I've been following the great, big, exciting news that DC may actually get a vote in the House. At first glance I was pretty excited. Surely, one of the suckiest aspects of Washington is not having Legislative representation. Of course, this is all just too good to be true. Earning this vote would be an insult to American representative democracy.
First, the basics (and if you have been following this or bothered to read the Washington Post article I linked to, you can skip the next few paragraphs). After about hundreds of years of Congressional impotence, the House is close to voting on a bill that would give Washington a vote in the House of Representatives. In the past, Republicans had been wary about this since they appear to care about politics more than basic human rights. DC is about 90% Democrat and the Republicans don't feel like giving the opposition a vote is such a great idea. I find this to be spineless, but whatever.
So, for Washington to get a vote, people needed to find a way to placate the GOP. What better way to do that than to give a red state an extra vote? The legislation being considered by the House would do exactly that by giving Utah an extra Congressional vote. Utah is the perfect state for this since they've been owed an extra district for a while and they represent one of the reddest states in the country. Since Democrats are about as spineless as their counterparts across the isle, this Congressional seat will be an at-large vote. Dems are worried about the effect of an extra district on Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT). No one wants to see him gerrymandered into the unemployment line. Of course, an at-large seat in a state with a large population is totally unheard of.
Let me reiterate that I really, really, really want DC to have a vote in Congress. But this plan sucks balls for a variety of reasons:
1. By giving a vote to Utah, it makes it seem like letting DC have a vote in the House is a political issue. For the love of God, this is not a political issue. It's a human rights issue. We have American soldiers (now including my 50-year-old uncle) fighting for the voting rights of Iraqi and Afghan citizens. DC residents don't have those rights. That's something Americans should be ashamed of. It shouldn't matter if DC is 90% Democrat or 90% Republican or 90% Fascist/Commie/Libertarian/Any Other Evil Ideology*. We deserve that vote.
2. House votes don't really matter that much anyways. One DC vote in the House isn't going to suddenly make all of our lives better. This legislation will leave us without two Senators. The Senate is where all the big decisions are made. House members are a dime-a-dozen. If we ever want Senate representation, this bill can not pass. We can't give politicians the satisfaction of thinking that passing this legislation will mean that they've done enough for DC voting rights.
3. This throws centuries of Legislative precedent into the wind. If DC gets merely a house vote, what happens to the other American territories that don't have voting rights? Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands surely all deserve the same rights as DC. Will they get a vote?** Furthermore, providing a House vote without two voting Senators is ridiculous. It puts our entire bicameral Legislature out-of-whack. We can't go giving the House votes all willy-nilly.
4. Utah would be the only state with an at-large Representative where the population doesn't demand it. That may seem like a small point, but I think it's enormous. It would create a Super-Representative in Utah government. He (or she, but probably he) wouldn't be representing a group of people but rather an entire state. This is totally unheard of. It threatens the very foundation of what makes the House distinct from the Senate.
I think those are four pretty good reasons. And I've found the solution!
No, it isn't statehood. DC voters obliterated any shot at statehood in the next century by reelecting Marion Berry for mayor after his crack-cocaine conviction. Anyone holding out for statehood, don't hold your breath. It will never happen in our lifetimes.
Anyone holding out for an amendment that gives us a voting House member and two voting Senators, don't hold your breath either. That would take 75% of the United States' Legislatures approval to pass. I would bet that more than 25% of the states in our union would have a real problem giving voting rights to a majority-minority city. Sure, they let us vote for president, but that was B.M.B. (Before Marion Berry).
My totally awesome solution: Absorb DC into Maryland. We'd get our own Representative due to Maryland's 500,000+ population boost! We'd have our own two Senators! We could still have a City Council, a mayor, and a voice in the Maryland Legislature. Republicans are more likely to accept this plan since Maryland is already solidly blue. I just don't see a downside here. It's pragmatic and it allows DC residents to get the representation we deserve.
I understand that some will mourn the loss of DC's city-state status. But I think that since we've had home rule, DC politicians have proven that they do not have the ability to take care of a city's budget, infrastructure, or educational system. Let's hand over the reins to someone else, someone who knows what they're doing, and enjoy having a vote that matters on Election Day.
* Just kidding, Libertarians and Communists. I know that Fascists are worse than you guys.
** For what's it worth, I think the best solution to that problem is gradually granting these territories independence. Key word is "gradually." We all know what can happen when a imperialist country totally abandons their colonies. (Hint: Africa.)