When Ethical Is Also Smart: The D.C. Statehood Dilemma

DC statehood

The introduction of a bill for D.C. statehood seems like a good time to consider this.

The GOP opposition to statehood for the District of Columbia is a genuine example of the kind of voter suppression that the Left is unfairly and dishonestly accusing Republicans of pursuing elsewhere. The proof of this is stunningly simple: Does anyone believe that if Washington, D.C. had an overwhelmingly conservative population that could be counted on to put Republicans in office, the party wouldn’t be insisting that the city should become a state? (Does anyone believe that if this was the case, Democrats would not be opposing their position?)

The District’s largest racial group is black, with whites slightly behind. But Democrats make up more than 75% of the registered voters , while only 6% are registered Republicans. About 95% of all voters can be relied upon to vote Democratic in any election, regardless of the candidates.

Therefore Republicans don’t want the District to be able elect two Senators and a voting House member. This isn’t racial voter suppression: you know that if black voters in the District were reliable Republicans, the alternate universe I posited above would exist. But it is still voter suppression. The fact that U.S.citizens living in the nation’s Capital lack representation in Congress is a national scandal that has persisted too long.

As a prominent scar on our democratic principles, it presents the GOP with an opportunity to show that while it is legitimately concerned with the integrity of the voter rolls and voter credentials, it is not focusing on these issues for partisan benefit. Republicans should offer the party’s support for D.C. statehood. From a political perspective, it is a valuable bargaining chip: the party should promise that it will not try to hold up statehood—as it certainly can— if the Democrats will drop some of their more dangerous plots, like packing the Supreme Court.

Statehood far from an ideal solution, but it is a solution, and it can be accomplished, unlike every other suggestion I’ve heard. It is the most practical and the least offensive of the various proposals to solve the District’s long-standing plight; it’s still a lousy one. However, leaving more than a half-million Americans without access to full voting rights is worse. D.C., at last count, has more people than Vermont and Wyoming and only slightly less than North Dakota, all with a House member and two Senators. One argument against statehood is that the city is too small to be a state, which is like saying Pluto is too small to be a planet. There is no minimal land mass for a state: the definition doesn’t exist. Rhode Island, the smallest state, is 17 times larger than D.C., but then Sitka, Alaska, with 2,870 square miles, it is more than twice the size of Little Rhodey, but it has only 8,881 residents.

All the arguments against D.C. statehood are rationalizations. The worst is “but the Founders wanted it this way.” The Founders did not “want” a half-million American citizens to be subjected to “taxation without representation.” They were dealing with other issues, and didn’t consider what their plan would require a couple of centuries later.

Republicans can demonstrate that the party is not trying to disenfranchise African Americans, by pro-actively enfranchising them in D.C., even with the knowledge that their gratitude will never extend to the the ballot box.

49 thoughts on “When Ethical Is Also Smart: The D.C. Statehood Dilemma

  1. I think there are other reasons to be leery of making D.C. a state than just it wasn’t intended to be that way. There were reasons that D.C. was not made a state, based off of lobbying power of the state on the federal government. If you make D.C. a state, then it will have a governor and state legislature, in addition to federal representatives and senators. The governor and state legislature working with the federal representatives and senators would have a lot of ability to influence federal policy. If the federal government does things the state government doesn’t like, retaliatory measures would be a likely outcome.

    Democrats do not act in good faith on anything, ever. They are vindictive, nasty little bullies who cannot be trusted to do anything they say they will do, not do anything they say they won’t do, or operate according to ethics or laws.

    Republican law makers frequently cannot be trusted to operate in good faith, either. They tend to mostly be untrustworthy on doing what they say they will do, but lots of them are just as bad as the democrats at acting in good faith.

    Everybody in federal government is very busy taking bribes from lobbyists and kickbacks from corporations. Adding a state government to take bribes and kickbacks from is not going to make D.C. any better.

    I don’t see how making D.C. a state doesn’t result in an abuse of power. The increasing radicalization of the left makes this extremely likely to lead to abuse in the very short term. Even if D.C. leaned republican, I would not want D.C. made a state, because Republicans cannot be trusted not to game the system either.

    It is just a bad idea, and one that will lead to all sorts of problems down the road.

    If The issue is D.C. residents not having representation, then let them vote on one of the nearby states representatives to give them a say. It’s not a perfect solution, but it gives them federal representation without adding the problems of statehood.

          • I don’t much like the idea of all those smarmy lobbyists not having to pay taxes, but I do believe in no taxation without representation.

