Working and living in Washington, DC offers its share of surreal moments. Such as seeing Ralph Nader on the street every day, who attempts to hide behind a conspicuous floppy felt hat, or discovering that the unassuming guy you bump into every night when you walk your dog is in reality the political operative who spearheaded the war on John Ashcroft’s nomination. Walking home every night on 17th Street, I look at the after-work crowds sprawled out on restaurant patios and wonder who they really are -- what good or evil do these people commit every day in the halls of Congress?

Yesterday, I was introduced to a new colleague at work -- a guy who spent the last thirty years in journalism and politics. Noticing the Howard Dean paraphernalia stuck to my office door (as well as the embarrassing poster advertising EA’s “Return of the King” video game, a game I don’t even own), he told me that he just doesn’t like Dean.

“He’s just a rich guy he said, a Yale guy. He’s the same as George Bush.”

“Who do you support?” I asked.

He hemmed and hawed about Gephardt, but then told me, “Joe Lieberman has been around awhile, he’s a good man.”

I continued to grill him on his political interests, a subject he was delighted to discuss at length, despite the fact that he had to leave. What struck me most about the exchange, though, was that he wasn’t the least bit interested in why I like Howard Dean -- he could have cared less about my political beliefs at all. You’d think that if he disliked Dean as much as he said he did he would have been interested in just why I liked him -- but that didn’t seem to be the case.

And therein lies the problem with the Democratic Party -- its longtime members and leaders have no interest in what young people (and I’m nearly 30, so I’m not that young, anymore) have to say. They expect to field people they like -- like Joe Lieberman -- simply because of time served, and not because of the issues. And we’re expected to blindly go along with it and vote for whomever they’ve prescribed for the rest of us to support.

Is it any wonder that young people feel disconnected from the political process?