Posted by: Amelia | June 21, 2007

Kicking and Screaming Toward Democracy

Let’s be honest: the debate over DC Congressional representation has always been undergirded by partisanship.  I simply don’t buy the pseudo-philosophical arguments for continuing to deny DC residents a voice in Congress.  The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so Republicans have been either actively opposed to DC voting rights or content to passively let the injustice go on.  Democrats, of course, stand to gain from DC representation, a fact that I’m sure sways some big-D Democratic strategists more than any small-d democratic principles.  Nonetheless, justice is decidedly on our side.  Some Republicans, such as the Senators who joined Democrats in approving DC voting rights in committee, are coming around.  From the New York Times editorial page today:

Just in time for next month’s rockets’ red glare, a measure to give the residents of Washington D.C. their long-denied right to a full vote in the House of Representatives is making headway in the Senate. The legislation, already passed by the House, is gaining unexpected support from Senate Republicans finally struck by the injustice of the meeting place of democracy being denied its democratic right.

“It was very difficult to explain,” Senator George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, admitted in recalling the utter bafflement of European friends that helped prompt his vote to give the district a full voice. Currently, the city’s 550,000 residents elect a shadow delegate who must sit mute when issues are put to an up-or-down vote by the people’s representatives. No wonder the city’s automobile plates properly proclaim, “Taxation Without Representation.”

It’s sad that throwing an extra vote to Republican-dominated Utah was the only way to reach a compromise.  It’s also sad that Sen. Susan Collins has had to install an amendment that “would rule out a future Senate seat for the district” just to get other GOPers on board.  For those playing at home, the 510,000 residents of Wyoming have two Senators, while the 550,000 residents of DC will apparently never have one.  But hey, at least one representative is better than nothing – just don’t expect it anytime soon.  Bush has threatened to veto the bill even if it passes.  As the editorial concludes:

But President Bush, who has been preaching democracy overseas, would be wise to reconsider and embrace the same rights for his neighbors in the nation’s capital.

If he doesn’t reconsider, here’s hoping Senators from both sides of the aisle will renew their support when a Democrat is elected in 2008.

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Responses

  1. DCers deserve voting representation, but the questions surrounding additional senators are serious ones. You’ve pointed out the inequity between DC, with 550,000 citizens and Wyoming, with 510,000, two of whom are US senators.

    But what about California, with more than 36 million? Along with other large states, California’s ratio of citizens to senators will continue to grow more lopsided, compared to the smaller states. California license plates could justifiably say “Taxation with only 1/70th the representation–at least in the Senate.” This fact might surprise our European observers, as well.

    The great compromise was great, but at some point, the inequity begins to look a little like the situation in DC., particularly when very strong leverage is exercised by a group of senators representing a small percent of the population. It will probably never change, though, under our current constitution, due the very power that the smaller states currently possess. The only answer is for Californians to move to Wyoming.


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