            I don’t think making D.C. a state is a viable option. As there does not seem to be any viable method of providing D.C. residents with federal representation, the only viable option is to eliminate the taxes.

            If you made D.C. a state, it would get its own justice branch, correct? With state police, and state court systems, and state prosecutors?

            What is to stop the state from arresting all the republican legislators on trumped up charges? What is going to stop state prosecutors from intentionally carrying out a two tiered justice system? You already have that going on in D.C., and giving them statehood would only give them free reign to abuse state legal systems to the maximum degree. Leftist judges legislating from the bench up through state Supreme Court level.

            There is just way to many potential ramifications of statehood that make the entire idea is untenable.

  2. Would it be good idea to declare Washington, DC a residence-free zone with only elected and appointed officials living in the city and everyone else living in the surrounding areas?

    Members of Congress vote in their home states anyway, so does the President and, I presume, Cabinet Members and Supreme Court Justices. No one actually living in the city will be without the right to vote and there won’t be any need to make DC statehood a partisan issue. No extra votes in Congress, no extra Electoral votes, nobody excluded from voting and no need for a corrupt mayor.

    • I thought that would be an interesting solution but how make it work? Perhaps, redraw the district’s boundaries so that it would be in a state and the problem goes away. Those DV residents immediately become residents of Virginia or Maryland or . . .


  3. This is a legit question: why not absorb DC into Maryland or Virginia (or both) for congressional representation? Are there arguments against that?

    I say this as a Marylander, figuring that they could hardly screw things up here more than Baltimore already does.

    • Maryland doesn’t want it. State capitals don’t want competing national capitals. DC wouldn’t want it either. Other than that, sure, it’s the most sensible solution, but since it can never happen, it’s not worth thinking about

  4. Washington, DC should have been abolished as a “federal district” and ceded to Maryland and/or Virginia decades ago. As soon as the Federal government outgrew DC and started oozing out into the nearby states, Congress should have realized what DC was becoming. I still think ceding the district would be the best course of action, but obviously won’t be popular now.

  5. Unless and until the other side actually drops some of these ridiculous proposals I’d say no, go to Hell. I see a LOT of problems with supporting this:

    1. It sets a bad precedent, because you know if this goes through, PR will be right behind, and who knows what else.

    2. It gives the Democrats something else to crow about as they change the “District of Columbia” to the “Commonwealth of Douglass.”

    3. The GOP would be essentially giving up the Senate a piece at a time. That’s not why the GOP Senators are there.

    Put bluntly, I refuse to enable a power grab.

  6. Is there anyone who thinks that if the Democrats agreed to this, they’d continue to honor the deal once they had two more senators on their side? The problem with this idea is that the benefit to Democrats is permanent, but the benefit to Republicans lasts only as long as the Democrats choose to honor it. Has the Democratic Party, as it exists now, shown any signs that it’s worthy of such trust?

    It’s not very wise to negotiate in good faith with a party that has shown you nothing but bad faith for years.

  7. Dear Mr. Marshall,
    Why does the USA need to intrude upon and control the daily living habits of the residents of a National Capitol City? Why not give the residents of Washington, DC, the same rights to representation as all other Americans, without creating another minimal “state” and all the divisive political posturing that entails? Why not effectively dissolve the District of Columbia and “return” sovereignty of the land to the States from which it was taken, i.e., Virginia and Maryland? Specific federal buildings and facilities could remain the “Property of the United States,” just as are Post Offices, Court Houses, military installations, Federal Office Buildings located around the country outside of DC.
    DC residences could then elect their own Mayor (better yet, TWO mayors: one for the new Washington, Virginia, and one for the new Washington, Maryland!), and vote for their respective U.S. Representatives and Senators. This would “enfranchise” DC residents without exacerbating the “disproportionate representation” problem (e.g., Wyoming versus California population per elected representative).

  8. I would not be opposed to DC becoming a state, but I would want a decentralized federal government in return. All the various federal agencies that are now headquartered there should be moved to different parts of the country. Move the USDA to out in the middle of farm country – either the midwest or California, the IRS headquarters to one of its branch offices, the Department of Education to Louisiana, the Department of Energy to North Dakota, and the VA to Florida.

    I don’t care where the departments end up being headquartered, as long as they are away from each other. (Although, moving them to currently red states would be beneficial to expanding their viewpoints and a nice incentive to the Republicans to sign on.) I’d like to see this done even if DC doesn’t become a state.

    Rent out their former buildings to businesses and try to get some economic development going in the area. They could offer nice discounts on rent in order to attract businesses that will offer jobs and growth that don’t bloat the government.

