referred to as the “hipster scene”—in D.C. the term is synonymous with non-Republicans, not artsy types in tight pants and Converse sneakers—and predictably it’s much more low-key. Being conservative won’t get you banned from hipster hangouts, though they do have their own brand of exclusivity. On a Friday night, Marvin, a nightclub on U Street, is packed with a diverse group of characters, but the tattooed bouncer denies a guy in khaki shorts and a pink polo shirt entry, saying shorts aren’t allowed. A few minutes later a patron wearing artfully distressed shorts exits the bar.
On the same drag, Saint Ex and Local 16 are unofficial liberal hangouts, where Congressional interns gape at Democratic “celebrities” like Bill Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart and senior Gore adviser Michael Feldman. The Center for American Progress holds happy hours atop Local 16’s roof deck, and Terry McAuliffe and Congressman Artur Davis hosted a Unite for Change party for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supporters there.
During the Clinton administration, some U Street spots were decidedly Democratic. Simmons, the political analyst, remembers one Bush twin entering Stetsons in 2001—prompting his friend, who also worked in the Clinton White House, to declare, “They can have the Congress, they can have the White House, but they can never take Stetsons.”
Should Obama win the 2008 election, the party atmosphere among young Washingtonians is destined for—to borrow the candidate’s favorite word—change. “Washington gets its lifeblood from the people that come in with each new administration,” says Simmons. Meghan Gaffney, a fundraiser for Democratic organizations, speculates, “[Obama’s] staff is young and diverse, so you would definitely have a more stylish and interesting community.” (They’ve already staked out Lounge 201, right across from Obama’s Senate offices.) Even now, some Republicans say the president’s dismal poll numbers have clipped their social wings. “There’s a lot of animosity,” says one White House staffer. “You just want to go out with people who are like you, so you don’t end up debating.”
From his Georgetown fiefdom, Blair isn’t too worried. In spite of—or perhaps because of—the political climate, last year was his most successful yet. “The Bush administration...it’s funny, because we started at the same time. So many [of our] clients have come here over the last eight years to work for this administration, so it’s definitely been a great ride,” he says. “I don’t know what’ll happen if Obama wins—I’m sure it will affect business somewhat.” Then he grins: “But there’ll always be a lot of preppy grads in D.C., no matter what.”