The devil’s advocate

An Argument For Washington, DC Statehood

Stephen G., Staff Writer

On Thursday, April 22nd, H.R. 51, a bill proposing that the District of Columbia become an official U.S. state, was passed by the House of Representatives. The vote was down party lines, with nearly every Democrat in the House voting for the legislation, and every Republican voting against. However, despite its success in the House, H.R 51 has practically no chance of passing in the Senate, as Senate Republicans have already announced their intention to filibuster the bill. While Democrats lauded the proposal as a necessary step in guaranteeing equal rights to the citizens of DC, a special district that receives no power in Congress, Republicans lambasted the proposal as a dangerous power grab, and an attempt by the Democrats to pack the Senate with two additional blue seats. With these ideas in mind, there is a clear question presented: Should the District of Columbia be granted statehood?

 

POINT:

It has become the argument of Republicans that it would be unjust to grant full congressional representation and executive autonomy to the estimated 705,749 residents of Washington, DC, because to do so, it would be some kind of devious Democratic “power grab,” as stated on Fox News by Republican strategist Lisa Boothe. To be frank, if that’s true, then any logical person would conclude that it would be a GOP “power grab” to allow for the continuation of Wyomingite statehood, as Wyoming has over a hundred thousand fewer residents. Yet, it maintains its own two Senators and one Congresswoman.

Indeed, while Republicans may point out the fact that in all likelihood, the admission of the District of Columbia as a state would almost definitely result in the sending of two Democratic Senators, and one Democratic Congressmember to — well — DC, one must truly question their motivations behind doing so. If allowing American citizens, in a historically non-state-aligned area to represent themselves is a “power grab”, then wouldn’t the participation of any state, or even individual, in their democracy be one as well? Or is that reserved specifically for people who don’t agree with their policy, or support their party?

One way or another, one simple fact reigns true: nearly three quarters of a million Americans have no say in how their federal legislature operates, yet are greatly dependent upon it, due to the outsized role that 535 members of Congress, not one a DC resident, retain over its operations. That is to say, even while the District has a relatively substantial population, it has no voting representation in Congress and — get this — is still subject to federal taxes. Taxation without representation, where have I heard that one? The US Congress retains the right to limit, reorganize, and change the powers of DC to govern itself, internally.

Now put that shoe on the other foot. Say New Yorkers were placed under the same conditions. A substantial population, without the exclusive right to self-govern, without any legitimate congressional representation, and still subject to high federal tax rates. Well, that’s how 705,749 American citizens, living at the heart of the greatest democracy on Earth, are forced to live out their lives, simply because allowing them a seat at the table would help the other party.

What’s most absurd, however, beyond the fact that members of a free society feel threatened by the extension of their freedoms to others, is the brand-new alternative Republicans have suggested, which is so bold, it doesn’t even try to hide its purely partisan motivations, in its lack of concern for rationality. This new idea would see Washington, DC and all its lifelong residents, incorporated into a state with which they have no fundamental tie: Maryland. This is according to an alternative bill proposed by Senator Roger Marshall, R-Kansas. The two areas haven’t had anything to do with each other since DC was carved out. It would be like telling Long Islanders that they’re now New Jersians. To put it bluntly: it’s simply ridiculous.

Clearly, there is no length that statehood opponents would not go to in order to ensure that the right to self-government is not granted to all the of-age, registered voters in our free country. Because forget about self-determination, it’s undemocratic to let people choose their own representatives if they disagree with the GOP.

So with all of this laid upon the table, clearly, it’s time to admit DC and all its people to the Union, as fully-fledged, self-governing, equal Americans in our beloved democracy. Because everyone deserves the right to make their voices heard.🔳


COUNTERPOINT:

On June 20th, 1783, a group of outraged soldiers mobbed the United States Capital. Then, they situated themselves in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and demanded fair compensation for their service in the Revolutionary War. This was the result of a day of aggressive protests in response to Congress’ inaction in listening to the people. For hours, protesters blocked the delegates of the Continental Congress from exiting the building, and only after a negotiation process led by Alexander Hamilton, were the delegates permitted to leave. This was under the promise that the issue of pay would be discussed in the afternoon. 

It was during this intermediary period, that a small Congressional committee reached out to the government of Pennsylvania, pleading for them to send troops to disperse the mutineers. Yet, despite their call for help, the government of Pennsylvania refused their request. 

This event, now known as the Philadelphia Mutiny, is what prompted Congress to create the District of Columbia. Their reasoning for making the new Capital of the United States a federal district was simple: they did not want the operations of Congress to be controlled by the government of a single state. If Congress was to continue to reside in a regular district, they would have to operate at the behest of a single Governor. This Governor, if they wished to inhibit the functions of Congress, would have been able to restrict the ability of the nation’s sole federal legislative body from operating, and by the nature of threat, would have had a substantially greater influence over the priorities of Congress than any other Governor in the nation. 

However, H.R. 51 does not challenge this idea that Congress should not have to work under the surveillance of a single State’s Executive. Instead, what the bill does is cut out the residential areas of the district, and declare this land to be a state. Not only would this further decrease the size of what would already be the smallest state in the union, but it also misses another key reason as to why DC is not a State. 

The District of Columbia’s expressed purpose is to be the operating point of the nation. A place where legislators, lobbyists, and all other governmental employees can meet to conduct their business, separate from the biased interests that a State may exude upon its citizens. Policy that works in Colorado may not work in New York. Nonetheless, policy makers have an undeniable duty to create legislation which will help the people in the States that they come from. If we make the people who are responsible for passing federal legislation citizens of a single state, they will work to preserve their best interests, and will be more concerned with passing policy that is beneficial for DC, as opposed to other States. Seeing as over seventy percent of the people who live in DC work for the federal government, it would not be surprising to see a shift in national policy if this bill passes. 

Finally, it’s important to judge this bill in the modern context. Currently, the Senate is split by a margin of fifty Democratic Senators, to fifty Republican Senators. While it is impossible to tell which party will gain a significant advantage in obtaining Senate seats in the future, currently, fights for the control of the Senate are immensely competitive. By giving D.C. statehood, the Democratic party will easily gain two additional senate seats, giving them an unfair advantage when it comes to controlling the Body. In short, granting statehood would do nothing but create more partisanship, and less compromise in the United States Senate, something which is already occurring at an exponential rate.