Should Washington DC be a State?

Wait Until You See the Reasons Some Think Not


A Short History of the DC Conundrum

There are lots of factors and nuances around the creation of the District of Columbia, but if I may be allowed the short version, the founders thought it important that the national capital be independent of any state, and so created DC.  There was some concern about the risk of an errant governor (Geez, seen any of those lately?) holding the capital hostage in some way.

The founders were, all in all, a pretty sharp bunch, but one could make the case they failed to think this one all the way through. First, the current set up gives us real, honest to goodness US citizens, who live here in the US, with zero representation in the US Congress. Heck, they just got the presidential vote not that long ago.

Second, this makes the District and its citizens wards of the Congress. They are subject to the most grievous and petty oversight and interference one could imagine.

I had little appreciation of this until I lived in a city adjacent to DC for some years. Taking an interest in that “oversight,” I watched some of the hearings. It was appalling – and still is. I was embarrassed as an American. No issue was too small, no treatment too petty or condescending.

No one should put up with this kind of ill-willed micromanagement in every corner of District life. On their worst day, the Indians got a better deal from the British than the District gets from Congress year after year. It is colonialism at its worst.

There was some hope this might be resolved during the Clinton administration, but no progress there. The Obama administration never really showed much interest. Neither Bush administration cared about this at all. Trump? Oh, please. Don’t waste your time looking that one up.

A Tradition of Making States Two at a Time

For the longest period of time, states were created by the Congress most often two at a time. For a while, this was one free state and one slave state. Then it was one Republican state and one Democratic state, for obvious reasons of maintaining the balance of power. But there is no requirement to do things this way.

One of the challenges for those who would oppose DC statehood is that they cant seem to find a potential Republican state in the wings. This worries them, as DC would most likely vote heavily Democratic, as it has for years. Puerto Rico is certainly a viable candidate, but it’s really not clear how it might vote. Likely Democratic, but no one really knows.

Oh, and the idea of giving the territory back to Maryland or Virginia has come up often. Neither state wants it, largely because there would still be federal baggage involved.

Why Now?

It seems that all of a sudden, interest is high in making DC a state now. What accounts for this new life in the issue? For starters, the Democrats control both Houses of Congress and the White House. That has not been the case for some time and is unlikely to last. Since its mostly Democrats that want to do this, do it now or forget about it happening later.

Another interesting factor is that this might be part of the new Woke culture we see all around us. To deny US citizens voting representation in Congress because of their zip code is simply wrong. How about people just decide we should not keep doing that? Sounds right to me.

 Why Not?

 Clearly, a lot of Republicans oppose this because they see it as creating Democratic seats in Congress. Never mind right or wrong – it changes the score, so let’s fight it. Some few likely oppose it from an originalist, pure construction perspective. The founders chose not to make DC a state, so it should not be one. I respect the idea of trying to discern the intent of the founders, but I have never understood this as the rigid Last Word on anything and everything. Times change, the world changes.

It’s OK to see if things can be changed. The founders also approved counting a slave as three-fifths of a person and we came to understand that was wrong. We can figure this out pretty easily, if we so choose. I bet if you briefed Ben Franklin today on the idea that everything had to be decided by the exact wording and state of mind of the founders, a couple of centuries later, he would look at you like you were an idiot. They would expect a more reasoned approach from those that followed them.

OK, here is the fun part.

The following are reasons ACTUALLY CITED BY SITTING REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF THE US CONGRESS as to why DC should not become a state (I made none of this up, you can check the testimony yourself):

– DC has no airport (its two blocks outside the city limit)

– The District has no car dealerships (not true, by the way)

– DC has no capital city (unless you count itself. (Somebody pass the word to Singapore, please)

– The District of Columbia has no mines (I am struck speechless on this one)

– DC has no landfill (see above comment in parentheses)

Needless to say, when I heard all this, I immediately checked to see if I had missed an update on my copy of the constitution. I could not find any of those things anywhere in that hallowed document. Nope, not there. These folks must have gotten their copy from Trump University.

Any Place Else in Line?

DC is by far the most likely candidate for statehood; that should happen, now.  A case certainly could be made for Puerto Rico. From my perspective, make them a state or cut them loose. This one foot in, one foot out status is a poor status for all concerned.  Others have raised their hand for consideration but seem a bit of a stretch on any count. American Samoa? I don’t think so.

More interesting are suggestions that mega states like California, New York, Texas, perhaps a couple of others could well be broken up into smaller states. The residents would likely get better representation this way. On the whole, this likely would add a whole bunch of mostly Democratic members of Congress, but that is not a good enough reason to do it or not do it.

 Hey, Here’s an Idea

Not to be too simplistic, but how about this? We just decide to do the right thing by our fellow Americans, at long last. Just this once, let’s do the right thing because it’s the right thing. For Pete’s sake, it already has more people than some states.

We would need to work out some control issues of federal property and functions. We should have an independent authority to set taxes the feds would owe every year, rather than congressional whims in the budget. But that is all doable. Let’s get on with it.

        Bill Clontz

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2 replies to Should Washington DC be a State?

  1. Great post today. I have long been for this idea. I hope the Congress has the will and can get the votes necessary to pass.

  2. Yes. Yes. Yes. Their license plate says it all. The time is now as who knows when it will come again. Personally I would love dos see both the District (wonder if they would just name the state Columbia?) and Puerto Rico granted statehood. Unfortunately I don’t think my “representation” in Congress is going to support this but I think I will let them know what I think anyway.

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