Op-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: Support D.C. Statehood!

I look forward to the day when I might be able to celebrate with others, living in “liberated Washington, D.C.,” the “Douglass Commonwealth.”

That is the proposed name of the 51st state, should Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s proposed H.R. 51 legislation become law.

That’s because all that is required to make D.C. a state, is a majority vote in favor of D.C. statehood in both the House and the Senate, and the signature of the president. Don’t let anyone fool you. A constitutional amendment is not required to make D.C. a state! We drank that constitutional amendment Kool-Aid back in the late 1970s, when the statehood/home-rule movement was strong, and it got us nothing. It derailed the momentum.

Rather than call for statehood, when Democrat Jimmy Carter was president and the Dems held majorities in both the House and the Senate, we were snookered into seeking an amendment — which requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, then ratification by three-fourths of the states — which would have granted D.C. a voting representative in the House and two members of the Senate “as if D.C. was a state.” The reason for this watered-down appeal was so as to not appear to be too uppity, wanting too much, I suppose.

So, they muscled through those super-majorities, on the condition that the states had only seven years to ratify the amendment. They got fewer than a dozen state ratifications when the time ran out, just like the opponents knew it would. The statehood movement lost a lot of momentum after that bad decision.

D.C. deserves statehood — not “as if” it was a state, but actual statehood. By comparison, every other modern global power permits the residents of its capital to vote in the national legislature, except in the U.S. D.C. has a lone, nonvoting House “delegate.”

D.C. has a larger population than both Vermont and Wyoming. D.C. residents pay more federal taxes than the residents of 22 states. D.C. has more members serving in the U.S. armed forces per capita, than almost all the states, but no votes in Congress. That’s taxation without representation at its worst.

Certainly, the residents of Washington, D.C., deserve statehood. They deserve to be called residents of the Douglass Commonwealth. Taxation without representation is unjust! D.C. deserves statehood!

On Capitol Hill recently, Norton’s bill was “marked up” in Committee, and is subject to a House floor vote before the summer recess. It is almost certain to pass there. The bill already has 225 co-sponsors. Only 218 votes are required to approve it and send it to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it faces certain death, despite having more than 30 co-sponsors in that body.

Statehood supporters realize that as long as the GOP controls the Senate, and Donald J. Trump is in the White House, their cause is lost. But now statehood supporters insist on advancing their movement as far as they possibly can in each succeeding session of Congress until the measure succeeds.

If D.C. was to become the Douglass Commonwealth — even as it is becoming gentrified — it would be a strong, “New Jerusalem,” “shining place on the hill” and a model of modern governance, best practices.

But one drawback the movement was plagued with, according to former D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy, was the “three too’s” — D.C. is too liberal, too Democratic and too Black. But now, how will gentrification affect that equation? Statehood, yes! It’s the least a society which prides itself on equality for all, would want for 700,000 of its citizens. Right?

D.C. statehood — yes! D.C. statehood now!

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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