Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Stating The Case

Charles P. Pierce on the right-wing nutsery’s opposition to D.C. statehood.

The Republican Party is dead-set against making the District of Columbia our 51st state. This is because the Republican Party would rather that the residents of the capital, half of whom are Black, not get a chance to elect two senators. Now, one might suggest that it’s a more decent and patriotic approach to decide not to be the party of thinly disguised white supremacy, and to find a way to appeal to this particular slice of the citizenry. But on Monday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee took on the question, and the Republican minority spent the day coming up with dozens of creative ways to explain that, no, they would rather not have Black people electing two new senators, and that, no, they would rather not adjust to the country’s changing demographics, thank you.

The cause is an evergreen among progressive activists and has been for more than three decades. But the energy behind it at the moment comes from its importance as part of the Democratic strategy to break down the bone-deep Republican devotion to voter-suppression, and to employ every institutional choke-point to its maximum in the service of minority rule. In this, the preposterous filibuster rule is merely a byproduct of the absurd makeup of the Senate, in which a 50-50 partisan split represents a difference of over 41 million people between the Democrats and the Republicans. The Republicans have pressed this mathematical absurdity to its limits, and one can hardly blame the Democrats for casting around for some solution that doesn’t involve eliminating the Senate entirely. So for the first time, a proposal for D.C. statehood seems to have considerable wind behind it, and the Republicans know it.

Rather than simply stating their actual reasons for their opposition, the Republicans on the committee ginned up a constitutional argument that was less compelling than it was vague. (It depends on an arcane interpretation of the puzzling 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, and ignores the fact that the creation of new states always has been the province of Congress.) Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s “delegate” in the Congress who’s been fighting this fight for 30 years, did a good job explaining this simple truth.

My own family has lived through almost 200 years of change in the District of Columbia, since my great grandfather, Richard Holmes, as a slave, walked away from a plantation in Virginia, and made his way to the district. Today it is my great honor to serve in a city where my father’s family has lived without equal representation for almost two centuries. Congress can no longer allow D.C. residents to be sidelined in the democratic process.

Meanwhile, other Republicans mustered up a brigade of bogeymen because they’re stuck for any other answer to any issue of national policy. As ranking Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky put it, the Democrats want two more senators because:

D.C. statehood is a key part of the radical leftist agenda to reshape America, along with the Green New Deal, defunding the police and packing the U.S. Supreme Court.

Other Republicans, like the inexcusable Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, argued that, once it is declared a state, D.C. would be a deadbeat drag on the American taxpayer, which is an indication that Rep. Grothman is unfamiliar with the concept of Mississippi. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican assault on the franchise, and on the democratic infrastructure of the government, is becoming an issue in and of itself. This seems to be something that the Republicans didn’t see coming.

The best grasping-at-straws argument I’ve heard against statehood is that there’s not a car dealership in D.C. (there is, actually; they sell Teslas) or an airport.  Neither of those are prerequisites for statehood.

The GOP says it has been trying to win back minority voters — no, really — so you would think that statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico would be a no-brainer.  But a no-brainer is what best describes them.

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