    • Pandemic aside, video conferencing is still in its infancy, and old-fashioned teleconferencing is too limited. Physical proximity to Congress and the Whitehouse is still a necessity for the department heads. They can sprawl out beyond the borders of DC, cars are a thing but a 4-hour flight and reliance on commercial airline schedules is impractical.

      Ask again in 50 years, maybe things will be different.

  9. I like mardybum’s ideas.

    Why in the hell would the D party stop with statehood for just li’l ol’ DC?

    Why aren’t they already talking about doing the same thing with EVERY major city coast to coast? You know: the big urban centers that D’s have controlled for decades. Lots more people want to be U.S. senators and HOR members, don’tcha know? How better and more quickly and permanently to monopolize power in the country than to rig the courts AND the, er, Imperial Legislature (formerly “Congress”)? Maybe the D’s will liberalize the path for secession for all states, too…just sayin’.

  10. Don’t I remember someone opining not too long ago: “The District of Columbia is not a state, it’s a city. Making it a state is preposterous.”

    • Oh, I might have said that. But preposterous or not, the benefits outweigh the deficits now. Utilitarianism. I haven’t read any alternatives here that would work or could be implemented. And the GOP would benefit from horse-trading statehood while undermining the “racist vote-suppression” false narrative.

      • Appeasement. Peace in our time. The current Dems are implacable. It’s like negotiating with the Iranians. Bad idea on a Barack Obama/John Kerry scale.

        • Wrong, Bill. Americans have a right to representation. If that’s inconvenient for the GOP, it’s too damn bad. And accepting it is one way they can prove that stopping blacks from voting isn’t their agenda. Or is it?

      • “…the GOP would benefit from horse-trading statehood while undermining the “racist vote-suppression” false narrative.”

        Sorry, that seems more like a bound to fail attempt at appeasement than horse-trading. Democrats have demonstrated, along with their “journalist” allies, that they don’t act in good faith. I doubt how much, if any, of the “racist vote-suppression” by Republicans narrative would abate. Witness the continued nonsense still being put forward about the new Georgia voting law.

        Have them offer to let the DC residents vote in whichever state their residence would fall, based on the old borders; that would enfranchise them. If that’s all they truly want, that would do.

        • I’m pretty sure there is no way to have people who live in one separate governmental entity vote in another, and a vote in a jurisdiction you don’t live in doesn’t advance your interests—you don’t have a “representative.”

          • If they could manage the legislative jiggery-pokery to turn DC into a state, I imagine they could devise a means of allowing federal voting rights as noted. Maryland and Virginia are already democrat, in no small part because of the DC overflow beyond the city borders. The in-DC voters would get the same degree of federal representation. Their local governance could remain as-is, just like any other city (with the slight variant of no state control).

            The bottom line is they don’t really care about disenfranchised people, they want two more guaranteed-in-perpetuity democrat senators.

  11. I’m not a US citizen, but to me the idea of a “District” for the capital of any country or state seemed like an attempt to limit the size and power of one individual state over another. Here is Canada our original capital was Kingston, then Queen Victoria declared that it would be Ottawa, which was a tiny nowhere town. But all the power was concentrated in places like Kingston and Montreal and they had to move to where the politicians and decision makers were. Today Ottawa is a major city with mutiple smaller towns surrounding it as suburbs (Hull, Kanata, Nepean).

    As the power of the government grows, so does the people living in the capital city. I think the question is not whether DC should have statehood but whether the US should try what Queen Victoria did and make the power brokers move elsewhere. Casper, Wyoming maybe? Then Washington can simply be absorbed by Virginia or Maryland, life can go on and the great and powerful can complain that Casper simply doesn’t have enough lattes to keep them happy while the congress can fight over their sudden housing shortage, a new White House can be built and the Supreme Court and take over the local court house.

    One of the problems the Roman empire (and every powerful empire and nation since) is that once power is concentrated in a single city, those who want power will only go there, whereas if they are forced to go somewhere else, their ambitions can be cooled a bit.

    • Absolutely not!!! Keep those idiots out of here. You bring politicians en masse to Casper and I swear, we are going to make election season synonymous with deer season. Besides, “May God bless and keep progressives FAR AWAY FROM US!!!”

      AOC and the squad could probably learn a thing or two snowed into Chugwater, or even better Buford, for week, and maybe all politicians should find themselves spreading cow shit over fields on a hot summer’s day, but no, we don’t want Casper and it’s 50,000 people to be swallowed by the pestilence and rubbish that comes with being a national capital. Little Colorado and Little California, (I mean Cheyenne and Jackson) are enough for one state.

