The recent Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Cap-to-Cap event had all of the logistical challenges of a major military campaign. Three hundred or so Sacramentans camped out in the Washington, D.C., Mayflower Hotel, conducting strategic guerrilla-like forays into the great Washington government bureaucracy, trying to negotiate much-needed federal aid and support. These troops needed to be fed, housed and entertained.
I’ve been going to Cap-to-Cap for the last seven years. These trips are overwhelming, like a four-day chamber of commerce mixer. They are an annual tradition, complete with their own folklore. Rookies have distinct badges, so the veteran attendees can help them with the rituals. For a brief four days, we put aside our disagreements and unite around the common belief that more Washington money should come to Sacramento. For four days, these 300 men and women all gear up for battle in their dress suits. While we are effective at bringing home the federal dough, we also get a chance to spend quality time with our fellow business and political leaders of Sacramento.
Now that I have made many annual migrations to our national capital, it becomes easier to compare and contrast the ever-changing Washington mood. On my first trip, just after President Barack Obama had been elected, there was hope—and Obama souvenirs everywhere. After the tea party wins in 2010, there was the nasty gridlock. When the country was deciding between Obama and Mitt Romney, there was the sense that nothing could be done. And since 2012, there has been an ever-increasing political polarization.
And now on this trip, as you can imagine, there was a new and very different Washington vibe. First, the Obama administration is trying to complete its legacy. It’s a legacy the administration feels very good about, for good reason. The country was in the worst economic crisis since the Depression and it was able to restore the economy despite having to fight ongoing political battles with the Republicans. The Obama team passed the Affordable Care Act, and dramatically improved our relations with countries around the world. Historians will look kindly on the Obama administration.
And then there is Donald Trump. And there is Ted Cruz. And the thousands of political experts who never in a million years thought the Republican Party would be choosing between these two knuckleheads. It is like being weather forecasters who believe they know weather, and then one summer day, Los Angeles is buried in five feet of snow. It is hard not to lose confidence. And the experts have lost confidence. We are in uncharted waters, and you can feel this throughout Washington.
While on this trip, I asked numerous Republican Sacramento chamber members who they were supporting in the June primary. I thought it was a reasonable question. After all, the primary is just a few weeks away. Not one person identified a candidate. Each gave me a look that implied an upset stomach. It is going to be an interesting election and could be a major realignment of the parties.
I am looking forward to the 47th chamber trip to Washington, which will be held next spring. It is safe to say there will be a new vibe in our national capital.