Majority Of Americans Oppose D.C. Statehood

A new poll finds that a majority of Americans oppose statehood for the District of Columbia.

A new poll indicates that most Americans oppose granting statehood to the District of Columbia, throwing a cold bucket of political water on an issue that some Democrats have been pushing for action on for some time now:

A majority of Americans oppose making the District the 51st state, according to a new poll released Monday.

The Gallup poll found a clear majority of 64 percent don’t think the nation’s capital should attain statehood, compared to 29 percent who support the idea.

The poll comes as Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting delegate, and city officials have been trying to build national support for statehood, framing it as a civil rights issue and arguing that the city’s 700,000 residents are disenfranchised because they lack voting representation in Congress.

Norton said the poll is valuable because it shows that most Americans are unaware that District residents lack representation in Congress.

She noted that the poll did not include the fact that D.C. residents pay the highest federal taxes per capita in the nation. “Yet every American agrees that taxation without representation, which led to the creation of our nation, is wrong,” she said in a statement Monday.

“The Founders, who went to war because they paid taxes without representation, did not intend for 700,000 taxpaying American citizens in the capital they created to be the only Americans left without a voice in their own national legislature,” Norton said. ” Taxation Without Representation was the rallying cry that founded this nation. It was unjust in 1776 and it still is in 2019.”

Norton has garnered a record number of co-sponsors, over 200, for legislation that converts most of the city into a state. A Senate version of the bill, introduced by Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), has 33 co-sponsors.

The House Oversight Committee was set to hold a hearing on July 24 on D.C. statehood — the first House hearing on the issue in a quarter century — but Norton said Saturday it will be postponed until the fall, so as not to conflict with congressional testimony on the same day from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

With Democrats in control of the House, statehood has had something of a moment, despite its lack of support in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The House passed a sweeping package of goals and values, including D.C. statehood, marking the first time in a generation that House leadership endorsed the issue.

At the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a lengthy statement in support of the cause and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) followed suit.

Many candidates vying for the 2020 presidential nomination, including members of Congress, say they support statehood, too.

Gallup polled 1,018 adults in all 50 states and D.C. from June 19 to 30 on cellphones and landlines. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The results of Gallup’s single question on statehood are in line with a 2006 Washington Post poll. That survey found 58 percent were opposed and 22 percent favored the idea, while 18 percent had no opinion.

However, when asked about specific rights that statehood would extend to District residents, Americans appear more amenable.

As the Gallup report on the poll also indicates that there isn’t a major demographic group where a majority supports the idea:

No major subgroups of Americans voice support for D.C. statehood. However, support is higher among left-leaning political groups than right-leaning ones. Self-described liberals (40%) and Democrats (39%) are among the groups showing higher support. Republicans (15%) and conservatives (14%) are among the subgroups least supportive. Thirty percent of independents approve of making D.C. a separate state.

Given Washington’s strong Democratic leanings, making it the 51st state would almost certainly add one voting Democrat to the House and two to the Senate, and that likelihood may underpin Republicans’ reluctance to make it a state.

There were modest party differences in 1992, when 24% of Democrats and 16% of Republicans favored making Washington a state, according to the Yankelovich survey.

Standard survey samples of 1,000 U.S. adults do not include enough interviews with D.C. residents to reliably measure their opinions on D.C. statehood. However, on a regional basis, support is highest in the East, which includes D.C. and the neighboring state of Maryland. Thirty-eight percent of Eastern residents endorse making D.C. a state, compared with no more than 28% in the other major U.S. regions. In addition to the East including D.C. and Maryland, those in the Eastern U.S. may be more familiar with the arguments for and against making D.C. a state than those living farther away from it.

There hasn’t been a poll on this issue in many years, most likely because Republican control of Congress meant the issue had been pushed to the side as one that anyone outside of Washington, D.C. really cares about. With Democrats back in control of the House, though, and the race for the Democratic nomination now in full swing, the idea is at least being discussed. That doesn’t mean that there’s any chance of it becoming reality, though. A bill that passes the House now would likely die in the Senate and, if the Democrats retake the Senate in 2020 and make another try at passing the bill then it would likely be blocked by a Republican filibuster. Given that, this is clearly an idea that is going nowhere fast. In no small part due to the fact that putting the District on an equal footing with the 50 states is simply absurd for the reasons I’ve discussed in the past.

All that being said, I certainly understand how District residents feel about the fact that they don’t have a truly equal voice in Congress and about the fact that, even though the District has its own government, Congress still has control over its budget and at least the theoretical authority to veto decisions made by the voters and the City Council. That second issue, of course, could be solved by passing legislation that gives the District control more control over District affairs and removes the ability to block measures that don’t directly implicate the Federal Government. As for the first, there are solutions other than statehood that would solve that problem easily

Since statehood is not a viable option for obvious political reasons, the best way for the non-Federal parts of the District, which is where the population lies, be returned to Maryland, which ceded the land for what would eventually become the national capital.

