Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Stop Picking on D.C.!

Like all things in the blogosphere, this rant is brought to you courtesy of a blog post. Specifically, this line from this post from Catholic Packer Fan:

The biggest complaint by DC residents via radio programs and television? The complaint that DC was shunned by ESPN and the '50 States/50 Days' program, because DC is technically not a state. Of course, these are the same people who drive around with license plate border decorations and bumper stickers that read "Washington D.C., taxation without representation". Get over it, people.

(ESPN has since made D.C. the last stop on their tour. So, there you go.)

Now, I enjoy CPF's blog very much and he seems like a wonderful fellow. But I consider his feelings toward D.C. to be disrespectful at best and downright insulting at worst. I'm sure his comments were mainly meant in jest, but that doesn't make them right. As a life-long resident of the D.C. Metropolitan area, I have long considered the lack of congressional representation one of the worst hypocrisies in America. And neither political party has done squat to change this situation. I'll give the Republicans credit for being consistent in their lack of support while the Democrats have paid lip service to this issue for decades. (I couldn't find any mention of D.C. voting rights in either their 2000 or 2004 party platforms.)

Unfortunately, his feelings are shared by a majority of people who live "outside the beltway." And it's not as if they don't have some backup...

The Bone-Headed Constitution

  • Article I, Section 2 provides that the House of Representatives be "composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States."
  • Article I, Section 3 provides that "[t]he Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State".

The Framers' language and purposes make it clear that the representatives provided for in Article I would be the exclusive legislators of the federal government. A plain reading of the Constitution indicates that the Constitution limits congressional voting representation to state residents. (taken from

Now, I hope that most folks realize there are problems with falling back on the Constitution. What are they? Oh, how about this one, and this one, and this one. So, just because it's in the Constitution doesn't mean it can't be changed.

Bone-Headed Congresscritters

In an earlier post I alluded to Congressman Henry Bonilla from Texas who wanted to rename 16th Street "Ronald Reagan Boulevard". But this example is not the most egregious. How about Bob Barr withholding much needed money from Metro unless they renamed a subway stop "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport"? And what about the Congress' thwarting the D.C. Government's attempts to reroute trains carrying toxic chemicals like chlorine gas? Or their recent effort to repeal the District's strict gun laws?

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Bone-Headed Protesters

I understand that Washington, D.C. is always going to serve as a natural focal point for protest in this country. And most folks around here are ok with that. But if you're gonna come to protest, the least you can do is not trash the place. Or issue bomb threats near the White House. I mean, really!

Look, like it or not, there are people who actually live in the District of Columbia. They don't live in Maryland, even though they share a border with the Free State. And they are not part of the Commonwealth of Virginia either (we do have the Potomac River to help out). People such as my Father believe that the District of Columbia shouldn't have any kind of local population whatsoever. I jokingly asked him once if the National Guard should be called out to disperse the population into Maryland. He jokingly responded in the affirmative. So as long as we have American citizens residing there, I believe they should be afforded the same rights that all American citizens enjoy. Seems fair, right?

Well, there are politics in everything and simply asking for something just because it's the right thing to do won't get you far in this town. If you wanna get, you gotta give. So that's why Rep. Tom Davis' plan to offer full voting representation in Congress to D.C. in exchange for granting Utah an extra seat in Congress seems fair to me. Some of my more partisan Democratic friends scoff at this plan as being unfair. "Tell that to a D.C. citizen," I reply. "I think they can teach you a thing or two about what's fair and what's not."


Alison said...

For what it's worth, I'd hazard a guess that these sentiments are held by more than 50% of the "inside-the-beltway" folks who don't actually live in the District themselves.

Of course, only "inside-the-beltway" people see the country as divided into "inside-the-beltway" and "outside-the-beltway" anyhow. Use either of those expressions in most of the rest of the country, and you will likely receive blank stares.

Joe said...

Davis has an interesting plan. Personally, I'm prepared to say that the Feds should define and police a Federal Enclave, and the rest of the District ought to be returned to Maryland.

Maryland gets probably 1 more Rep out of it, which is fair. It's really hard for me to argue that DC deserves its own 2 Senators.

