Washington’s political class has been turned upside down watching traditional Beltway wisdom shrivel on the vine throughout this presidential election cycle. It’s time to throw orthodoxy by the wayside and get back to the basics of American elections: booze.
Pundits and politicians forget how integral alcohol has been to U.S. politics. In fact, the foundation of our first president’s political career was paved with liquid gold.
George Washington lost his first political campaign when he ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses at age 24. He chalked the loss up to not plying voters with enough booze. When he ran again two years later, he bought 144 gallons of beer, rum, punch and hard cider, according to author Daniel Okrent, and he won. Go figure. When you provide about a half-gallon of booze for every vote you receive, you better win!
It’s time for today’s presidential aspirants to tap into the sudsy goodness that made politics great in America’s infant days. Trump’s comedic dominance in this year’s race has moved the nation further away from the coolheaded statesmanship the nation’s first president hoped would embody his successors. Still, all hope isn’t lost: the state of our beer union is strong.
Nothing embodies that more than thumbing through the upcoming primary schedule. The great thing about the Washington region is that you don’t need a seat on a campaign’s charter jet to enjoy the myriad of beers that primary voters are wildly toasting (or crying into).
So come with me and take a stroll through the primary calendar from right here in the DMV.
March 15: North Carolina
I’m predicting this election will be injected with booze politics sooner than we’ve seen in the past, and Ashville, N.C. – the unofficial beer capital of the East Coast – is where politicians would be wise to hit the local bar scene in full force.
Voters there come out on the crucial March 15 primary. It’s admittedly hard to find most of N.C.’s best beers in DC. But there seems to be a North Carolinian picking the kegs at ChurchKey on 14th Street. They have four different local choices on tap, including a 12-month aged barley wine from Fullsteam Brewery and a light porter from Foothills Brewing.
But if you really have a hankering for Ashville’s finest brews, just stop by the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Patrick McHenry, who is a co-chair of the Small Brewers Caucus. He has a nice little fridge that’s usually brimming with his town’s finest craft brews. Tell him I sent you!
April 5: Wisconsin
The next big primary contest is on April 5 in Wisconsin – the home state of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. In honor of his drink of choice and all of the big, watery beers coming out of the Badger State, that seems like a good day to just grab a Miller Lite (what the Speaker was sipping during the Super Bowl), which you can snag for a cool $3 a pop on Tuesdays at the Cleveland Park Bar and Grill on Connecticut Avenue.
APRIL 19: New York
The New York primary on April 19 seems like a great day to get toasted in honor of the state’s two leading presidential contenders: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If you’re a Trump supporter, you likely have bad taste (yeah, I’m looking at you, Chris Christie!), and your presidential candidate is a teetotaler so maybe just grab a decaf tea and leave the rest of us alone that night!
For Clinton supporters, you might as well put on some skin-tight hipster jeans and sip a cold one from Brooklyn Brewery, which is just a short jog away from her campaign headquarters. Iron Horse Taproom and Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Northwest have been known to showcase some of their specialty brews. If you’re an energetic Bernie Sanders supporter, that’s promising to be a night where you want to avoid being in public. Sorry.
APRIL 26: Pennsylvania
The race to the White House may be more clear when Pennsylvania voters weigh in on April 26 than it was in 2008 when then-Senator Obama was duking it out in a tight contest with Clinton. You could tell they were both pandering to blue collar voters, because Clinton allowed herself to be filmed taking a shot of whiskey and Obama sipped a Guinness for the cameras.
But hey, I wish more candidates pandered to voters with booze! In honor of the PA contest, head out of DC and go to the classic Philadelphia Tavern in Manassas, Va., where they’ve been known to showcase a wide variety of special Yards Brewing Company ales based on the original recipes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. If they’re out of the brews from our founding fathers, just crack a Yuengling and watch the returns roll in.
The nation is at a crossroads and it seems like it’s silly season when it comes to political discourse. But there’s no reason to despair because the craft beer revolution is alive and well. So even if our politics suck right now, keep your chin up as you keep sipping.
Matt Laslo is a veteran congressional reporter and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s MA program. He hosts the craft beer and politics show “Bills and Brews.” Follow him on Twitter: @MattLaslo