This process, better known as Retrocessiom would not be an unprecedented action. When the District of Columbia was first formed during the Washington Administration, it included land from both Maryland and Virginia. However, it was understood at the time the Federal Government itself would be based in that part of the land made up of the portion of land ceded to the Federal Government by Maryland. The Virginia portion, meanwhile, would have presumably become land for residential and business development. Before that could occur, though, the Federal Government concluded that it did not need the land that Virginia had ceded for its contribution to the Federal District. As a result, in 1847, the United States returned Virginia’s portion of the Federal District to the Commonwealth. That area now includes the majority of Arlington County, which has become a metropolitan area all its own as well as the home to some 235,000 people and the location of employment for tens of thousands of more people. This is the area, for example, that includes what is presently known as Crystal City, which is where at least part of Amazon’s new HQ2 will be located. The area that was returned to Virginia also includes some parts of Alexandria, Virginia, one of the oldest cities in the area.

In theory, this is the same thing that could happen to the non-Federal areas of Washington, D.C. With the exception of the small area of the city where the Federal Government is located, none of which includes any residents other than the President and his family, the rest of the city would be returned to the State of Maryland where it would have its own Member of Congress who would have a vote on the floor of the Senate, and District residents would be able to participate in the election of Maryland’s two Senators. It would also add at least one Electoral Vote to the total number of such votes that Maryland currently has. Other advantages to District residents include the fact that it could save money on certain agencies that already exist in Maryland, such as the Motor Vehicle Commission and other similar departments. Of course, the most likely development is that most of these Washington, D.C. offices would simply change their name and that current employees would become employees of the State of Maryland. Additionally, the newly added part of Maryland would become the fourth most populous county in Maryland, ranking behind Montgomery and Prince George’s County and Baltimore County.

There is, of course, a lot of work that would have to be done for retrocession to work. First of all, the people of the District of Columbia and their political leaders, who at the moment are still fixated on the idea of statehood no matter how unlikely that may be, are going to have to be convinced that this is the most viable solution to their “taxation without representation” problem. Second, since this plan would require the consent of the State of Maryland politicians and citizens would also need to be convinced that the idea would be beneficial to them. One potential argument in favor of the idea is the fact that the state would benefit from tourism into the D.C. area to a far greater degree than they already do. Another potential argument could be directed toward the political leaders in the suburbs close to D.C., who would see their influence in the state increased significantly with the addition of the District into the state’s population. Finally, Congress would need to approve the idea as well, but honestly that seems like the easiest of the three steps.

D.C. statehood isn’t going to happen. That much seems to be clear. However, there’s no denying that the representation issue for the more than 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia needs to be addressed. Retrocession is the most realistic way to solve that problem.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. wr says:

    There’s also been no one out there pressing the case for statehood. This poll is the starting point for anyone who cares passionately about the issue, not the end…

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  2. Tony W says:

    The majority doesn’t want DC to be a state? Well, it’s a good thing we don’t put civil rights (like equal protection) up for a vote, huh?

    Maybe we accept DC as a state and split Wyoming into two states so that they can double their Senate/EC impact.

    That way nobody is happy.

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  3. KM says:

    I’d be really curious to see what reasons people gave for wanting to deny statehood. People are going to deny it but there’s never going to be any new states added to the USA. There’s a subtle psychology to it – we can add new “territories” or “districts” but there will never again be an equal state added to the Fifty. Why? Well, for one – 50 is a nice, round, pleasant-sounding, patriotism-invoking and good for propaganda number. 51 or more just sounds awkward and falls flat on the ear. Much like the brain is more willing to accept 9.99 is a better deal then 10, the power of numbers on our national psyche will make folks disinclined to accept the premise from the start.

    Then there’s the notion that America’s not complete yet. A great driver in accepting new states back in the day was the urge to reach sea to shining sea, to grow as much as we could. We opportunities, great power and resources. After WWII, there was suddenly this concept of a superpower and we were it – a great, strong nation verging on an empire. Empires don’t accept equal members, they get subservient states and satellite nations. Hawaii and Alaska snuck in because the process had begun years before and was only finalized after this mentality started to take hold. There’s a reason “51st state” has the joke meme status it does – everyone implicitly understands it’s not going to happen, even for places it should. America is in it’s finished form and there will be no new applicants. Everyone else is relegated to a lower form of membership with lesser rights simply because they got here late.

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  4. wr says:

    @Tony W: “Maybe we accept DC as a state and split Wyoming into two states so that they can double their Senate/EC impact.”

    So that every 11 Wyoming citizens can have their own senator!

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    A majority of those polled had never given DC statehood one moment’s thought until some stranger called and asked about it.

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  6. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder how much race plays a role in all of this…I’m sure the idea of a majority black state gives many people heartburn…an issue similar to statehood for Puerto Rico…

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  7. DrDaveT says:

    @An Interested Party:

    I wonder how much race plays a role in all of this…

    Exactly. The proximity of this article to the one on how Americans feel about Trump’s racist tweets immediately leads me to wonder whether the 64% who oppose DC statehood is primarily made up of the same people who think only white America is real America. Did the poll have cross-tabs by self-identified political affiliation?

