Beating Statehood for D.C.

Radical Democrats, not content to control all three electoral elements of the federal government, are urging that two new states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., be added to the union.  Legislation to make Washington D.C, a state has already been drawn up.   Given that Democrats control both D.C., and Puerto Rico overwhelmingly, this would ensure at least four more permanently Democrat-controlled seats in the U.S. Senate, thus potentially ensuring Democrat control of that body for generations.  Democrats correctly view the nineteen months between now and the 2022 Congressional elections as their window of opportunity to consolidate their electoral stranglehold on American politics.

While it is crucial to defeat their proposals to do away with the filibuster and to defeat their companion effort to make permanent and nationalize the measures they took in swing states to stack the deck against Republicans, it is also time for Republicans to prepare for the battle ahead and respond to the arguments Democrats make in favor of the proposal to make D.C. a state with concrete proposals of our own.  We must get ahead of this onrushing train. 

To this end we must acknowledge that with respect to Washington D.C., the district is not what it was when Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson agreed that the site on the Potomac should be set aside as the seat of the national government, or when Pierre L’Enfant laid out the original plan of the city.   Jefferson regarded the region as little more than a swamp where nobody would ever want to live.  To him, that was one of its greatest features.  Geography itself would ensure that the federal government would remain small and ineffective.  Accordingly there was no reason to provide for congressional representation of those who lived there. 

But today over 700,000 people live in the city and over five million live in the metropolitan area.  They have a legitimate claim that they deserve representation just like American citizens who live in any other American city.  As it is, Democrats claim that the citizens of D.C. suffer “taxation without representation.”  Since approximately 47% of the residential population of the city is Black,  Democrats also make the claim that the failure to grant representation to the city is yet another example of the racism that is said to pervade American society and politics.  Both of these claims have a powerful emotive force and can persuade a great many  people that this is an injustice that needs to be made right.  Republican claims that neither of these outcomes was intentional, though historically accurate, will persuade few that reform is unnecessary or inadvisable.   It is the demand for political and racial justice that will carry the day.

Democrats almost always clothe their most radical demands in the language of justice.  We can expect them to do so in this case.  This is one of the reasons so many of the general public tend to support otherwise outrageous demands made by the left.  When Americans perceive an injustice, they want to remedy it.  In some cases they even feel guilty and want to atone for it.  Hence the support for “reparations” for slavery, an evil that was abolished over a century and a half ago.  After all, most Americans perceive themselves as fair.  Fairness is generally seen as one of the most important of American virtues.  So Democrats are often successful in making their demands on the basis of “fairness,” or as they now call it, “equity.”  Republicans need to be able to meet Democrats on the same ground and they need to do it pre-emptively before the Democrats seize absolute control of the moral high ground and frame the issue as best suits their objectives.

Accordingly, Republicans and conservatives generally should acknowledge the inequity of the situation and propose a solution of their own, one that grants representation to most of the 700,000 people, predominantly African American, who live there, yet doesn’t transform the district into a state entitled to two Senators.  What follows is such a proposal.

Given that 100 percent of the territory that now constitutes the federal district was ceded to the national government by the state of Maryland, why should the federal government not retrocede to Maryland all of the district that is not currently occupied by the actual seat of the government, retaining only the facilities on, or immediately adjacent to the Mall such as the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, the White House, the Library of Congress, the monuments, parks, museums, administrative offices and buildings that are currently owned or operated by the federal government?

In this way all the residential neighborhoods and private businesses, parks and municipal facilities that are not part of the federal government, would revert to the state of Maryland and to a new city of Washington shorn of federal facilities.  Those who reside within the newly drawn boundaries of the city would become citizens of the state of Maryland. They would vote for representatives to a newly formed city council, newly established statewide electoral districts, and brand-new congressional districts.  They would be eligible to vote for senators from the state of Maryland.  Meanwhile the state’s congressional delegation would be expanded to accommodate the additional 700,000 new residents.  Washington would become the largest city in Maryland.

In this manner, all those who now live in Washington D.C. and are disenfranchised will be able to vote for their own representatives in Congress, the state house, and their own city council, just as all other Americans do. No longer will Democrats be able to claim that African Americans in the district are being disenfranchised or that they are the victims of either racism or taxation without representation. Justice will have been done, the racial issue will have been transcended -- and Democrat ambitions to gain another two senators will have been thwarted.

Meanwhile, the federal government, through Congress will still govern all remaining federal facilities and will become much like the Vatican, a city within a city.

Image: Peter Fitzgerald