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Why DC Statehood Matters to Americans

In the mid 1700s, the British American colonies and Great Britain reached a philosophical and political tipping point. The rally cry was “Taxation without representation is tyranny!” for the American colonists because the British crown imposed policies on them while their voices were absent in the British Parliament. The Stamp Act was the final straw and pushed America to seek and secure independence. While just recently we celebrated America’s 293rd birthday, its capital is the last remaining jurisdiction on the entire North American continent still shouting the old 18th century rally cry.

America has five territories and one federal district alongside the 50 states. All six of these jurisdictions have no representation in Congress. This upholds the Constitution to some degree. However, DC residents, out of all the territories, pay more in federal taxes and have an electoral vote in the Presidential election. While tourists visit the National Mall, they rarely go pass this area to see the vibrant neighborhoods of the District. These neighborhoods consist of working American families that have the same kitchen table discussions as the families in Cheyenne, Wyoming. DC’s families live paycheck to paycheck, they have fought in every single war, they try to make a way to get their kids through college, pay healthcare bills for their latest checkups and contribute to federal taxes just like all Americans. However, if we do not drive past the beautiful, salient monuments, then it may be difficult to believe these sentiments.


Washington, DC statehood has gained considerable momentum. It’s momentum began in 2016 when over 86% of the DC residents voted in a referendum to seek statehood. Non-voting DC delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has been a fighter for DC statehood since forever, presented a bill titled HR.51 (get it?). This bill would shrink the size of the District of Columbia around the National Monument and other government buildings, while the remaining areas of the once federal district becomes the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.


The bill has over 200 co-sponsors and will finally be receiving a hearing in the fall. This will give 700,000 people a voice in their federal legislature, something the rest of the country enjoys. Unfortunately, being the only national capital in the world without representation is not something that sways Americans to support DC statehood. According to a recent Gallup Poll, nearly two thirds of all Americans do not support DC statehood.


My response to this poll is that if Americans don’t know then they don’t know. As Americans, we already don’t like something new, and if we don’t know the background to this new thing then we are definitely hesitant. Maybe the facts might make it more clear as to why statehood is so important for not just Washingtonians but for America as a whole.


DC contributes more in federal taxes than 22 states, it has a bigger population than two states, it has a balanced budget, it is currently running a financial surplus, its government operates as a State and, in Congress it is treated as a State. However, Congress has authority over what DC does with its local affairs even when they only use local tax dollars. An example of this is when DC wanted to legalize recreational marijuana: The conservative legislature overturned those policies and made sure to put riders in every bill that prohibits DC from using funds to administer this policy.


I wonder how any citizen would feel in any state if the Federal Government overturned or prohibited a local policy that is funded by their tax dollars. If a policy is proposed or passed in Congress, citizens from all 50 states can call their representatives and voice their praise or dissatisfaction, while DC residents have to just suck it up and deal with the process.


One of the most ignorant arguments I’ve heard against DC statehood is that DC lands are mostly federally owned, and if they want representation so badly, they should go to Maryland. The primary argument can easily be compromised because there are states like Nevada, Idaho, and Utah who have over 50% of their land owned by the Federal Government. For the latter argument, tell Pennsylvanians in Philadelphia if they can’t afford to live there then move to Camden, New Jersey or tell North Dakota and South Dakota to combine into one state since they both are the same.


Ever since DC became its own jurisdiction, it has cultivated its own culture. People in the district show pride in being a Washingtonian and don’t consider themselves Marylanders at all. Nothing is wrong with being a citizen from Maryland, but DC has made it clear: They do not want to be a part of Maryland, and vice versa. Maryland’s government, especially, is opposed to this proposal because it would tip their state’s political balance. Simply telling someone to up and move from a place that they have lived their whole lives is simplistic and intellectually dishonest to the conversation.


If we want to speak truth, there is no real argument to deny 700,000 working class families representation in a federal legislature that they take part in funding. We know why these arguments come about, because DC would most likely be solidly liberal, giving a disadvantage to Republicans. However, Americans have to look at this DC statehood issue as a civil rights violation and understand that Washingtonians struggle too. So many benefits would come with DC becoming a state, such as legislative autonomy and making sure their voices are heard in Congress.


I am not worried about the Gallup Polls at this moment because that means we have to do a better job as Washingtonians to bring awareness to this issue. I hope that, in the future, we can truly say as Americans that we will never again accept taxation without representation!




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