I am a ninth-generation American. My ancestor John Purdum came to Maryland from Wales in the early 1700s. My great-great-grandfather Samuel Purdum, born in Montgomery County in 1801, saw the light in the sky when the British burned Washington in the War of 1812. Now I know how he must have felt.

As a teenage House page in the late 1970s, I roamed the halls of the Capitol every day—even climbed the tiny, curving stairs to the top of the dome—and have returned repeatedly as a reporter in the decades since, most recently a year ago to cover Donald Trump’s impeachment. I once witnessed a near fistfight on the House floor. I saw Rupert Murdoch and a passel of well-dressed Republicans run for their lives down the steps of the Senate when a stray airplane (it turned out to belong to the governor of Kentucky) unexpectedly breached Washington airspace before a memorial service for Ronald Reagan in 2004.