    On the other hand, the real explanation might be this:

    However, when asked about specific rights that statehood would extend to District residents, Americans appear more amenable.

    This would appear to be another instance of The Gay Marriage Effect, in which respondents are in favor of all aspects of the proposed policy change so long as you don’t call it by a certain name. See also ‘Obamacare’…

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  8. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @KM:

    I’d be really curious to see what reasons people gave for wanting to deny statehood.

    Creating new administrative divisions is always unpopular because people think that new administrative divisions mean more expenses with bureaucrats and politicians. Statehood for DC would mean that DC would need a capitol, with state legislature and departments, and that something that people dislikes. Specially when people distrust political institutions and politicians.

    Yes, DC is the only federal district in a democracy that does not have representation in Congress, and that’s problematic. But people are instinctively opposed to additional spending with politicians.

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  9. Kathy says:

    I wonder whether the issue of DC statehood could be spun to highlight the over-representation of some states in the Senate. Curiously, going by population, DC would be the third smallest state, with only Wyoming and Vermont being smaller. Alaska, BTW, is not much bigger than DC by population.

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  10. The retrocession will not mean that D.C+Maryland will have less 2 votes in Electoral College than today?

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  11. Raoul says:

    Let’s be clear about something- Maryland does not want DC. The chances of forcing MD to accept DC are much less than statehood in my humble opinion. The truth of the matter is that DC has evolved to become a separate legal entity. Political speaking, all one needs is a Dem House and Senate and President and some iron will- difficult yes- impossible- well like I said it is easier to convince 30-40 people than 4 million people.

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  12. Gustopher says:

    I’m opposed to Statehood for South Dakota.

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  13. I oppose statehood, but I do not oppose representation. I could live with retrocession but would prefer giving the federal district voting representation in the House at a minimum.

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  14. @KM:

    I’d be really curious to see what reasons people gave for wanting to deny statehood.

    Probably the instinctive notion that a city is too small to be a state (although, as Kathy notes, it has more people in it than does WY or VT and about the same as AK).

    I bet there is a lot of anti-federal government sentiment at work as well.

    Plus the admin bloat stuff that Andre mentioned.

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  15. Tyrell says:

    @Tony W: Just think about the logistics. What would be the state capital? Where would they put the capitol building, senate and legislative buildings, state office buildings, and the state university? That is just for starters. There would also be the state highway department. How would counties be decided and drawn up? And the divisions of city and county schools? All this would be hard under normal circumstances, but trying to do this in a town that already has super gridlock. There would be at least one hundred thousand state employees trying to get to work and home every day. It would be like putting a golf course in a water park.

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  16. @Tyrell: You could put the government offices in a office building–and you wold likely convert existing city bureaucracies into state ones. You would not need counties.

    Of course, some of this is why I support giving the federal district congressional representation (like other democracies do).

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  17. @Miguel Madeira:

    The impact on the Electoral College will be minimal. D.C. would arguably “lose” two of its Electoral Votes, but adding D.C. into Maryland would likely mean that state would gain at least one Member of Congress.

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  18. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I oppose statehood, but I do not oppose representation.

    I’m curious — which benefits of statehood do you oppose, and why?

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  19. @DrDaveT: I don’t think it makes logical sense for a space that small to be a state. The purpose of a state government is based on the need for there to be local government to run services and enforce laws over a substantial, multi-city territory. DC is a city. It can be run as a city.

    But, I think all citizens should have elected representation in the Congress (including Puerto Rico and the other territories).

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  20. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Puerto Rico should be a state, based both on geographical extent and population. In fact, based on population, it should be three states.

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  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tony W:

    That way nobody is happy.

    Do you work in labor arbitration by any chance?

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  22. @Kathy: Yes, I think PR should be a state, actually. But whether they are or are not, they should have representation (with vote, not just voice) in Congress commensurate to their population.

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  23. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I don’t think it makes logical sense for a space that small to be a state.

    There is Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is an autonomous city that elects it’s own senators, and has basically the same area as the District of Columbia. In Brazil there is the Federal District, that is basically like a state, the only difference is that they don’t have mayor or municipal Legislature(And the Federal District is larger in area than Rhode Island).

    The ideal arrangement would be to grant political representation to the District of Columbia, but not statehood. It could have political representation like a state, but with a different organization. That would be similar to what most countries in the Americas do. But that would require a constitutional amendment.

    But I think that Democrats in the US underestimate the level of opposition that voters have to the new administrative divisions. People inevitably think that new states means more spending with politicians and bureaucrats. That would work against not only DC, but Puerto Rico and dividing California.

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  24. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The purpose of a state government is based on the need for there to be local government to run services and enforce laws over a substantial, multi-city territory.

    I think the Dakotas, Wyoming, and a number of others fail on the multi-city aspect…

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  25. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But, I think all citizens should have elected representation in the Congress (including Puerto Rico and the other territories).

    Including 2 Senators?

    Thank you for the answer, but you didn’t actually answer my question. Which perqs of being a state do you think DC residents should not get?

