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Lifestyles of the rich and famous Republicans; Or, What’s the Matter with McLean?

TNR writes about McLean, Virginia, with the none too subtle argument that Republicans are more vulgar than the Democrats they replaced in this posh suburb (which, by the way, was regarded as posh when I first arrived in the D.C. metro area in 1973).

Stated another way, Democrat elites wear their wealth with the gentility to which they were apparently bred, while Republican arrivistes can’t help but reveal their middle (or lower middle) class background by the excesses they practice.

According to TNR, apparently, we need a gen-yoo-wine ruling class, not the wealthy rednecks the Reagan Revolution and its successors brought to Washington. Democrats I guess know in their bones that "democracy" really can’t be run by common people.

What does Lawler, the native northern Virginian (I’m right about that, aren’t I?), think?

Discussions - 10 Comments

Would appear they’re just being true to their Jeffersonian beliefs. W/O the whole slavery thing of course.

Joe, the powerfully damning subtext of the article has everything to do with the amounts of money being generated in Washington that allows the nouveau riche excesses. The excesses, and the nouveau provenance of many of the rich in McClean, are simply signs of the amount of money many people can make due to their Republican political involvment.

Here’s the ’money’ quote that frames all of the author’s descriptions of ten-bedroom houses and guady sculptres: "Between 2000 and 2005, the number of registered Washington lobbyists doubled to about 35,000--and overal spending on lobbying grew by 30%, to $2.1 billion." I can do the "the rich you shall always have with you" riff as well as anyone, but these numbers suggest rotteness run amok. Put it this way: a class of nouveau riche arising in Michigan, California, or Texas suggests economic vitality, but one arising just outside of D.C. smacks of something else.


Hey, you forgot about me! I actually live in McLean, and even have a kid in one of the private schools mentioned in the piece (NOT Potomac--my books don’t sell that well). Although I often go running down Old Chain Bridge Road past Hickory Hill, I still couldn’t recognize my neighborhood in that piece, which is filled mostly with families of non-descript professionals. I don’t know a single lobbyist in my neighborhood--my immediate neighbor is an economist with the World Bank, another down the street is an economist with FERC; another neighbor who recently moved away is an FBI agent. In other words, it looks like most other DC suburbs I would think. How would Bethesda stack up against McLean in such a screen? Pretty easy to predict.

In the print version of the story, TNR ran a banner along the bottom of the page with the "A-List" of McLean, including Colin Powell, Pat Buchanan, Bill Kristol, etc. My pal Steve Moore was on the list. Only one problem: Steve lives in Falls Church. So much for fact-checking I guess.


I always knew that you were an arriviste. And I wonder what an article about Potomac, Maryland would look like....

For what it’s worth, here’ some contribution data from McLean (here as well: this is Terry McAuliffe’s zip). As for Potomac, it’s a little more Democratic, though the biggest giver is a Democrat putting a lot of money into a lost cause (his own effort to win the Senate nomination).

Bottom line: I doubt McLean is that different from any other prosperous suburb, though Hayward’s presence surely elevates the tone somewhat.

I do not suppose there was any comment about this
about something unusual in the water supply of the area.

"Last month’s testing at three tributaries emptying into the Potomac revealed that more than 80% of all male smallmouth bass found were growing eggs, according to Vicki S. Blazer, a fish pathologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

At a testing site in Washington, seven of 13 male largemouth bass showed some kind of unusual feminine characteristic, Blazer told The Washington Post. Six of the seven tested positive for a protein used to produce eggs and three actually carried eggs."

Knowing Steve’s interest in environmental issues, I thought this might be of interest.


The problem with "intersex" fish in the Potomac (and other places) is a wastewater problem, not a drinking water problem. And one of the likely culprits is--believe it or not--synthetic estrogen in birth control pills (but also in cattle feed and related operations) that wastewater treatment plants cannot filter out (since women pass much of this through their system). I am not making this up. In urban areas with high useage of birth control pills, the amount of synthetic estrogen in wastewater is detectibly higher.

Now, I’d love to sit back and watch the feminists go bonkers when the environmentalists propose to regulate birth control pills more tightly in urban areas on behalf of fish.

