|One of the boundary stones marking the District of Columbia|
President Obama will make a symbolic gesture of support for the notion of statehood for the District of Columbia by putting the equivalent of a bumper sticker on his Presidential limo at next Monday's inauguration. Because, you know, the slogan "taxation without representation" will motivate Americans everywhere to rise up and demand the creation of a state of New Columbia, naturally.
Let me be blunt: the proposal to make the District the 51st state is as ridiculous and transparently self-interested a political project as has ever been launched in Washington. Its boosters are cynically preying on local voters by appealing to "fairness" and "voting rights" when all they really want is two new Democratic U.S. Senators. Fairness and voting rights could be achieved by other means, like giving DC back to Maryland except for the small core of the city that contains federal office buildings. That's something that might actually be politically possible, but the local politicians calling for statehood never mention that option. I wonder why not?
To review a little history, in 1790 the Congress carved a ten square-mile district out of parts of Virginia and Maryland for the purpose of housing federal government functions in a jurisdiction entirely under federal control. Fun fact: residents of the District of Columbia continued to have voting rights in either Virginia or Maryland from 1790 to 1801. In 1847, the parts of DC west of the Potomac River were retroceded back to Virginia, becoming present-day Arlington Country and part of Alexandria. The reasons for retrocession were complicated, but one of them was the decision, taken decades before, to build all public buildings and infrastructure on the eastern side of the Potomac, leaving the Port of Alexandria undeveloped and unable to attract investment. Things continued unchanged until 1960 when the Twenty-Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, which created new Electoral College positions for DC so that residents could vote in presidential elections.
If Congress followed the Virginia retrocession example, it would only be necessary for the Maryland legislature and the residents of DC to agree in order to treat DC residents as belonging to Maryland for purposes of congressional representation. Since presumably we're all in favor of fairness and voting rights, who could oppose that? Only local politicians who want to be U.S. Senators, I guess.
Problem solved. Now take that unsightly bumper sticker off the Presidential limo.