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  26. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think the Dakotas, Wyoming, and a number of others fail on the multi-city aspect…

    They don’t. Wyoming’s area means that you can have counties and cities, even if there are very few people living in these counties and cities. Steven is right: in most countries that have granted autonomy to their capital cities you either have a mayor(Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Mexico) or a governor/intendant(Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela), never both.

    DC as a state would have both a governor and a mayor. It would be dysfunctional.

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  27. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Which perqs of being a state do you think DC residents should not get?

    DC could have the same number of Senators and House members as any state. But you’d need to mix the city government and the state government – it’s the formula of the capital district/federal district/autonomous city in Latin America.

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  28. @Andre Kenji de Sousa: BA and Braslia both have far larger populations, but the reality is I do not know enough about the exact legal status of those federal districts to make detailed comparative arguments.

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  29. @DrDaveT:

    Which perqs of being a state do you think DC residents should not get?

    I actually don’t think senators makes sense (even if in practical political terms it would serve my personal preferences)–but I do not have time to fully elaborate on that.

    What is it that you think they should get as a state? What specifically is it that you want me to address.

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  30. @Gustopher:

    I think the Dakotas, Wyoming, and a number of others fail on the multi-city aspect…

    Wikepedia informs me that Wyoming has ” 23 counties and 99 incorporated municipalities consisting of cities and towns” and Ballotopedia gives me the following for North Dakota:

    -53 county governments.
    -1,314 township governments
    -357 city governments.
    -In addition, there are 759 special districts and 183 independent school districts.

    Without getting into wisdom of the small pop states, it is simply not the same to compare a compact city such as DC to even low population states like North Dakota. They present radically different governance and management problems.

    And to be clear: I passionately believe that the residents of DC should have seats in the House (and votes in the EC). I think the same for all citizens in all territories.

    I have qualms about the Senate, but will confess that there is practical/theoretical element to my thinking on that needs elucidation.

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  31. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Mexico City, no longer known as the Federal District, has a population of around 8.5 million, plus another 12 or so in the greater metro area in the State of Mexico. Since 1997, it has an elected mayor (called chief of government), as well as elected heads of the political subdivisions (now known as Alcaldías, which translates as Mayoralities, which gets confusing). Prior to 1997, a Regent was appointed by the nation’s president. Back then there was no city government per se, rather a federal cabinet department called “Department of the Federal District,” seriously.

    So the situation is very different from D.C., but the people of Mexico City have always been represented in Congress by deputies (representatives) and senators, and could always vote for president.

    Another big difference is that Mexico City is, in no particular order, 1) the biggest city in the country, 2) the biggest financial center, 3) the biggest commercial center, 4) still a large manufacturing center. D.C. is none of these things.

    The legal frameworks vary a great deal, too. So I wonder, could a simple (ha!) law be passed giving D.C., and perhaps Puerto Rico, Guam, etc. representatives in the House and a fair number of Senators? OR do they have to be admitted as states or incorporated to an existing state?

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  32. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I don’t think it makes logical sense for a space that small to be a state.

    This is actually the norm in many parts of the world. Cities, especially capital cities, are effectively their own state with various accommodations.

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  33. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What is it that you think they should get as a state?

    My default position is that residents of the District of Columbia should have the same legal rights, privileges, and representation as any other American. I’m willing to entertain arguments that they should not, but I think the evidential burden is clearly on the person making that argument.

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  34. @Kathy: As you note, the DF is a hugely different creature than is DC.

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  35. @MarkedMan:

    This is actually the norm in many parts of the world. Cities, especially capital cities, are effectively their own state with various accommodations.

    Well, first, that would only be true in the full sense of the term in federal countries. Most countries are unitary.

    Beyond that: in those cases (like Mexico City and BA) are the largest population centers of their respective countries and function very differently than DC.

    I am not diehard on this position (I am persuadable), but it does strike me as weird that DC would have 2 Senators, but NYC, LA, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, etc., would not.

    Part of my reticence in practical: getting House representation seems more plausible than full statehood.

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  36. And let’s all face facts: much of the desire for DC statehood is driven by pure contemporary politics. That is: it would add 2 Democratic Senators to the mix and many folks, including I am sure a lot of the commentators here, would like that (to be clear, I would like that as it pertains to this present moment).

    That, in and of itself, does not strike me as a good argument to further create weird representational dynamics in the Senate.

    I am more than willing to bet a lot of the enthusiasm for this notion would be diminished among the OTB commentariat if DC statehood would result in 2 GOP Senators. A lot of folks would be lamenting another Wyoming being added.

    Look, I constantly complain about the inequities of Senate representation, so is it any wonder I am reticent about making it worse, even if it serves my short-term political preferences?

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  37. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    it does strike me as weird that DC would have 2 Senators, but NYC, LA, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, etc., would not

    NYC has 2 senators of its own already, as does Chicago. The populations of those cities dominate their states. Residents of Houston and Dallas share their senators — but they do have senators who represent them and their interests nationally.

    It seems much weirder to me that residents of Wyoming get senators and residents of DC do not, than that residents of Houston are represented by the same senators who represent Dallas.

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  38. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I put it all down to historical accident.

