The Charge: We’re not a real city.
The Defense: Define “real.”
The argument that Washington is a phony town is fairly simple—after all, someone literally invented it. And, like the manmade capitals of countries as far-flung as Australia, Brazil, and Pakistan, it was a pretty empty place for a long while.
Of course, unlike brand-new counterparts—Myanmar’s capital was established barely a decade ago in what was once sugar-cane fields and rice paddies—we’ve had 200-plus years to grow an actual city atop the planners’ grid. Which is why, these days, the allegation leans more on the idea that Washington is a land of transients, lacking the old ethnic neighborhoods of a place like Philadelphia.
And we’re lucky for it. People migrate to cities that are economically and culturally vital. That ambitious types from Kansas or Connecticut move to the Beltway is a sign of health. So is the fact that our major suburban counties are nearly a third foreign-born. Would you prefer living in a place newcomers avoid?