News & Politics

Why Young Congressional Staffers Are Making Anonymous Meme Accounts About Their Jobs

“It's Congress. The whole place is a living, breathing meme.”

Photograph via iStock.

Picture a junior Congressional staffer. Are they young? Probably. Overworked? Yes. Underpaid? Likely.

Do they use Instagram? If the answer is yes, they’ve almost certainly seen a wave of meme accounts populate their feed in recent months. Since late last year, at least 15 anonymous Instagram users have been regularly posting highly specific memes about life as a Congressional staffer. The follower counts keep climbing: on January 21, one of the most popular accounts, @americas_staff_assistant, reached 2,000 followers. (Now, it’s almost at 3,000.)

The people who run these accounts tell Washingtonian anonymity is what make these meme pages tick. Junior employees can collectively bash their bosses—and share relatable complaints—without fear of repercussion.

There are accounts for (nearly) every profession and posts for (nearly) every frustration. Legislative correspondents, communications staffers, schedulers, and staff assistants all get their own handle. Niche content includes: running to grab something from the Senate cloakroom, fielding press inquiries from nosy reporters, struggling to down “Sodexo’s mass-produced slop” in Longworth, managing overeager interns, scheming to get Senate gallery tickets during the impeachment trial, “getting scolded by a Member for being in the Member’s elevator,” Rayburn Subway employees using too much mayonnaise, anxiously asking your boss to review your work, tracking down your boss’s lost luggage, too many typos, angry constituents, too much coffee, too much booze, and just straight up being exhausted.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. Some people post about the pride they feel when their bosses speak on the House floor, or jokingly speculate about how to sneak into the White House.

“Working in Congress is incredible. It’s an absolute privilege,” says @tired_press_secretary, a Congressional staffer in his mid-to-late twenties. That being said, “In what world do you need to float a draft tweet through a 6-person approval process via text?”

“It’s Congress,” he continues. “The whole place is a living, breathing meme.”

The staffers behind these accounts keep their eyes peeled throughout the day for content. “You send out a press release with broken links and typos, meme it,” says @tired_press_secretary. “Your intern is collecting signatures and somehow drops the letter with original signatures on the Rayburn subway tracks–meme it.”

In general, “the best memes have to do with current events on the Hill,” says @memes.house.gov_, who started posting to their account in mid-December after discovering another popular account, @congressional_scheduler. “Oh, Chris Evans is on the hill today? Great, everyone loves Chris Evans. Perfect meme content.”

Some grievances with Congressional workplaces are more serious than others, as the 22-year-old digital specialist behind @theecommsstaffer points out. Junior congressional staffers typically make about $40,000 to $50,000 per year in a very expensive city.

“This is an outlet for all the angst I feel as someone who feels powerless, overlooked and unheard,” she says. Also, “Capitol Hill staffers are overwhelmingly white and affluent. I felt like creating my account, in a way, showcases the black experience on Capitol Hill,” she says. “I don’t feel pressure to code-switch or change myself to appeal to the audience. We deserve to hold space and show up as our true authentic selves in our jobs, even in something as trivial as memes.”

@theecommsstaffer started her account in January and has since garnered nearly 400 followers. She says she can make a post in about three minutes, and they range from complaints about racist micro-aggressions in the office to awkward encounters with bosses. The positive reactions to her posts make the hard days feel less bad. “There is a sense of comfort in knowing that I am not alone in the way that I feel,” she says.

The accounts differ in their approach. Some post videos, text, and edited images haphazardly; some adhere to a rigid meme format. Most of the accounts are unpolished, as the best memes usually are. Some account runners display a clear party preference, while others keep their posting strictly nonpartisan.

@tired_press_secretary started posting on January 10, and he’s already gained more than 1,000 followers. “In a way, the account kind of blew up,” he says. “I’m pretty proud of that. Maybe not proud enough to put it on my resume, but it’s nice to think about.”

“It’s been fun to put my observations about the faux pomp and circumstance into memes,” says the woman behind @congressional_horse_caucus. “I just look around and I’m like, ‘Oh, we’re all just kids walking around in a trench coat trying to pass as important.’”

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Nora McGreevy
Editorial Fellow

Nora McGreevy joined Washingtonian as an editorial fellow in January. Originally from South Bend, she has worked for The Boston Globe and the South Bend Tribune. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame.