The Washington Canard
Where C-SPAN is the local TV news

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Statehood -- and DC's conspicuous lack of it -- is a perennial issue in the District, and last week it came up again when the city encouraged the President-elect to affix those "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION" plates to his presidential limousine. President Clinton used them, President Bush did not, and one expects President Obama will do so as well.

Here is Matt Yglesias's blissfully un-nuanced assessment:
I’d like ... congress to use its power to admit new states to admit the State of Columbia as the fifty-first state. You would, of course, need to carve out a portion of the existing city to continue serving as the “federal district” and capital of the country. But that could easily be made a compact area around the Mall where nobody (except the President and the First Family) lives and thus nobody is denied voting rights. ... It would be totally constitutional.
Of course it would be constitutional. That isn't what's keeping Washington from becoming a state. The bigger issues include the city not much resembling a state in geography nor governance, having a lower population than every state but Wyoming, why DC deserves greater representation than NYC, LA, Chicago etc., and especially the obvious political implications of creating two new Senate seats that would never be seriously contested by the Republicans within the foreseeable future. (Don't worry about the stars on the flag, that one's covered).

So it was a small surprise to see this response from Markos Moulitsas, who is generally considered less of a "thinker" than Yglesias and more of a "strategist":
To me, the more obvious solution is to simply have DC annexed by either Maryland or Virginia. (Preferably Virginia, which would solidify it as a solid Blue state, and most of NOVA is a suburb of DC anyway.) Can someone explain why that option is either ignored or a non-starter?
Now we're getting somewhere. I have always considered retrocession the best option, although Markos fails to note that most of Western Maryland is also a suburb of DC. I'm vaguely aware that Maryland may have its problems with this, though I'd think the newly larger tax base would outweigh having to shoulder the burden of DC's notorious school system. The real reason, though, is because of politics.

In any case, the complaint about lack of representation is a valid one (although I always like to note that nobody is forced to live in the city) and worth doing something about. But it seems to me that city activists who insist upon statehood at the expense of all other options are not being honest about their intentions. If equal represenation was the issue, then retrocession would be on the table.

So come on, Washington. Let's stop electing "shadow senators" and "shadow representatives" who essentially serve to lobby for statehood. This year, my first time voting in the District, I refused to cast a vote. Not only do I think the offices shouldn't exist, I think they're detrimental to the city's interests. But what do I care? I wouldn't be living here if I did.

Image via dbking on Flickr.

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