Micah at Crooked Timber has just noticed DC’s “Taxation Without Representation” license plate logo. This yields discussions of DC statehood and using license plates to send political messages.

I’ve weighed in on DC statehood previously. I haven’t thought that much about the use of license plates to send political messages but can’t think of any objection at the moment.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. April says:

    See the debate in Tennessee over the Right to Life license plates for reasons that license plates should not be a vehicle for political messages.

  2. Kombiz says:

    How is voting rights a poltical message? The thing about DC that I didn’t know before I moved here was that the city has no vote in Congress. While the district has a member in the house, Elenor Holmes Norton, she can’t vote for anything that actually effects her constituents, ie. the cut back in Head Start Programs where her vote would have made a difference last week. That’s not even starting to take into account the Senate. Slightly differrent than Pro-Life plates on cars I think.

  3. James Joyner says:

    April: Actually, a bunch of states have that campaign going on now. I’m not thrilled with it and not sure where one draws the line. But $15 is $15.

    Kombiz: Voting rights is rather obviously a political message. DC residents don’t get a vote because we live in a federal system based on state representation; DC isn’t a state.

  4. Leroy says:

    The solution takes a constitutional amendment, there is no way around it. The amendment should have the national capital consist of federally owned land, administered by the Congress in a manner deemed fitting by the Congress, while at the same time returning the population of the national capital to the state(s) from which it is drawn for purposes of electing representatives, senators, and electoral votes. In other words, DC would get one or two representatives and would vote for the Maryland senate seats and be considered a part of Maryland for purposes of the Electoral College. It should be written however so that the subject does not have to be re-visited in the case that the national capital is ever changed for whatever reason. Statehood for DC is just not a viable option considering the smallness of the population and territory.

  5. Kombiz says:


    I know why the DC doesn’t have any voting rights, I’m of a mind that it’s a representation issue that should be resolved. I would be willing to accept Leroy’s fix of the problem, though DC is represented in the electoral college. I read your previous post and I disagree with your view that because it would be a small state it should not be afforded the two senators. The whole notion of the Senate is that it is not a purely democratic body, with small states being represented equally with big states. The real political reason is that with the Senate almost evenly divided, DC’s two Senators would be Democrats, thus throwing the current almost tie to the wind based on a little over half a million votes. As far as the city’s expenses I agree that the city is badly run, but the fauly also lies in part with Congress and the so many people who commute into the city for work, but don’t live here.

  6. James Joyner says:


    You reverse my argument: I say that because it would get two Senators, it should not be a state.

    I don’t deny the unequal nature of the Senate. But I don’t think we’d have agreed to the current system if anyone had fathomed the ridiculous disparity that would eventually happen. It was one thing when the difference between Virginia and New Jersey was maybe 2 to 1 (too lazy to look right now) but it’s quite another when you have 100 to 1 disparity between California and Wyoming. Wyoming gets a pass because it’s already in. I can’t imagine we would have admitted it as its own state had we known.

  7. Hatcher says:

    This “DC States’ Rights” thing is just another indication of the cluelessness of the Donks.

    The clearly smart solution is to look at the flip side of the “No Taxation Without Representation” coin: No representatives in Congress, so no federal taxes.

    Drop federal income tax and DC local gov’t could up its tax rate from 9.6% to 20-25% and the taxpayers would be better off than now.

    Extend the lack of federal taxes to business, and DC would become a flourishing haven for Republicans. Real estate prices would rise like geysers. The schools would improve almost automatically as both the funding base and demand for quality rose.

    Gotta think out of the box sometimes, even when the answer’s right there in front of you. Sheesh!

  8. Davie D says:

    Is “Taxation without Representation” on DC’s official license plate, or is it an optional plate? I think most of the political plates (like the various “Choose Life” plates) are special plates you have to pay extra to get. Maryland’s “Save the Bay” plates are another example. I have no problem with people paying extra if they want to make a political statement on their plates, but I think it’s something that should be shyed away from on a state’s standard plate.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Davie: A fair distinction that I’d intended to comment upon but didn’t. Yes, the DC slogan is the “official” plate, although one can get a plate with an alternate slogan (“Celebrate and Discover”) at no additional cost.