But the important thing being there are U.S. Citizens living in the District who DON'T HAVE A VOTE IN CONGRESS. It's a shame and an outrage. That kind of crap is why we don't sing God Save The Queen before baseball games.

Makes me wish the still shipped tea into Georgetown.

John B. said...


Yes, my comment was mostly in jest...sometimes that doesn't come across as well in writing as it does in person.

I really did find it interesting that on the all-news station (1530 or so AM???) in DC, the hot topic of the hour was the ESPN 50/50 (soon to be 51/51) slight, and the station wasn't covering sports at the time. The station was having a serious discussion concerning the program and te slight on DC.

Maybe a better suggestion is to get rid of the politicians and government types in DC and make it all one large residential area. Think of how it would free up many of our problems in government.

The District of Columbia was originally envisioned by the Fathers as a center of government, not of population.

ARTICLE 1 SECTION 8 CLAUSE 17 pretty well lays out that DC will be formed at the cession (BASICALLY SURRENDERING) of the land by the states.

I suspect that the above two reasons, that DC would be a center of government, and that the land it rests on would be given over by the states, both are the reasons why DC has never been given representation. I suspect the Fathers wanted the seat of national government not to be the property of any state...or to be involved in the politics that states have within and with each other. Kind of 'neutral territory', so to speak.

As of the 1800 census, DC included a population 10,066 whites, 793 free Negroes and 3,244 slaves, so the population there must have been a bit significant to the framers/Fathers during the 1780's when the Constitution was written.

There was an amendment movement back in the 1970's and 80's to give DC reps, but the amendment died with the states, it didn't get the 3/4 of states' legislatures approval necessary for passage.

The taxation / representation issue would irk me if I lived in DC, to be sure. Then again, think of the angst saved by DC residents at not having to view commercials for Congressional elections...

John B. said...

By the way, Joe's comments above about Davis' plan make perfect sense to me. I say start throwing ballot boxes intot he Potomac in protest.

lemming said...

I like the idea of D.C. as its own entity, neither fish nor fowl. That having been said,it is horrible that they have no direct representation yet carry pretty hefty burdens and expectations particualrly at times such as presidential inaugurations.

Joe said...

Lemming: I know what kind of rights U.S. fish and fowl have. In fact, I'm about to go into my kitchen and practice them right now.

Sounds like about what Congress thinks of DC residents too...

John: thanks for clarifying that the ESPN flap is what DC needed to "get over." Fair point. Eyes on the prize, people.

However, I can guarandamntee you that DC residents see their own share of political ads and yours. First of all, the stations do broadcast to the full citizens out in the burbs. Second, that's where the lobbyists air their ads to get the leaders to see them.

And yes, the Founders wanted DC free of state politics. I think Jeff Davis pretty much proved that wasn't the big issue...

DC was originally designed as a full diamond. Virginia ceded a lot of land to the project; the Feds never used it and gave it back. So there is some precedent for my approach.

tommyspoon said...

Alison -- You're probably correct. On a related note, I heard "outside the beltway" several times while in Seattle: once by one of the Front Desk folks at our hotel, once on the local morning news, and by a passerby at the Pike Place Market. Perhaps a trend is being born...

Joe -- Your suggestion has one teeny tiny problem: Maryland doesn't want D.C.! They've said it over and over, it's the one issue that seems to cross party lines in the Free State.

John -- No worries, dude. I knew you were kidding. And I also knew that you were referring to the whole 50/50 thing, which is kind of silly. My Constitutional citations were offered to prove that this document is not some stone table sent down by a higher power. I mean, if the Founders were the super-geniuses that we feel they are, why didn't they resolve the issue with the "Federal enclave"? Oh, and those lobbyist ads that Joe referred to? They are just as bad as congressional ads, and we hear them ALL THE TIME. Imagine the same thing for those congressional ads.

Lemming -- You'll pardon me if I don't care for your wishy-washy description of my hometown. ;-) This is a disgraceful situation and I hope it is resolved in my lifetime. But I won't be surprised if it isn't.

For all of you "outside the beltway" types who want to do something about this, you can write your congresscritters and let them know that you don't like this situation. (I'm looking at you, CPF, since you just visited.) You can sign the petition at Or you can join Joe and I in hurling ballot boxes into the Potomac River.