51 State Strategy

I started drafting a long diary for Daily Kos making my case for why the time is right to push for statehood for the District of Columbia.  But first, I wanted to air it out here.

I won't put the whole thing here, but suffice it to say, we need to fix this problem, and half-assed solutions like retrocession to Maryland or the Davis compromise that gives us a temporary vote (along w/Utah, who just missed gaining a seat in the last census) or various other limited voting rights measures.

There are a host of arguments why it's the right thing to do.

There are a host of arguments why it's feasible.

There are a host of arguments why it's good for Democrats, even if we throw in a big bone for Republicans as a compromise.

The big question is timing.  Can Democrats maket his push now?  How much do we need to prepare Americans before we proposing adding a new star to our flag?  Or as I would phrase it, is the United States of America ready for democracy?  After all, it's not the country's gift to DC, but God's gift to Mankind.  Is the "Democratic" Party ready to live up to its name?

Who's with me on getting a real, serious project going?

Tags: DC, DC Statehood, Voting Rights, Washington (all tags)



Re: 51 State Strategy

for that matter, I'd even push for statehood to Puerto Rico.

by bushsucks 2007-01-03 07:25AM | 0 recs
resolving Puerto Rico

I agree that we need to resolve Puerto Rico's status, but that is a very different problem.  Puerto Ricans are exempt from federal taxation.  Puerto Ricans themselves are deeply divided over indpendence or statehood as a goal.  I'm not sure where I stand on it either.  I leave that issue up to experts who know more.

For the District of Columbia, independence is not an option.  But the status quo is intolerable.  Retrocession to Maryland is undesirable.  Limited representation (as in the Davis bill) addresses some of the symptoms but does not cure the illness.

by freedc 2007-01-03 08:11AM | 0 recs
Re: resolving Puerto Rico

Actually, one good  thing to come out of the Bush white house was a task force report that stated that PR status  needed to be resolved and that Congress needed to push PR toward some/any resolution.  It would set up a series of binding referenda, unlike the non-binding and unuseful ones that have been held in the past.

PR does pay federal tax, but not in the form of income tax.  Instead, we pay excise taxes, one is called the rum tax. It is assessed on each bottle of Bacardi you drink.  If it sounds like the Colonial Tea Tax...Bingo!

PR are not so deeply divided between independence and statehood.  We are divided about whether we think we can get a better deal from the feds than the current territorial status (without statehood) or statehood.  Independence polled about 8%, charitably, in previous plebicites.  The current status quo governor refers to PR as his "pais" (nation) all the time, blurring the line between independence and colony.  People here are afraid statehood will result in the loss of their language and their culture.  It is doubtful that either will be lost as a result of statehood.  McDonalds and Sam's Club are already major businesses and I don't see a huge influx of nortenos moving in to swamp out Spanish.

Status quo is intolerable here too.  Congress should not accept colonies (PR, US VI, Guam, DC, etc.)  PR should either accept the voting and statehood responsibilities that should come with their citizenship, or it should separate entirely.

BTW, since this is a lefty blog, I believe with 4 million people, PR  would get 6-7 reps and I suspect 4-5 would be Dems.  However, the current shadow rep is a GOP.

by The lurking ecologist 2007-01-03 10:36PM | 0 recs
Re: resolving Puerto Rico

Very nice summary, thanks. I always get worried when people bring up PR status because I'm ill-informed.  New Year's resolution for me: study the PR issue more.

by freedc 2007-01-04 05:53AM | 0 recs
Re: 51 State Strategy

It is an accepted opinion that the only way that DC can receive stathood is through an amendment to the US Constitution, because it is believed the constitution actually prohibits the US capital from being a state.  Since an amendment is not likly to pass the issue does not gain traction.

by THE MODERATE 2007-01-03 09:00AM | 0 recs
Please double-check the Constitution

You're partly right and mostly wrong on that.

The Constitution does not prohibit the U.S. capital from being a state.  The capital was part of Pennsylvania for decades before it was moved to DC.

The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 1, Clause 13) does allow for the creation of a federal district over which the Congress shall have exclusive authority.  The maximum size of the district is specified, but the minimum (including no district) is not.  Furthermore, there is no evidence that the Founding Fathers intended for the district clause be used to encircle residents and disenfranchise them.  In fact, Federalist No. 43 suggests that they were concerned about the residents' rights, both those of the ceded territory and those in the states that ceded the territory for the District.

Modern proposals for DC statehood do require a Constitutional amendment, either to eliminate the District clause mentioned above (nobody really proposes that) or to repeal the 23rd Amendment that gives DC votes in the electoral college as if it were a state.  That is, the current district would be shrunk down to the National Capital Service Area, consisting of the Capitol Building, White House, Mall, and related buildings, with NO RESIDENTS (other than the President and his/her family).  The rest of the land would be ceded to a territory to be admitted by Congress as a state (New Columbia).

"Since an amendment is not likly to pass the issue does not gain traction."  This is like saying that we should not have tried to pass the women's suffrage amendment because it requires amending the Constitution and therefore "does not gain traction."  Furthermore, this amendment (repealing the 23rd) would be uncontroversial once Congress decided to admit New Columbia.

If Republicans don't flinch at introducing amendments that would enshrine discrimination against gays or erode free speech (flag desecration), why are we so chickenshit about amending the constitution when basic political rights are at stake?

by freedc 2007-01-03 10:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Please double-check the Constitution

The merits of investing Congressional time in DC statehood can't be decided on a priori.

What's the polling, for instance? And not just the simple but useless what about making DC a state? But qualitative work exploring the issue in depth, informing polling designed to test opinion, including on salience.

Do we have any idea of the current balance in Congress on the issue? (Previous votes, for instance.)

What about the interest group pressure that could be brought to bear on MCs currently hostile or indifferent whose votes are needed to pass an amendment res?

And have any feasible Dem prez candidates expressed an interest in using political capital to support such a res?

I'm genuinely curious.

by skeptic06 2007-01-03 11:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Please double-check the Constitution

I'll do my best to answer you question, the bills to ban Gay Marriage or Flag Burning are very popular bills with the voting public at least the GOP thinks they are, and this is able to call the Democrats the party of Gays and Flag Burners to swing voters, and they hope it will stick with some voters, I am not sure it does the good they think it does but who know,s in a close election it might.  DC stathood is a subject that few care about.  When one listen to the Democrats issues I rarely hear it mentioned.  And if it even gets voted on as it did in 1994 when the Democrats last controlled the house it was soundly defeated and soon forgotten about.

by THE MODERATE 2007-01-03 11:26AM | 0 recs
Then walk away?

Here's what opposition to DC voting rights amounts to:

* Republicans (or fill in the name of the person or group) hate freedom.  They want to spread democracy, as long as the people who exercise it share their beliefs.

* [Republicans] hate black people.  They can't stand the idea of giving full voting rights to African Americans.

by freedc 2007-01-03 11:41AM | 0 recs

I meant to respond to the comment here.  See below

by freedc 2007-01-03 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: response

Argh. This was supposed to go in response to skeptic06.  I screwed it up again.

by freedc 2007-01-03 11:42AM | 0 recs
Current members' support

I don't have a whip count for you and I don't have polling data.  That's the problem, most Americans are not even aware of the issue.  Well educated people are usually surprised to hear that we pay federal taxes.  At the "thumpin'" press conference, Bush himself said he was unaware of the Davis bill when a reporter asked him about it.

Here are some preliminaries:  Tom Davis (R-VA), a member of the Republican leadership, has gone on record saying that the status quo is indefensible and sponsored legislation trying to give DC voting rights.  Utah legislators, whose delegation would increase, have obviously come out in support.  Senator Joe Lieberman (CfL-CT), whatever you think of him, has introduced the No Taxation Without Representation Act into the Senate every year.  Congressman Ralph Regula (R-OH) introduces a bill every year to retrocede DC to Maryland.  Republicans Jack Kemp and Bob Dole have voiced support for DC voting rights.

You see, nobody opposes the general idea of fixing DC's status, not even Republicans.  Everyone just ignores it.  

There is a tacit agreement to ignore the issue because, as you point out, the people who want DC statehood (or even voting rights) are disenfranchised powerless and mostly black. So who gives a fuck about them.