    For starters, as the vice royalty of New Spain, Mexico had Mexico City as a capital (where the viceroy was located), as opposed to the British colonies which were not unified into a single political unit until after independence.

    Next it was a simple matter to keep the functioning capital right where it was, right? Whereas the US had no national capital to begin with. The new country could have made any major city its capital, as NYC and Philadelphia both were for a short time, if I recall correctly. Instead they chose to set up a new city and capital.

    So put it down to the British not making a unified political entity of their colonies, or the early American government deciding a new city was a better idea for a capital than an existing one. And that’s why D.C. is neither a state, nor has representation in Congress.

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  39. @DrDaveT:

    Residents of Houston and Dallas share their senators

    But that is rather the point. And Dallas and Houston have divergent interests at times (as do San Antonio, Ausin, and El Paso not to mention Midland/Odessa and Lubbock and Amarillo…as well as the gazillion small towns and rural areas in Texas).

    Representing a single (and singular) city is different than representing a state.

    (And, of course, I think Texas ought to have more than 2 Senators, but that is different matter).

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  40. @Kathy:

    I put it all down to historical accident.

    Path dependency is decidedly a thing.

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  41. It just struck me: if Philly or NYC had remained the capital, this would be a very different discussion.

    Blame Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison for this mess.

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  42. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    but the reality is I do not know enough about the exact legal status of those federal districts to make detailed comparative arguments.

    The idea of these districts is that they have representation in Congress but they don’t have a municipal/city government and a state government on the same time. My feeling is that the ideal framework for DC would be be to have a larger Federal District(Including places like Alexandria and Bethesda), and them give them a governor, a Senators and Representatives, but not mayors and city councils. Or maybe even a smaller district, but without a city government and state government on the same time.

    But DC could not be a state. It’s too small, not in population, but on territory, for that.

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  43. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kathy:

    Whereas the US had no national capital to begin with

    Brasilia was built in the 50’s. But the US Constitution never predicted the necessity of having a large federal district in a continent-sized country, and I think that would be necessary regardless of where the capital would be located.

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  44. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But that is rather the point. […] Representing a single (and singular) city is different than representing a state.

    No, the point is that being represented is different than not being represented. It seems to me that these other distinctions are minor compared to that one.

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  45. @DrDaveT: I feel like you are busting my balls unnecessarily on a point wherein we are more in agreement than not.

    All I have tried to do is provide a reasonable response to your position.

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  46. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @DrDaveT: Steven is right that DC can’t be a state. There is no city-state in any federative or unitarian government. It’s either an autonomous city or a district, not a state. It would make no sense for Washington DC have a Constitution, a governor and a mayor on the same time.

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  47. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I feel like you are busting my balls unnecessarily on a point wherein we are more in agreement than not. All I have tried to do is provide a reasonable response to your position.

    Then clearly we have been talking past each other, because from my side it feels like you have not addressed the only ‘position’ I have asserted (namely, that DC residents should have repressentation), and you’ve been ducking and weaving and tap-dancing to avoid answering the simple question I asked.

    Looking back over the conversation, I think maybe the problem is that I am viewing all of this from the point of view of a citizen who is a resident of DC, and you are viewing it in terms of polities and governance structures (and pragmatics), without really addressing the issue of representation. When I ask “which rights should DC residents not have?”, you reply “DC should not be a state” — which to you I’m sure sounds like a clear answer, but to me it’s a non-sequitur because it doesn’t actually address the questions of rights, it just rules out one implementation mechanism.

    So, let me rephrase in a hopefully more productive way: do you see any valid argument for why DC residents should not have the same kind of representation that Wyoming residents enjoy? If not, do you see any practically feasible mechanism (not statehood) whereby DC residents could gain that kind of representation?

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  48. @DrDaveT: The confusion started with this this:

    which benefits of statehood do you oppose, and why?

    Statehood entails more than representation, so it was unclear to me that you meant 2 Senators plus House representation.

    Subsequent comments from you have focused on statehood.

    I have already stated that DC should have representation in the House. I am less convinced they should have Senators. If they did, I agree with Andre that it should be a federal district, not a state.

    you’ve been ducking and weaving and tap-dancing to avoid answering the simple question I asked.

    In truth, I find that characterization unkind and unfair.

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  49. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    You can walk from the northern limit of the District of Columbia to the southern limit in something like two hours. Not driving, but walking. And as a state that would mean that DC would have it’s own Constitution, Criminal Code, National Guard, etc and etc. In a very small area.

    DC deserves representation, but as a Federal District, not as a state. And the absence of a Federal District is a large problem within the US Constitution. Regardless of having the capital in Philadelphia, New York or in a new city in Kansas you’d need a federal district to coordinate the functions of the federal government.

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  50. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I have already stated that DC should have representation in the House. I am less convinced they should have Senators.

    OK. Can you articulate an argument either for why DC residents do not deserve representation in the Senate, or for why they should be denied it even though they deserve it? I find it very odd that you don’t think this position needs any justification. (My apologies if you feel you have already expounded a justification above; I’ve been watching for one and haven’t seen it.)

