Want 52 Democratic Senators? Make DC A Damn State!
The "Taxation Without Representation" plates are back on the presidential limo, and there are pending bills in the House and Senate proposing to make the District of Columbia the 51st state. No wonder that craven sumbitch Mitch McConnell was so hot to preserve the filibuster — if we nuke it and add DC, we could have two more Democratic senators by 2022.
Hey, maybe we should do that!
"Our nation's capital is home to more than 700,000 Americans who, despite our nation's founding mantra — 'no taxation without representation' — pay their share of taxes without full voting representation in either chamber of Congress," wrote Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), the sponsor of the Senate legislation. "In fact, despite paying more in federal taxes per capita than citizens of any of the 50 states, DC residents have no say in how those taxes are actually spent."
With 39 co-sponsors, including Homeland Security Chair Gary Peters, the bill will finally get out of committee for a vote. So we can have that public debate about the fundamental fairness of relegating US citizens who want to be a state — 86 percent of them voted for it in 2016 — to second class citizens deprived of federal representation.
Over in the House, DC's Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting member of Congress, has 208 co-sponsors for her version. The Democratic House already voted to upgrade Delegate Norton from second class congressional citizen last July. But with Senators Ossoff and Warnock handing Chuck Schumer the gavel, DC's bid for statehood will finally get a vote in the upper chamber.
And, yes, that is a vote we're going to lose. Well, "lose," even assuming Joe Manchin (D-WV, pop. 450,000 at admission to union) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ, pop. 217,000 at admission) vote for it, since Republicans are sure to filibuster it. But it still matters that we're having that debate.
Let Tom Cotton (R-AR, pop. 450,000 at admission) get up and dogwhistle about the lack of miners and loggers in DC. Let Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA, pop. 82,000 at admission) blarp post-colonial nonsense about the District being "not prepared financially" to assume control of its own house. No doubt Mayor Muriel Bowser would welcome a discussion of her city's AAA bond rating compared with that of, say, Illinois or New Jersey. Forty-eight percent of the land in Wyoming (pop. 582,000 today) belongs to the federal government. And Uncle Sam owns a whopping 61 percent of Alaska (pop. 224,000 at admission, population 'bout the same as DC today).
So, yes, let's have that conversation about who gets to be a state. Because we Americans like to think of ourselves as fundamentally decent people who believe in individual rights. Public opinion flipped on gay marriage when most of us agreed it was cruel and un-American to stigmatize gay families and their kids. We got rid of three-strikes laws and sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine because we decided these laws were racist and wrong. We can win on DC statehood (and Puerto Rico, too, if they want it) because it confirms the right of every citizen to have a say in our own government — something central to our American identity. We didn't dump tea in the Boston harbor so that some of us would get to vote (giant asterisk acknowledged), and denying citizens representation is wildly at odds with the history the wingers love to tout in their weird paeans to American exceptionalism.
This is a good issue for us, and an absolute shitshow for the GOP, particularly in light of the failures of policing at the Capitol on January 6, which can be traced in large part to DC not having control of its own National Guard. Make them defend this position day in and day out. Turn it into the next bathroom bill — hell, maybe we can get those Q-caucus loons to champion the opposition, that'll make the position even more toxic.
Fifty-first state, y'all. Bring it on.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.