Published June 25, 2020 / Updated August 13, 2021
Taxation Without Representation Is Tyranny
Make Washington, D.C. the 51st State
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution called for the creation of a District (not exceeding ten miles square) to be the Seat of Government of the United States. This District was created in 1790, and Washington, D.C., has served as our national capital ever since. H.R. 51, under consideration in the House of Representatives this week, proposes to shrink the constitutionally established District to a small slice of the city composed primarily of federal government buildings, federal monuments and the National Mall, renaming the rest of the city "Washington, Douglass Commonwealth" and establishing it as the 51st state.
Some quick facts:
- With over 700,000 residents, the population of D.C. is larger than two states - Wyoming and Vermont.
- In 2014, the District paid the federal government more taxes than 22 states, almost the same amount as Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and Vermont combined. (26.4 billion on taxes while receiving 3.5 billion in return.)
- Members of Congress, who D.C. residents did not elect, control D.C.'s budget
- D.C. residents pay higher taxes per capita than all 50 states
D.C. is progressive: just last week SCOTUS outlawed discrimination against LGBTQ persons in the workplace, a law that D.C. adopted 47 years ago. We have paid family leave, have celebrated same-sex marriage since 2009, and enacted strict gun laws. Although our gun laws are among the strictest in the nation, they have been undermined due to our proximity to Virginia.
Denying D.C. statehood effectively denies equality and democracy to more than 700,000 people. 64.98% of registered voters participated in a statehood referendum in November 2016, with 79% voting in favor of statehood.
D.C. Statehood is a matter of Civil Rights. D.C. is a predominately Black city, affectionately called "Chocolate City" by locals. The struggle for statehood and its continued denial is rooted in racism. The disenfranchisement of people of color is in America's DNA. Whether that's in counting them as 3/5ths of a person or denying them the vote, mass incarceration or police brutality - the systemic oppression of people of color extends to the cause of giving D.C. full voting representation in Congress.
Just last week, calls to make Juneteenth a national holiday flooded Congress. It's not an accident that discussions of D.C. statehood reach a fever pitch whenever the American consciousness is focused on race. The Civil Rights movement got us the 23rd amendment, which gave District residents the right to vote for President, and Black Lives Matter is bringing attention to H.R. 51 in 2020.
A brief history of how we got to the 23rd Amendment: Within a year of moving the capital from Philadelphia in 1800, the suffrage movement for D.C. residents had already begun. It would take another 174 years, the introduction of more than 150 amendments, and the Civil Rights movement in the late 1950s, to get the 23rd amendment on the books. It was only in 1961 that D.C. residents received the right to vote in presidential elections, with three seats in the Electoral College.
So, what are the arguments against it? It seems the heaviest lift may be the political will to introduce a constitutional amendment to overturn the 23rd amendment.
The argument is that by shrinking the District, the handful of residents (several hundred) within the remaining federal enclave will have three Electoral College votes. Without a repeal of the 23rd amendment, this would give disproportionate voting power to this handful of voters. Just yesterday, the Trump administration threatened to veto the D.C. Statehood bill on the grounds that it "...could allow D.C. to 'achieve outsized authority in some respects as compared to the other 50 States.'"
But the president himself has acknowledged that this is partisan politics. "D.C. will never be a state," Trump told the New York Post. "You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So, we can have two more Democratic --- Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No, thank you. That'll never happen."
Isn't it also time to move toward abolishing the Electoral College? More on that here.
Do we really need another reason to deny over 700,000 tax-paying, armed forces serving American citizens full representation in Congress?
Enough already! The District of Columbia has spent over 200 years yielding to people who would deny them the vote. The District is tired of yielding and deserves full voting representation in Congress. We need your help: contact your congressional representatives and urge them to vote YES on H.R. 51 or text 51st to 50409. Or tap here for iMessage or here for Twitter. You can also send 51st to the bot on Telegram or Messenger.
NB: The author acknowledges Puerto Rico and the Hawaiian sovereignty movement in their respective struggles for self-rule. May the passage of H.R. 51 be a step forward for all disenfranchised communities seeking representation and self-governance.