Steven - What did you mean, when you wrote that McLean "looks like most other DC suburbs I would think."?? How many other DC suburbs have you been to, driven through, or read about? McLean has a median household income of $121,138 and is 85% white, 1.6% black, 10.6% Asian, and 4% Hispanic. Scanning through some Census stats of D.C. suburbs/nearby towns that I know of/about, the only one that was very close to McLean in the income category was the tiny village of Clifton, VA, with a median household income of $111,048 (it’s 99% white), where every new home must be built on at least 5 acres of property. Maybe you’re mostly familiar with DC ’burbs like Bethesda (med. hh inc. $99K), Chevy Chase, MD (also $99K), Vienna, VA ($85.5K), Reston, VA ($80K), or Tysons Corner, VA ($74,151) and are all primarily white populations. But much more typical of "most DC suburbs" are places like Hyattsville, MD, which has a median household income of $45.3K and is 39% white, 41% black, and 18% Asian. Or Adelphi, Upper Marlboro, Suitland/Silver Hill, North Brentwood, Oxon Hill, or Silver Spring, all in Maryland, with median household incomes of $45.8K, $52.8K, $41.8K, $37.2K, $46.5K, and $51.6K, respectively, and racial composition that, suffice it to say, does not look very much like that of McLean. And a high percentage of people living in these ’burbs are obviously not power players at FERC, the World Bank, the FBI or AEI. Actually, it should be a pretty basic observation to note that most DC suburbs are not as white nor as wealthy as McLean is; take a Sunday drive all AROUND DC sometime and you’ll probably notice it.

Joseph - The fourth paragraph of your post seems to be mired in so many layers of facetiousness that I think your point was lost. Would you consider the average residents of McLean, Virginia to be "common people"?


I can’t speak for Steve, but I was a part-time resident of the D.C. metropolitan area for more than a decade and a frequent visitor for more than 20 years after that. The high school from which I graduated (in Prince Georges County) was racially pretty evenly divided and the neighborhood in which we lived was solidly middle class, but decidedly unfashionable. My folks later moved a little further out--to Calvert County--to get more land.

I don’t doubt Steve when he says that not all of McLean is hoity-toity, nor do I think that you’ve exhausted all the high-end D.C. suburbs (see Great Falls, VA and Potomac, MD, for two you’ve overlooked). And I’ve set foot in plenty of less than attractive locales in my years of wandering around the D.C. area, as, I’m sure, has Steve. So...give us some credit for knowing our stomping grounds.

Joseph - I didn’t know that you’d ever lived in the DC area, so my only question for you was one based strictly on the TNR article’s description of McLean and your interpretation thereof.

I would have automatically assumed that Steven knew his "stomping grounds," but then he said that McLean "looks like most other DC suburbs," which is pretty much absurd on its face. It is as reasonable as saying that Northwest DC looks about the same as SW, NE, and SW DC - which would get you laughed out of any bar in town. Yes, you’re right, I didn’t exhaust all of the high-end suburbs (and I also didn’t include the very populous Arlington, with a median household income barely half that of McLean, nine times the percentage of blacks, and more than 4x the Hispanic %age, etc.), but there’s no way that an honest appraisal of all of DC’s suburbs could lead one to conclude that McLean looks like "most" of them. Yes, maybe Steve has "set foot in plenty of less than attractive locales in [his] years of wandering around the D.C. area," also, which would make his assertion all the more baffling.

(And if credentials are being flaunted, I guess I better lay claim to the greater DC area as my stomping grounds as well, having lived in DC proper and VA and MD ’burbs for years, until ’04)

Steve, I was aware of this
type of study. Which suggests that to regulate birth control pills more tightly in urban areas may not just be for the fish and frogs, but a good idea for humans because it is not removed, by water treatment plants, from drinking water.

These medications are not filtered out, and therefore can reappear in aquatic habitats and even drinking water. The scale of these ramifications is currently not known. The reason I’m focusing on the birth control pill is because of its unique place as an endocrine disrupter.

Glancing around at, the studies seem to indicate that estrogens are in the drinking water of many urban areas but "possibly not," at this time, in concentrations high enough to have an effect on the population. I am not seeing that anyone has conclusively ruled out either a current or a future problem.

Could the intellectually mischievious propose a correlation between estrogen levels in the urban water supply and lower urban male aggression, or "Red State vs Blue State" issues, or even relative affluence as reflected in better wastewater treatment plants that might do a better job of filtering ED’s?

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