    (I also note that you continue to speak in terms of what DC, the place, should have. Is that a shorthand for “the residents of DC”, or does it refer to some abstraction that is distinct from the populace? That’s been part of my confusion all along.)

    you’ve been ducking and weaving and tap-dancing to avoid answering the simple question I asked.

    In truth, I find that characterization unkind and unfair.

    I’m not trying to be insulting or rude — but you STILL haven’t actually answered the question, and it’s slowly driving me crazy. Is the answer “the only benefit of living in the US that I think DC residents should not get is representation in the Senate”? That seems to be what you’re hinting at, but you haven’t actually said that and I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

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  51. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Statehood entails more than representation, so it was unclear to me that you meant 2 Senators plus House representation.

    I did NOT mean “2 Senators plus House representation”. I meant quite literally what I said — benefits of statehood. If there are other benefits of statehood that you’d like to talk about — especially if they are benefits that you don’t think DC residents ought to have — then by all means let’s talk about them.

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  52. @DrDaveT:

    it’s slowly driving me crazy

    You aren’t the only one.

    I have noted issues related to size and complexity. I have noted concerns about the Senate itself and creating further distortions of representation in that body. (Among other things).

    While I can appreciate that you are not satisfied with my answers, I find it frustrating to devote a lot of time to a discussion to be told that I am ducking and dodging. From my perspective I have been respectfully attempting to provide answers (I have surely posted over a dozen comments int this thread).

    A state encompasses large territory and exists because of a need of managing a number of population centers across that territory. It needs a constitution, state bureaucracy, its own criminal and civil code, police force and host of other structures. It exists because that larger and complex territory needs specific kinds of governance.

    A city the size of Washington, DC (both territorially and population-wise) does not need that kind of governance.

    As I noted above, even the similar in population state of North Dakota has a number of internal organizations (counties, cites, districts, etc.) that need coordination at the state level.

    For lack of a better analogy, you don’t name a regional manager when you only have one restaurant. You only build a managerial superstructure when you have a chain of restaurants.

    I have unequivocally endorsed House representation for the District (which, at least, it would seem you could acknowledge). I have balked at Senate seats (although I have stated I might be amenable to giving it Senate representation as a federal district).

    Senate representation for a city of 600k is at odds with the purpose of the Senate, the federal chamber. Since I don’t think DC should be a state, it is not illogical to find some oddness with it having representation in the federal chamber.

    This is especially true, as I note above, given my well documented aversion to giving two Senators to extremely small population states.

    I will readily allow this is not, perhaps, the best of answers, but it does not strikes me as an unreasonable one.

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  53. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Thank you for the detailed response. I appreciate it, especially late in what must be an exasperating conversation.

    The thing that I’ve been missing, that you either don’t think is relevant or don’t think is necessary or you already said somewhere, is a statement of what you think the goal is. You “noted issues with” taking action X or Y or Z, but you didn’t say anything about what X or Y or Z were intended to accomplish, or whether there might be other actions that would achieve (some of) those goals while getting around the issues. You jumped directly to a discussion of means, without any mention of goals.

    As I thought was clear from my earlier comments, I don’t care about the trappings of statehood or the manner of local governance — I am solely concerned with the rights and privileges of the people who live in various places. When you say “A state exists because of a need to…” you are no longer talking about the subject I was trying to discuss. I don’t care whether you call DC a ‘state’, or whether it has a ‘governor’, or whether the same building houses the ‘state’ government and the ‘city’ government, or whether it has a state bird and a state motto and a state song. I do care whether the residents are equal under the law, relative to other US residents.

    What I have been trying unsuccessfully to ask you (among other things) is whether you are also concerned with equality under the law of US residents, and if so what is the closest you think we could get to equality for DC residents, in this imperfect world. I get that “make it a state” is not a viable solution — I never said it was, nor did I advocate for that at any time. Though you seem to think I did, and keep arguing that it shouldn’t be a state in a way that sounds like you think that somehow responds to what I was asking.

    So can we reboot this, and talk about what it would take to get some equal treatment under the law for DC residents? You mentioned giving them actual voting Reps in the House; that’s a start and it would be relatively easy. Is there anything else that could be done, even hypothetically? Are there other benefits to being a resident of a state, other than having Senators and Representatives to take your part in Congress, that DC residents could also benefit from?

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  54. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I did NOT mean “2 Senators plus House representation”. I meant quite literally what I said — benefits of statehood.

    DC is too small in territory to be state with it’s own penal code, traffic laws, etc and etc. Germany has some pretty small states(Bremen, Berlin, Hamburg), but in practice these small states are autonomous cities and the German political structure is different.

    The necessity of having some type of Federal District is something underestimated among policy circles in the US. It would make sense, both for the role of Washington DC as federal capital and for the role of having 700 thousand people living there.

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  55. DrDaveT says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    DC is too small in territory to be state

    Yes, I understand that. I don’t understand why you keep bringing it up, because nobody here is advocating for actually making DC a state. “Benefits of statehood” does not mean ‘statehood’ — it means literally the set of benefits residents get from being the residents of a state. How to administer the national capital area is only tangentially related to the question of equal treatment under the law for residents of the national capital, and which of those benefits that ordinarily go with being a resident of a state could be maintained/provided.

