Thursday, April 17, 2003

rise up

For the last few months, I have become irrationally angry at random intervals on the following topic: Washington DC's lack of representation in the US Congress. Now, I know this will make you think that I need new worries. And it may seem especially frivolous since I am not, as yet, a registered DC voter. (I can't decide if I should give up my right to vote for representation in congress, even if it means voting for congressmen in a state I no longer live in.) But the sheer scope of the injustice really boggles the mind if you think about it.
The Constitution calls for equal protection under the law, but DC citizens are essentially on the level of a U.S.-held territory. They pay federal taxes to a government and serve in the armed forces of a government that will not allow them to have a say in their own governance. DC's city officials have to submit any laws to congress for approval, and congress often overturns measures that were passed by local government or by popular referendum. So not only does DC not have representation in Congress, it does not even have the right to decide on local issues. Furthermore, when congress overturns or decides on a DC law, *my* life is being affected by the 100 senators that I didn't approve, I didn't vote for, and there was no guy in *my* court arguing for my cause.

Washington DC proper has a population of around 600,000 people. Now, some people arguing against letting DC have representation in congress say that if such a small group of people had two senators and their own representative, they would have undue influence. Fine by me, but you better take away North Dakota's senators too, since they have around 500,000 in the WHOLE STATE.

Others say that the original framers of the constitution did not intend for D.C. to have representation or be treated as a state. Sheeesh, if I had a nickle for every intent of the original framers that was a SHITTY idea and that we've since reconsidered...

A local blogger had the idea that if congress won't grant DC citizens the right to elect a representative, they should then allow us to vote in every state's congressional election. I mean, if these guys are going to be deciding our local laws, we ought to have a say in who they are. As he puts it, "Sure, it will take me a long time to cast 468 or 469 ballots each two years, but I think it's only fair given the power they wield over me. Of course, this might mean Wyoming will have a much more liberal (and probably blacker) delegation, but they won't mind, will they?"

And according to at least one former roommate of mine who works on capital hill, that "liberal, blacker" caveat is part of the problem in achieving DC representation. She said it would take an act of congress to grant the measure, and given the demographics of DC (generally very poor and very black. all the rich white people live in a very small portion of DC or the 'burbs), it would be a token Democratic seat every time. The republicans won't let that happen while they have a breath left in them. Of course, the demographics make the whole thing all that much uglier. Whenever somebody is getting screwed on a monumental scale, you can usually be sure it's the downtrodden and the people of color who generally don't have the resources or the organizing power to make any difference.


Post a Comment

<< Home