There’s a place in this country that although next to last in total population, contributes more in taxes to the U.S. treasury than 16 other states. Those states represent about one-third of the Senate and hold 34 seats in the House of Representatives. Their populations are majority white. The place I am talking about that contributes so much to the Treasury and provides men and women to fight the nation’s wars is predominantly black. And it holds zero percent of Senate seats and zero percent of House seats.
While we fight to bring democracy to the rubble-infested rabble of Baghdad, there are more than half a million Americans who don’t have it. I am referring, of course, to the District of Columbia, whose license plate motto is the apt: “Taxation Without Representation.”
Not a lot of people realize that until 1964, D.C. residents could not vote for president. They cannot for Congress. To this day, their local city council decisions can be overridden by Congress.
From the founding of the Republic in 1790 until 1801, D.C. residents could vote. But
Congress, upon chartering the city as the seat of government, failed to renew the franchise. Why bother? Most residents would be transients from other states working for the government or slaves.
Opponents of democracy in the District of Columbia say that the Constitution provides representation only to “states” and D.C. is not a state, though it functions as one in every other way. But the Constitution also gives power over D.C. affairs to Congress itself. And now, with Republican support, there is a proposal to allow the city a single voting member of the House.
When you ask yourself how this democracy-atrocity of voteless citizens can be allowed to stand in the 21st Century, remember that D.C. is the only state-like entity that is majority black. Race isn’t even a secret reason. It has been the open for decades, masked poorly by complaints that whoever is elected would be a Democrat.
Well, this year, some Republicans are supporting a move to give D.C. a vote simply by expanding the House membership by two seats – one for D.C. and one for the state that just missed getting another congressional district in the last census. That would be Utah. The person elected from Utah would not have to be, but in fact would be, white.
Good political compromise? You bet. Doesn’t hurt anyone, doesn’t change national policy. Can stand up to a constitutional challenge. What’s the problem? Republican hypocrites. They won’t promise not to take the extra seat and redraw the boundaries of the new alignment so as to strip the state’s lone Democrat of his seat.
And the president of the United States, who has killed three District of Columbia residents in his war for democracy in Iraq and has just said he opposes the bill. Which gives cover to what few decent Republicans remain in Congress to vote against democracy for D.C.
Folks, this is what the American Revolution was fought for; this state of affairs is the very definition of colonialism. Support this compromise by writing your member of the House and your two senators. Some Americans are not lucky enough to be able to.