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  56. @DrDaveT: What are the benefits of statehood apart from House representation and 2 Senators?

    What rights or benefits are you arguing that citizens of DC are currently being denied apart from those items?

    Much of the confusion, for me, anyway, comes from @this:

    I did NOT mean “2 Senators plus House representation”. I meant quite literally what I said — benefits of statehood.

    I am not sure what the literal “benefits of statehood” you are talking about apart from the representational ones.

    (And we keep raising statehood, because currently that is the only way to get that representation under the Constitution–any other arrangement would require a constitutional amendment).

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  57. @DrDaveT: Part of what confuses me is that part of the benefits of statehood include some level of self-governance over a given territory (like having a state criminal and civil code, courts, police system, etc.). But, you fairly explicitly seem not to mean that.

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  58. It seems to me that that the main issue is representation, and then whether it should be House and Senate seats or just House.

    Statehood would confer House and Senate seats.

    A constitutional amendment to create representation for the federal district would also work–but would be harder than just making it a state, IIRC.

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  59. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Part of what confuses me is that part of the benefits of statehood include some level of self-governance over a given territory (like having a state criminal and civil code, courts, police system, etc.). But, you fairly explicitly seem not to mean that.

    I have tried, as explicitly as I can, to make it clear that I mean benefits to individual residents of statehood. I suppose that it could be construed to be a benefit to individual residents of Montana that most of the law they live under is Montana state law, as opposed to federal law or law of some other state, and that Montana law can differ from Idaho law or Florida law. So yes, that would count as a benefit that DC residents might want but might not be able to get under any practical solution. Indeed, it’s an excellent example.

    I’m not sure why you think I “fairly explicitly don’t mean that”, when I fairly explicitly said that I mean all of the benefits that accrue to individuals by virtue of being residents of a state.

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  60. @DrDaveT:

    I suppose that it could be construed to be a benefit to individual residents of Montana that most of the law they live under is Montana state law, as opposed to federal law or law of some other state, and that Montana law can differ from Idaho law or Florida law. So yes, that would count as a benefit that DC residents might want but might not be able to get under any practical solution. Indeed, it’s an excellent example.

    Could you give one concrete example of this? All you have said here is that people in different states live under different state laws.

    I’m not sure why you think I “fairly explicitly don’t mean that”, when I fairly explicitly said that I mean all of the benefits that accrue to individuals by virtue of being residents of a state.

    Because when issues of state government itself have been raised, you have seemed to dismiss it.

    You keep repeating “benefits of statehood” but beyond representation, you have not cited one actual example of what you mean.

    Whenever I range into discussion of governance, you dismiss that, so I honestly do not know what you want in concrete terms.

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  61. It is possible that a given state constitution might confer more rights than others, so there is that–although I cannot think of an especially good example off the top of my head.

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  62. James Joyner says:

    @Tony W:

    The majority doesn’t want DC to be a state? Well, it’s a good thing we don’t put civil rights (like equal protection) up for a vote, huh?

    Statehood is not a civil right. The Constitution specifically delineates that it be up for a vote.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I could live with retrocession but would prefer giving the federal district voting representation in the House at a minimum.

    I’m a retrocession in combination with repeal of the 23rd guy but could see giving DC a vote in the House as an intermediate step. It would seem to require a Constitutional amendment, too, though. And I don’t think it happens absent an overall expansion in the size of the House—which we both support for reasons having nothing to do with DC representation.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think PR should be a state, actually. But whether they are or are not, they should have representation (with vote, not just voice) in Congress commensurate to their population.

    PR would have the opposite problem of DC: representation without taxation. I’m honestly not sure I see much value in adding non-contiguous states.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not diehard on this position (I am persuadable), but it does strike me as weird that DC would have 2 Senators, but NYC, LA, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, etc., would not.

    Yes. Hell, DC is smaller than San Antonio and Denver. Honestly, my chief objection to DC statehood comes down to the institutional effects. If we had a parliamentary system, it wouldn’t much matter. But the Senate and Electoral College makes it a non-starter for me.

    @DrDaveT:

    I suppose that it could be construed to be a benefit to individual residents of Montana that most of the law they live under is Montana state law, as opposed to federal law or law of some other state, and that Montana law can differ from Idaho law or Florida law.

    If we get beyond whether DC should have two Senators, I could certainly get behind full home rule for DC such that they don’t require the approval of the US Congress to run their own affairs. Given that they are in fact a Federal district, though, there would have to be some sort of “diplomatic immunity” equivalent to prevent the city government from making the life of US government workers more difficult.

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  63. DrDaveT says:

    ETA: Posted much later than intended because I was unable to post from my work computer.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Could you give one concrete example of this?

    Well, for example, California has the power to enact laws that are more stringent than applicable federal laws — higher minimum wage, stricter emission controls, etc. That power is limited (e.g. by prohibitions on restricting interstate commerce) but real. Does Puerto Rico have the same degree of autonomy when it comes to enacting local laws? I honestly don’t know, but if they don’t then that would be an example.

