Saying No to the Slog

National Journal Magazine

By Nora Caplan-Bricker

When Alex Wirth was a freshman at Harvard, he became smitten with the idea of creating a presidential youth council to give young people a direct say in government. So, when summer came, the then-18-year-old did what any preternaturally political college student would: He went to Washington to make it happen.

Wirth asked the White House for an executive action, but he spent most of his summer trudging around the Hill, seeking allies for his idea the old-fashioned way: via moderately educated guesswork and contacts. (Wirth is the great-nephew of former Sen. Tim Wirth of Colorado and the son of a state senator from New Mexico; he also was a Senate page in high school.) It was, to say the least, a disheartening experience—"this wild goose chase across Capitol Hill," he recalls now. When he was able to talk to lawmakers at all, most told him they didn't have time for him, or promised to think about his resolution and then never called back. He left incredulous and frustrated with Washington in a way that only a digital native could be. Was this laborious, inefficient, unscientific process really how lobbying worked?...

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