I realize that statehood is an uphill battle, and the only realistic way to achieve it will involve compromises with Republicans, who would understandably balk at a majority-black state that would vote reliably Democratic.  But the moral imperative to do something is strong, especially with every country that we invade with the rationale of spreading democracy, it looks worse and worse to pervert democracy in our own capital.

by freedc 2007-01-03 11:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Current members' support

This is a very real issue of fairness and representation of an amount of people about equal to the population of Vermont and greater than several other states.

by Quinton 2007-01-03 01:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Current members' support

Can DC be given a vote by Congressional Statute?

The Twenty-Third amendment talks about DC specifically, and in language that indicates that it is not a state.  Wouldn't a Constitutional amendment be necessary to give DC statehood?

by Valatan 2007-01-04 08:17PM | 0 recs
Re: 51 State Strategy

I support enabling all residents of Washington D.C. some sort of representation in the Federal Legislature (I also support it for Puerto Rico). I'm less picky about how (as part of an adjoining state or as its own state).

However, at the moment, I don't think it's the most pressing issue for me (I suspect that partially has to do with my never having lived in Washington D.C.); re-instating Habeas Corpus, and Impeaching Bush are higher priorities for me than 0.2% of the U.S. population being unfairly dis-enfranchised. For that matter, I'd put representation of Washington D.C. citizens behind voting rights for ex-Felons (Felons who have completed their sentences yet are denied the right to vote), who make up roughly 0.5% of the U.S. population.

by Zimbel 2007-01-03 02:27PM | 0 recs
Felons first, DC residents second

Hmm, I can see how everyone has their own issue preferences that trump mine.  Middle East peace, abortion rights, labor protections, minimum wage, education subsidies, and so on.

But putting ex-felons in line ahead of DC residents who haven't done anything wrong except be born or move into the wrong part of the U.S.?  I'm all for defining whether committing a felony should carry the punishment of revocation of voting rights or not and if not, restoring those rights upon completion of the sentence.  And I abhor the notion of voter roll purges that "accidentally" disenfranchise entire classes of citizens.  But come on, Washingtonians have ridden at the back of this bus for 200 years.

by freedc 2007-01-04 05:57AM | 0 recs
Re: 51 State Strategy

I can see why people say it's not a high priority, but it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive with them.

This is because at present the issue is ignored as a likely non-starter. Hence it becomes more unlikely, as nobody knows about it except politics junkies.

Hence there needs to be more discussion of the issues. Those who oppose it need to be made to stick their heads above the parapet. If they invoke constitutional grounds for not admitting it, asking if they'd support it if DC citizens only counted as 3/5ths of a person for congressional representation might be a nice angle of attack.

It has to be presented as a question of fairness, not politics. Sure, the District is reliably Democratic, but does that mean they can't have Senators? Are they going to be taken away from Rhode Island now that Chafee's gone? What, aside from skin colour, makes the inhabitants of Wyoming more deserving of congressional representation than the inhabitants of DC? Damn it, wouldn't it be more helpful for Republicans to stop whining and actually do something that might get a decent proportion of blacks to vote for them?

Opponents of statehood on the Republican side can easily be characterised as racists, party hacks and supporters of 'taxation without representation' (which you can link to 'King George' soundbites if Bush comes out against statehood.)

by Englishlefty 2007-01-03 04:20PM | 0 recs
Bush's statement

Our 21st century King George W. Bush has made precious few comments on the DC situation.  He was asked just after being elected President, where he famously said "I'm against the Senators" meaning that he opposes our having any Senate representation.  He went on to reiterate his opposition to DC voting rights.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer helpfully cemented that position for us in 2003 when it was clear that we wanted democracy for Iraq, but not Washington:

Q The President has a very fervent and passion for democracy in Iraq. But he seems to have an opposite opinion about democracy in D.C.

MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, that was you yesterday?

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. And, in fact, when he was one -- the only time he's ever talked about it, he said, I'm against the senators. And then, when he was further pushed about it, and he said, what about a single voting representative in the House? President Bush said, and this is in the Washington Post: I guess it's logical if I'm against U.S. senators, I'm against the full voting rights.

This is a day where residents of the District of Columbia pay taxes, and are not represented in the national legislature, where a Republican Party platform has come out for, in the past, full voting rights for the District of Columbia. Isn't it the height of hypocrisy? And how can you make a defensible argument for the President to be for democracy in Iraq, but not democracy right here in the nation's capital?

MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you for your neutral question. I refer you to the Constitution, which is what started the definition of the District of Columbia as an entity unlike the states, where the President has been very direct on his position about whether or not the District of Columbia should have full voting rights in the Congress, as opposed to the delegate rights that members currently have. That is the President's position. It's well-known. And it finds its original roots in the Constitution. There's an argument about it, and the President has come down on his side of it.

Q As you're aware, in 1978 there was a Constitutional amendment. Two-thirds of both the House and the Senate voted for this. Is it your feeling that the President would be for it if it went by Constitutional amendment? Sixteen Republican senators voted for it, including such liberals as Barry Goldwater, Strom Thurmond, Howard Baker --

MR. FLEISCHER: I get your speech.

Q No, it's not a speech.

MR. FLEISCHER: Your list.

Q You're denying the residents of this place, the only capital of the world who's residents don't have voting rights.

MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. You're aware of the President's position; it has not changed.

Q And it will not change? Is that right; it will not change?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President's position is consistent

by freedc 2007-01-04 06:06AM | 0 recs
Republicans not necessarily the problem

Sure, Republicans have a lot more to lose politically by supporting more voting rights for DC just as Democrats probably didn't want to admit Hawaii in 1959 because it was expected to be reliabliy Republican (and vice versa for Alaska in 1958, which was expected to be reliably Democratic).

But let's also recognize that many Republicans have supported various forms of DC democracy.  Any many Democrats have decided to ignore DC, taking it's 3 electoral votes for granted every 4 years.

The problem is not Republicans or Democrats, it's ignorance.  I absolutely agree with the Englishlefty that it is not an issue of politics so much as fairness.

by freedc 2007-01-04 06:19AM | 0 recs
Re: 51 State Strategy

I'd support giving DC a congressional vote, but what I'd really support is ceding the residential parts of the city back to MD. There's no reasonthat anything other than the actual organs of the federal government should be in the federal district.

by ripzaw 2007-01-04 07:18PM | 0 recs
Retrocession is popular... in Ohio

The problem with retrocession of the land (which was originally part of Maryland) back to that state is that neither Maryland nor DC wants it.  I don't have definitive evidence, but I'd be willing to take it seriously and advocate for a plebiscite in both places.  

The outcome in MD is clear.  In DC, it depends.  For example, our state income taxes would go down a little (depending on how much the new county of New Columbia would add as a surcharge, but our property taxes would shoot up.  Our school system, including teacher licensure and students assessment, would come under Maryland regulatory authority.

The big fight would be over county affiliation.  Would our poorest wards, which are attached to Maryland's Prince George's County join that county or stay in a New Columbia county?  Would our wealthier wards of Northwest join Maryland's wealthy Montgomery County?  Probably not.

In any case, DC's vote would depend on what the alternatives are.  Retrocession beats the status quo, but it seems the least workable and most unpopular (to the affected parties) of the available solutions.  Only Ralph Regula, the aging Ohio Republican Congressman seems committed to it.

by freedc 2007-01-05 05:42AM | 0 recs
Re: 51 State Strategy

Freedc, What's the detail on the strategy.  There are two ways to bring a Constitional amendment forward.  A 2/3 vote is needed in both Houses to bring the issue forward for a vote or 2/3 of the state legislatures need to vote to bring the issue forward.  If we concentrated a campaign in one state and that state passed a resolution on the issue, we could start some traction on the issue.  

by gunnar 2007-01-04 08:23PM | 0 recs
2/3 House

I'm not a lawyer, but I think there are two things that have to happen.

First, and this is dangerous without the second, you need 2/3 of Congress to agree to repeal the 23rd Amendment, leaving DC with no electoral votes.

Second, you get Congress to adopt a resolution admitting New Columbia into the Union just as they did with Alaska in 1958 and Hawaii in 1959.

After that, there would be new elections for Senate and the DC may have to revive its constitutional convention to approve the offices.  Much of the state gov't structure is already in place, so little would change except for titles.  

The biggest change would be the income tax on VA and MD residents who work in the district.  The workers would get credits on their own state forms, so it would offset their VA and MD state lax liabilities, but Richmond and Annapolis would feel the pain.  Too bad, though, they've been free riding on us for years.

by freedc 2007-01-05 05:47AM | 0 recs


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