  12. A better solution, though less acceptable for the democrats, would be to redefine the borders of DC to include only government buildings, parks, lands, the mall, etc (ie areas with very few if any residents), and ceding the populated areas to Maryland.

      • That “it isn’t going to happen” because certain constituencies are pig-headed about it is not an argument. The same can be said of DC statehood, except those constituencies actually have historical and constitutional reasons for it.

        • It isn’t going to happen. Why is irrelevant. Can’t happen, won’t happen. It’s like saying that we should strive to end all war. Which of those alternative solutions are blocked by pig-headedness? It’s not pig-headed to not want to give up billions in tax revenue. It’s not pig-headed not to want to be absorbed by another state and culture. A population in a discrete area is larger than two states, and seeks the same representation in Congress as those states, and as Americans, they deserve that. Their party affiliation should not be an issue. And I explained why.

          • How would Maryland and Virginia be giving up tax revenue retrocession? Unless you mean the DC core losing the tax revenue from the ceded population, but since when is it ever a problem for a small federal enclave to find funding, with the full taxation power of the federal government behind it?

            And what’s this about being absorbed by a different culture? What, the culture less than an hour’s drive in any direction? Literally the same culture as adjacent suburbs like Arlington or Bethesda? You’re talking nonsense.

          • I should add that comparing the idea of reversing the cession of land being as intractable as the universal and permanent ending of all wars is so ridiculously hyperbolic, it makes the idea of culture clashes between DC and Maryland or Virginia seem almost reasonable by comparison.

  13. No dilemma at all just a dumb idea. I respect your opinions on just about everything but here we must diverge. Statehood for DC transgresses history, the Constitution, and common sense. The precinct down the hill from my house voted 99% Democratic in the last election. Statehood for Aspinwall !


  14. The undesirable change in the balance of power can be mitigated by splitting other states. California’s northern residents have long despised the politics of the state’s majority. Plus, if we get to 53, 59 or 61 states, then we can be truly “…one nation, (under God) indivisible…”

  15. I may have missed it, but I don’t think I’ve seen an argument against DC statehood that isn’t a partisan one, On the other scale, we have ethics. Leaving these citizens voteless in the national legislature violates the Golden Rule, but more important, it’s a pure Kantian breach, using human beings for a selfish end.

    • The left has created a political environment that is so corrosive and divisive that everything is going to be political. That is just a fact of life. If they wanted good faith negotiations, they should have acted in good faith.

      I cannot think of a single time in the last decade where the democrats had an opportunity to do something horribly controversial and divisive, and didn’t take it. I cannot think of one opportunity where they reached across the aisle and listened to people who didn’t agree with them to form a good faith compromise. I cannot think of a single power grab they failed to take, or a time when they didn’t dial the political rhetoric up to an 11 on the hateful scale.

      That is the political climate they created. That is the political reality of the country. Anger, fear, paranoia and hate are tearing the country apart. Expecting people to ignore the facts is unrealistic. Expecting people to put their emotions aside and let the democrats continue to act unethically in one power grabbing scheme after another while our rights are trampled, we are locked in our houses due to a virus, leftist political terrorists riot in the streets burning and looting out innocent people, leftist political propagandists control the media and fascist technocrats suppress speech online, is unreasonable, impractical and unwise.

      The democrats created this political climate. They revel in hate and bigotry. No one who opposes their power grabs is going to care that this particular power grab might have some ethical legitimacy.

      It might be ethical to provide D.C. with representation. The democrats do not ever do the ethical thing unless it aligns with their power grabbing plans, and they do not care about doing the ethical thing in this case. They do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to ethics.

      Giving more power to unethical people is also unethical. There are competing ethical issues in this scenario, and the political climate the democrats created gives more weight to the ethical argument not to give them more power.

  16. Nah. The Founders knew what they were doing disenfranchising Washington, DC. They knew that Washington DC would inevitably be home to a mass of people ever beholden to expanding federal power and therefore would forever be held to vote against the greater good and towards aggrandizing themselves…never “flipping”.

    They knew also that treating “DC” as part of an existing state would also give that individual state outsized influence over the others.

    The ethical balance there was accepting the disenfranchisement of that tiny segment of the population *that was never supposed to be a permanent place of habitation*.

    Based on the exponential increase of the size of the central government and all the secondary and tertiary people who have massed around DC in support of it, a fair argument can be made that the *only* appropriate action for Washington DC is to expand it’s size 20 miles further into Virginia and further into Maryland.

    And still deny it voting rights. (though I’ll carve out an exception for Zip Code 22305)

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