I Don't Have Representation in Congress
by Matt Stoller, Thu Mar 15, 2007 at 12:45:55 PM EDT
The irony of living in DC, the nation's capitol, and not having the right to representation in Congress, is rich. I'm in a particularly odd position because I'm always asking all of you to call your representatives and Senators, and yet, I can't call my own for any impact. That could change.
A congressional committee approved a bill yesterday granting the District a full vote in the House of Representatives, giving the measure its first victory in what will probably be weeks of fierce wrangling as it moves through Congress.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted 24 to 5 for the bill, an endorsement its supporters expected. But in a likely sign of things to come, there was feisty sparring, with opponents calling the measure unconstitutional and marshaling amendments to derail it.
The lack of voting rights in DC is a remarkable and unique holdover from the 18th century, though it's now used mostly as a way of voter suppression of the hundreds of thousands of African-Americans who live in the district. It's personally very humiliating. I can't engage in the most civically critical activity in a democracy simply because of where I live. Political activity in DC splits aggressively between local and Federal politics, with many people who work in Federal politics saying things like 'everyone in DC thinks XYZ', with the word 'everyone' having a very elitist and racially tinged ring to it. Local politics here for many residents who live Hill-centered lives is a curiosity, and the lack of Federal voting power creates an aggressively atomized city that bleeds into the culture of Federal policy-making. You can't underestimate the demoralizing effects of stripping someone of their right to vote. About every couple of weeks, it's a personal outrage.
If you believe that disenfranchising African-Americans en masse is a serious threat to the progressive movement and democracy, and that giving meaningful voting rights to all Americans is important, you can take action here. I, unfortunately, can't.