DC Statehood Revisited

Andrew Sullivan, after condemning Virginia’s rather confusing law banning gay marriage and maybe more, observes:

Meanwhile, there is a place where a clear majority would vote – with no judicial prodding or “tyranny” – for equal marriage rights. It happens to be where I live. But in Washington, D.C., the citizens do not have any right to govern themselves (that’s left to Congressmen from elsewhere). The residents of Baghdad will soon have more democratic rights than the people who live here. I keep hearing about an American empire, but few people notice that the first colony is in the U.S. itself: the capital.

Other than being untrue, it’s an compelling argument.

The residents of the District vote for a mayor and a city council. They have three votes in the Electoral College. They have the full scope of protection on the U.S. Constitution, including all the liberties guaranteed within. What do they lack? The ability to elect U.S. Senators or U.S. Representatives.

Why are they denied this right? Because they’re not a state and Article I of the Constitution specifies that only states have Senators and Representatives. Indeed, no city in the United States has them.

I’ve argued previously that the District should be retroceded to Maryland with the portion containing the seat of government remaining a federal enclave, similar to a military reservation. There’s no push to make that happen. Instead, the residents of the District continue to whine that they should be a state–which makes no sense at all–and to demonstrate a remarkable lack of capacity for self-government.

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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. Voxxy says:

    I always believed that DC existed precisely because it is not a state, so that there would not be the pressures a state could bring to bear on the representatives if they were in it. Of course, this all occurred back when states still had some power, before the Feds took over. At any rate, it is my belief that if DC became a state, it would violate the agreement with Maryland and Virginia that provided the land for the city and that land would, as a result of the breach of contract, retrocede to Maryland, Virginia having already had Arlington, D.C. (as I saw it put in a letter written by Robert E. Lee) returned.

  2. I am afraid I have stopped reading Sullivan for the most part. It seems to me that he is now a polemicist rather than an analyst. His emotions on almost every issue carry the day rather than clear thought. Since most of my emotions run counter to his, I don’t really enjoy reading him.

    Nice to see that you are still devoted to calm facts over heated rhetoric.

  3. Boyd says:

    I share your opinion on the District’s status, James, but I think you’re glossing over an important point, which Andrew stated clumsily:

    While the residents of the District elect a mayor and city council, any or all of their acts may be overridden by Congress. Andrew sinks to the overblown hyperbole that is standard for this discussion, but the underlying facts must not be dismissed.

    I’m mildly discomfited by that situation, which is why I believe that, as you stated, most of the District should be retroceded to Maryland.

  4. “U.S. Constitution, including all the liberties guaranteed within. What do they lack? The ability to elect U.S. Senators or U.S. Representatives.”

    Are you joking? Do you forget that the Second Amendment doesn’t exist in DC?!?

    Which is why, by the way, that there has never a single gun-related crime in the District. Ever.

  5. So Andy would have D.C. have the same number of Senators as the 35 million of us in Kaleeefonia (gov’s pronounciation). It’s bad enough that RI, which could be wall-to-wall carpeted has the same number.

    Now, if I could be assured that the two senators from D.C. would offset the moonbats we currently have, I might be for it, but I think they would likely be right-coast mirror images of what we are sending from the left coast.