David Broder traveled 100,000 miles a year, talking to obscure party functionaries and precinct captains and people who rarely even voted, all in search of the facts that would feed the political machinery of Washington.
His column ran in 300 newspapers and he appeared on Sunday morning TV talk shows a record number of times, but he seemed a bit puzzled and awkward when strangers recognized him in airports or on the street.
“He would never go to the Washington parties — he had contempt for that kind of journalist,” said Haynes Johnson, a longtime Post colleague of Broder’s who has written political histories based on their shared belief in the power of street-level reporting. “He trusted the voters, and he never tired of hearing from them.”
To Broder, politics could be a sport every bit as enjoyable as his beloved baseball — although not a blood sport. Beneath the superficial game of winners and losers, Broder was always tugging sources and readers back toward what mattered. Which is why his service attracted a row of former and current Cabinet members and senators from both parties, including former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who met Broder nearly half a century ago and quickly learned that “he was different from the other reporters. He didn’t play games and he wasn’t always in a rush. He was thoughtful, and he cared about policies and people.”
Said Vice President Biden, who delivered the final eulogy: “He covered Washington with no malice, no sentimentality and no excuses.”
Memorials tend to draw an older crowd and can be given to laments that things aren’t what they used to be. This service included wistful recollections of a time when politics wasn’t as angry or polarized, and when the news business operated at a pace more given to contemplation. But George Broder noted that in the first day after his father died last month at 81, he was the subject of more tweets on Twitter than was Charlie Sheen. And the Facebook page devoted to Broder is a catalogue of tributes from old and new media alike, a compendium of evidence that reporters of all generations saw in Broder the realization of their passion to make journalism democracy’s truth-teller.