Sunday, January 11
Votes, if not statehood, for DC, Part I: The Problem
At the other night's DC Democrat debate (here's the Washington Post's story for variety) the principal topic was unsurprisingly DC statehood. This is a topic I think conservatives have wrongfully and unnecessarily ignored. This is a problem that will one day be solved. Better to solve it on one's own watch then wait for the political tides to turn, when the solution will be far, far less to one's liking.
If we put our minds to the topic for just a minute, I think we can agree on two principles:
1. Residents of DC should have voting representation in Congress. I know there's no Constitutional requirement for this. Welcome to one of those ever-rarer examples of incongruity between legality and morality. I'm also aware that: (i) DC residents are in a similar but not identical position to US territories like Puerto Rico, American Somoa, and Guam, suggesting that DC has not been singled out for patently unfair treatment; and (ii) those DC residents who are truly sleepless can move to Maryland or Virginia, suggesting that they have some control over their disenfranchisement. But: (i) the other territories are not clamoring for Congressional representation like DC clearly is (though they might in the future); and (ii) evacuating DC of its permanent human inhabitants, a la Antarctica, is not a long-term solution.
2. The Democrats' embrace of DC statehood has little to do with Taxation Without Representation and everything to do with regaining control of Congress with a sure-fire Dem in the House and two in the Senate. Under the Constitution, DC is the fiefdom of Congress. And prior to Home Rule in the 70s, DC was run by a board of Commissioners, appointed by Congress' committee chairmen, i.e., Democrats. These Commissioners were well-versed in the ways of patronage and spoils. As long as the Dems controlled Congress, this situation suited them just fine. Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America had an amazing, transformative effect on Democrat Party ideology in this area.
Generalizing about conservatives, our disgust at the second principle has obscured our recognition of the first. But remember those imbecile anti-war protesters who (past and present) cry themselves to sleep over America's evil motives in the Middle East, willfully ignorant of the secondary aim of liberating tens of millions (especially the women) from some of the darkest tyrannies on Earth? Now, now, DC is not Baghdad or Kabul or Damascus (other than when trying to register your car). But the abstract lesson applies: let's drop our guard about the opponent's motives and fashion a solution to a problem that, behind a veil of ignorance, honest conservatives would be pretty pissed about.