The 5.3 million residents of Washington, D.C., are American citizens. They vote in what amounts to a fake presidential election because their choice has no effect in the Electoral College. They are without representation in Congress. This year’s holiday marking the founding of the world’s preeminent democracy should also mark a commitment to change that.
People lived in the District of Columbia in 1790 when it was created. Mostly black laborers built the first federal government buildings there. To placate existing states that did not want to share power or recognize black rights, district residents were not allowed to vote.
In 1790, keeping the district’s population from full citizenship rights was at the heart of the issue. It still is, 230 years later.
All other Americans are protected from the overreach of U.S. military power by state governors’ control of the National Guard. District residents have no such protection. The reality of that powerlessness was demonstrated during the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
District residents pay all federal taxes and put more into the pot than they get out, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser. They pay more per capita than other taxpayers and more in aggregate than 22 states. There are more people in the district than in Wyoming or Vermont.
On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., made the appalling claim that the district’s residents are not valuable or diversified enough to be a state because most work as lobbyists, government employees or other white-collar professionals. He praised Wyoming and Alaska with their blue-color jobs. Then, he added that district residents might fill the streets like Jacobin mobs, the French revolutionaries who terrorized Paris in the 18th century. Cotton’s speech was full of racist dog whistles.
Statehood would separate the White House, the Capitol, the Federal Mall and the other spaces most people think of as Washington, D.C., into a federal enclave under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The people who live in the rest of the district would gain full state’s rights.
Taxation without representation sent Bostonians into their harbor to dump British tea. Taxation without representation cost men their lives and fortunes by signing the Declaration of Independence. Forcing the citizens of Washington, D.C., to continue to accept taxation without representation is unfair and undemocratic.
Residents of every other state should pressure their congressional delegations in a Fourth of July effort to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state. America can add one more star to the flag in pursuit of a more perfect union.