    It is possible that a given state constitution might confer more rights than others

    I believe that some state constitutions have expanded lists of “protected classes” for purposes of antidiscrimination law. That would be a good example.

    You keep repeating “benefits of statehood” but beyond representation, you have not cited one actual example of what you mean.

    That’s because I’m trying to ask a question, not make a statement. I’m not the expert here; I’m trying to find out and discuss just what are the benefits (to residents, to citizens) of living in a state instead of a territory or protectorate, and what mechanisms (other than statehood) might feasibly be employed to get residents of territories some of those benefits.

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  64. @James Joyner:

    but could see giving DC a vote in the House as an intermediate step. It would seem to require a Constitutional amendment

    I think this is absolutely the case.

    @DrDaveT:

    That’s because I’m trying to ask a question, not make a statement. I’m not the expert here; I’m trying to find out and discuss just what are the benefits (to residents, to citizens) of living in a state instead of a territory or protectorate, and what mechanisms (other than statehood) might feasibly be employed to get residents of territories some of those benefits.

    Except that that is not how you have been framing the question. You keep asking me what benefits of statehood I would deny to DC residents and when I try to figure out which benefits you are concerned about you just ask me the same basis question.

    It isn’t fair for you to expect me to provide the meaning to a term (“benefits of statehood”) that you are interjecting into the conversation.

    So, I can think of some general issue (such as home rule, as James mentions) that are governance issues (and that are not insignificant). So, sure, I would like to see DC’s government have more power over DC itself. That would enhance citizen influence over their government. That, however, does not require statehood.

    I am honestly not sure, apart from the representation issues in the national legislature, what specific rights accrue to citizens of states that do not accrue to citizens of non-states. I am sure there are specific state-level examples (certain services, certain state-constitutional rights) but I don’t think those are universal across all states. There may be some federal benefits that are linked to statehood. None of these things raise to the level of major rights or benefits that I can think of (apart from representation in Congress).

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  65. @James Joyner: I meant to answer this above.

    PR would have the opposite problem of DC: representation without taxation.

    If PR was a state, then its citizens would pay federal taxes like any other citizens–IIRC, they currently do not given the island’s current legal status. Statehood would create equivalent treatment of the citizens of PR with the citizens of the other states.

    I’m honestly not sure I see much value in adding non-contiguous states.

    Well, that cat is well out of the bag (and, really, I am not sure why it matters).

    But, the value is clear: providing over 4 million US citizens the full benefits of citizenship.

    Moreover, the recent way Trump treated the island underscores what happens when citizens have no electoral recourse.

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  66. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Except that that is not how you have been framing the question.

    I hear you saying that, but I don’t understand why. I can’t see the difference between what I said repeatedly above, in several ways, and this formulation of it. I’ll accept that you see a distinction, and move on now that I’ve managed to convey what I meant.

    So far, we have enumerated these apparent rights:
    * Representation in the House
    * Representation in the Senate
    * Local autonomy (e.g. Home Rule)
    * Enhanced constitutional protections (optional)

    I raised the question of state law above, but I honestly don’t know whether states have more flexibility to establish their own body of law than territories do. I do know that the vast majority of all laws that apply to a typical American at any given moment are state laws.

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  67. Steven Taylor says:

    @DrDaveT: I am sure that part of the problem here is the nature of a text interchange, but it feels like you are asking me to make your argument for you.

    Your position seems to be that you are vehemently in favor of DC citizens having the benefits of statehood as a moral position without knowing, by your own admission, what those rights are.

    I can appreciate your dedication to equal treatment for all citizens (and I say that sincerely). And, moreover, I am willing to allow space for my mind to be changed on statehood/that I am missing some key right or privilege.

    But, surely, you can understand why I might not think it my job to provide you with a list of items to support your position, yes?

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  68. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven Taylor:

    Your position seems to be that you are vehemently in favor of DC citizens having the benefits of statehood as a moral position without knowing, by your own admission, what those rights are.

    No, as you go on to intuit in the next paragraph, my default position is that all US residents/citizens should be treated equally under the law, regardless of where in the US they live. I have not asked you to provide anything at all to support that position, though I think you mostly share it. It’s not an axiom for me, but deviating from it requires some compelling rationale.

    Given that position, I’m trying to figure out what exactly the differences are between living in a state and not living in a state, with an eye toward finding mechanisms other than granting statehood that would enable the US to treat its citizens and residents more equally under the law. I asked your help with that project, naively assuming that you already knew what the differences are and had in mind a preferred compromise between ideal equality under the law, practicalities of what could be accomplished, and priorities among rights.

    You are telling me (if I’m interpreting your text correctly 🙂 ) that you haven’t thought of it in these terms before and don’t really know what the differences are, beyond the obvious one of representation in the Congress. You therefore can’t offer proposed mechanisms, not having a list of discrepancies to be addressed, much less having prioritized them or thought about mechanisms for overcoming them. Is that a fair summary?

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