May 05, 2020

District of Columbia: Partizanship Trumps Rights in Statehood Question

In recent statements over the question of statehood for the District of Columbia, the US President has highlighted the ways in which partizan politics in the US takes precendence over the representational rights of US citizens residing in the District. Given the overwhelming support for the Democratic Party in the District, the President stated that members of the Republican Party would be "very, very stupid" to allow D.C. statehood. This follows an unfortunate pattern, throughout U.S. history and involving all political parties, where the democratic rights of its citizens, minorities in particular, have taken a back seat to political considerations, a point that the UNPO has recently made in our submission to the United Nations on voter disenfranchisment in the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories.

Below is an article by The Washington Post written by Jenna Portnoy.

President Trump this week explained why he thinks the District will never become the 51st state, despite activists’ best efforts: too many Democrats.

Republicans in Congress would have to be “very, very stupid” to allow D.C. statehood because the city’s overwhelmingly Democratic population would be likely to elect two Democratic senators, swelling the party’s representation.

“D.C. will never be a state,” Trump told the New York Post this week. “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.”

The remarks came weeks after Congress passed a coronavirus relief bill that treated the District like a territory, instead of like a state, with the effect that it received about $755 million less than it might have, to the outrage of Democrats in the region.

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting delegate to Congress, said that Trump’s opinion on statehood is irrelevant because Trump may be voted out of office this year and Democrats have a chance to take control of the Senate.

“This is the predicable view not only of this president but of Republicans in the House and perhaps even the Senate,” she said. “The District should pay no attention to this.”

Statehood advocates hope the majority-Democratic House this year will pass Norton’s legislation shrinking the nation’s capital to a two-square-mile enclave, encompassing the White House, Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court and other federal buildings.

The rest of the District would become the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, Norton’s bill says, in honor of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lived in Washington for the last part of his life.

The legislation has more than the minimum 218 Democratic co-sponsors needed for passage; no Republicans are on record supporting statehood for the District.

Although she said she has not spoken with him lately, Norton said former vice president Joe Biden would support statehood as president if a bill reached his desk.

In his interview with the New York Post, Trump framed his objection to statehood in starkly political terms.

“They want to do that so they pick up two automatic Democrat — you know it’s a 100 percent Democrat, basically — so why would the Republicans ever do that?” he said. “That’ll never happen unless we have some very, very stupid Republicans around that I don’t think you do. You understand that, right?”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a similar comment last year, accusing Democrats of overreach — and of having a “socialist” agenda — for supporting a move that would inevitably enlarge the Democratic caucus.


Photo: Supporters of D.C. statehood rally outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington in 2016. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)