One Friday afternoon in July, two dozen neatly dressed young people trickled into a narrow office on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a few blocks east of the U.S. Capitol. From the outside, the building looked the same as the other stately row houses that line Capitol Hill. But inside, there was the unmistakable ambiance of a frat living room. Along the far wall, a collection of half-empty liquor bottles sat atop a decorative mantelpiece, next to a glass shelf housing a stack of wooden cigar boxes and a Lego replica of the White House. Across the room, a free-standing keg cooler dispensed cold brew coffee into paper cups. The space was mostly devoid of furniture, save for the keg, a fridge, a folding table and a few plastic chairs.
Yet the room's occupants, all interns from Republican congressional offices and conservative think tanks around D.C., weren't there to party — or at least not exclusively to party. Instead, they took their seats in the rolling chairs, pulled notebooks and pencils out of their backpacks and readied themselves for the day's seminar. On the agenda: How to take over the federal government, one junior staff position at a time.