Home Statehood Statehood For The Nation`s Capital Is Long Overdue
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http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-07-29/news/9003030625_1_statehood-jesse-jackson-vote-in-presidential-elections

 

Statehood For The Nation`s Capital Is Long Overdue
July 29, 1990|By Stephen Chapman.

Listen to Jesse Jackson expound on the legal status of the District of Columbia and you will hear several persuasive arguments for granting statehood-arguments stressing grand American principles like democracy, equality, self-determination and no taxation without representation. You will also have no trouble finding the most effective argument against statehood:

Jesse Jackson.

If the idea of President Jackson is enough to give you night terrors-which it is for some Democrats and all Republicans-then the idea of Senator Jackson probably won`t help you sleep either. Nor will you be soothed by the words ``Governor Barry.``

This is the simplest explanation why the 604,000 residents of Washington, D.C.-despite filing 1040s, sending young men and women to defend their country, and enduring the risk of a President Quayle-are stoutly denied what all other Americans take as their natural inheritance: the right to choose voting members of Congress to represent their interests.

They are generously allowed to vote in presidential elections. D.C. elects a delegate to the House of Representatives who may speak, lobby and vote on committees, but isn`t permitted to vote on the floor. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands-which, unlike D.C., are exempt from federal taxes-get as much. D.C. residents, a group that now includes Jesse Jackson, correctly think they`re entitled to more.

The case for changing the status of the District of Columbia is impossible to deny. Granted, its 69 square miles make it smaller than any other state, and unlike the others it`s short on cows and John Deere dealerships. But D.C shouldn`t be disqualified from statehood for these unique deficiencies any more than Alaska was disqualified because it has more ice than people.

The district was created to be the home of the federal government, run by the federal government. Back then states were far stronger than now. The fear was that if it were within the boundaries of any state, the feeble federal government would be dominated by its powerful host.

Maybe someday the federal government will again be weak enough to worry about. Maybe someday powdered wigs will come back into fashion. Let`s not all plan our lives around it.

The Pentagon and the CIA have done fine despite being domiciled in Virginia. Anyway, under statehood the federal government would retain sole control over an enclave containing the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court and its other offices.

The real objection to the admission of New Columbia, as it would be called, is not philosophical but political. President Bush, who favors statehood for Puerto Rico, opposes it for his current hometown. Republicans resist giving D.C. a pair of senators because, as GOP strategist Edward Rollins put it, ``you`re going to get two liberal Democrats and keep getting them for the next 100 years.``

With Republican attitudes like that, he may be right. But partisan inconvenience shouldn`t override clear moral imperatives, all of which are on the side of the statehood proponents. If the principle of no taxation without representation was important enough to justify a war for independence, it`s important enough to tolerate two more Democratic senators.

D.C. residents have all the duties imposed on every citizen. How can anyone seriously argue that they should lack the right to help choose the legislators who determine those duties?

This scandal would have been corrected a long time ago except for another unacknowledged disqualifier: D.C. is mostly black. That makes it easier for demagogic opponents to depict Washington residents as incompetent for self-government. They elected Marion Barry, for heaven`s sake!

But most of the unsavory politicians in Washington can`t be blamed on the locals. Should Minnesotans be stripped of the vote because they elected Dave Durenberger?

Opponents think they have found a clever way to satisfy D.C.`s moral claims while diluting its potential power. They propose to make it part of Maryland. This suggestion has only two drawbacks: The people of Maryland probably don`t want it, and the people of D.C. certainly don`t. When Arizona applied for statehood, no one asked, ``Why don`t you get annexed by California?``

But then Arizonans were no risk to send a Jesse Jackson to the U.S. Senate. Republicans think denying the democratic rights of D.C. residents is a small price to pay for their party`s immediate interests. Someday, the GOP will be as proud of that position as the Democratic Party is of having once defended slavery.

 

 

 
Home Statehood Statehood For The Nation`s Capital Is Long Overdue

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