The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell deeply reported stories about the ideas and characters that animate America’s government. For fifty years, we’ve hired plucky young writers probe and explain the topics that are critical to our nation but seldom understood. To celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, twenty of our former writers and editors revisited one of their most important pieces. They looked back at stories that had an outsized impact on the world or on themselves; that presaged something big to come; or that were totally wrong in an interesting way. What you’ll find is a range of essays—from Nicholas Confessore on how Republicans came to own K Street to Amy Waldman on how home shopping channels helped birth Donald Trump. Together, they paint a five-decade long picture of power and politics in Washington.

Why We Started Paying Our Interns

It all began with a disastrous job interview.

How Congress Came to Pay Its Interns

It was one small step to make a big difference for Washington and American democracy.

If Only John McCain Had Run as a Democrat

In 2002, it wasn’t as implausible as it sounds today.

Why Music Videos Can Do Political Blogging A Little Bit of Good

My strange contribution to the Monthly’s Political Animal Blog.

Still Missing: The Women Wonks

Why are think tank panels are still dominated by men?

The Liberal Reagan You Never Hear About

He wasn’t the ideologically pure conservative Republicans make him out to be.   

The Man Who Invented Celebrity Politics

How Walter Winchell created the media environment that enabled Trump’s rise.

Was I Too Hard on the Mormons? Nope.

In 2001, I argued they were a regressive force in American life. Despite their opposition to Donald Trump, they still are.

The Baby Boom Was a Bust

Unfortunately, the generation does not have a political legacy to be proud of.

The Washington Redskins: Even More Awful Than You Thought

How a professional football team started a trend that would genuinely harm America.

How the Democrats Got Their Faith Back

That time we said they should start courting religious voters—and they listened.

Donald Trump, the QVC President

He preys on the lonely and the alienated—and then scams them.