Dealing with the District

Recently Congressional Democrats used their majority to pass a bill that has zero chance of becoming law this year. That happens all the time in Congress, but in this case the proposed law would be a direct violation of the Constitution.

In Article I, Section 8, one of the duties of Congress was enumerated thus:

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;

Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8

This is how we got the District of Columbia, which was ceded initially by Maryland and Virginia to overlook the Potomac River. In the mid-1800s Virginia received its portion back, most of which is now Arlington City and County. (Needless to say, it also holds Arlington National Cemetery as well as the Pentagon.)

Because it is a district and not a state, the people who live there do not have voting representation in Congress. (For many years, however, they have had a Delegate who can sit on committees; their current Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is the chair of a subcommittee.)

Over the years, there have been calls to give the District statehood. There are generally led by Democrats who know that the District would be the first majority-minority state and would be a reliable one liberal vote in the House and (more importantly) two Democrat votes in the Senate. (It’s the same reason they want Puerto Rico as a state even though it really has little in common with the rest of the nation.) Back in the early 1980s they even tried to change the Constitution, but that went nowhere.

This most recent push came with this argument by the Astroturf folks at Indivisible:

A historically-Black city, D.C.’s lack of statehood is a remnant of Reconstruction when racist white politicians sought to prevent the District’s majority-Black residents from gaining political power. GOP Senators are echoing this history even now, and have made it clear that this bill will die in the Senate. A popular GOP talking point is that D.C. statehood is unconstitutional, but we know their opposition is politically and racially motivated…

It makes sense that (President) Trump and the GOP wouldn’t want to risk more opposition in the Senate — a disenfranchised D.C. is easier to control and manipulate. Unlike anywhere else in the country, Congress approves D.C.’s budget and can even override local laws passed by D.C. residents and its actual elected local officials. That includes denying D.C. the right to spend its own local funds on reproductive health care for low-income people, denying the District’s efforts to legalize marijuana, forcing a failing public school voucher program onto residents, and attempting to overturn D.C.’s Death with Dignity law.

“D.C. Statehood is a commitment to racial justice”, Indivisible, June 23, 2020.

So go back and read the Constitution: Congress is to “exercise exclusive Legislation” over the area. That means it has the right to deny the District spending funds on abortion, keep pot illegal, or sustaining school choice to benefit low-income residents.

Being from this part of the world, I see a lot of cars from the District and many of them sport license plates with the tagline “Taxation Without Representation.” Well, that may be true but, because of the Constitution, making them a state is not an answer. (Don’t you love how the progressives call the Constitution a “talking point?” And, by the way, for much of the last century the District was NOT majority black, nor is it today. However, it is majority people of color, including Asians and Hispanics.) The real answer already has precedent from over 150 years ago, before the Civil War: allow Maryland to retrocede most of the remaining portion of the District.

If you leave out the White House, Capitol, Mall, and various government buildings to be the newly downsized District of Columbia – definitely less than ten miles square – this provides the remaining residents with representation not unlike that which they have now. At 705,746 new residents this change would swell Maryland to a population of nearly 7 million, allowing it to leapfrog Indiana in population rank and most likely pick up one seat in the House, bringing it to nine. Essentially, by population, the former District (which could be an entity much like Baltimore City in Maryland’s governmental structure) would pretty much be its own Congressional district.

It would also be a return to precedent in that, for the first 80 years or so of its creation, most of the portion of the District in question WAS considered part of Maryland for voting purposes.

In terms of Maryland state politics, the influx of voters would most likely – if the state remained at 47 Senators and 141 Delegates – mean the District would be represented by five or six State Senators and 16 to 17 Delegates, who would all almost certainly be Democrats. Would it be the end of the GOP in Maryland? Well, seeing what has passed for the last two spineless GOP governors in the state, there’s not much of a loss there. In reality, the re-slicing of the pie might make the net Maryland General Assembly loss be around 12 to 14 House Republicans and 4 or 5 from the Senate. Not quite Hawaii numbers (where the legislature there is 24-1 Democrat in the Senate and 46-5 Democrat in the House), but close.

So I’m sure my former Maryland friends would hate me for suggesting this idea, but if you’re a conservative in Maryland you’ve been screwed for the last 40 or more years anyway. Come here to Delaware and even out our population, where conservatives would have a fighting chance with enough Maryland refugees.

But it’s a sacrifice Maryland should make, because the District of Columbia should never become a state.

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