Washington D.C. chafes so greatly over the city’s status as a district rather than a state that it appropriated the revolutionary slogan “no taxation without representation” for its license plates. The District has lobbied for statehood for some time, but pro-statehood activists are hoping for a powerful endorsement from the commander-in-chief in his penultimate State of the Union address.
Via The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau:
Josh Burch, founder of the grassroots group Neighbors United for DC Statehood, has launched a petition through a White House outreach website urging Mr. Obama to mention Washington, D.C.’s lack of congressional voting representation in his upcoming primetime address to Congress.
“We urge President Obama take the statehood cause directly to Congress & the American people by advocating for D.C. statehood in his State of the Union speech. This cause is a moral cause and we ask President Obama to embrace it and advocate for it thus emboldening a cause that would ensure that the people of the District of Columbia are finally treated fairly and equally as citizens in the 51st state in the union,” the petition on We the People reads.
Mr. Burch said that it was a simple matter of social justice that hundreds of thousands of District of Columbia residents remained disenfranchised on Capitol Hill. He said the president can drive the agenda and spark a national discussion by mentioning the issue in the State of the Union speech.
It was a nice touch there to suggest that Obama would be advancing “social justice” by endorsing the admittance of the 51st state into the Union. They know where this president lives.
It may sound counterintuitive, but conservatives should welcome this unlikely move from Obama. It would do nothing other than to cement the impression that he is perfectly out of touch with the rest of the country. Aside from the practical problems associated with admitting another state into the Union, not to mention the political firestorm that would be ignited by such a proposal, it is clearly unpopular.
A 2006 Washington Post poll of the nation found that only 22 percent of the public favors extending Washington D.C. statehood. The write up of that poll sounded a note of optimism, however, because younger respondents were more favorable to statehood for the District of Columbia than were their older counterparts. Apparently, age has tempered their enthusiasm. A 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll found that just one-quarter of the public still backs statehood for the city.
“In fact, the survey found that only ‘12 percent of American adults think it would be good for the United States to add more states,’ and that 44 percent believe it would be ‘bad for the country,’ while 24 percent don’t think it would have an impact,” a forlorn report in DCist.com read.
What’s more, Barack Obama’s States of the Union have been popularly caricatured as nothing more than progressive wish lists. In those addresses, Obama does not seek so much to report to Congress on the Union’s struggles and triumphs, but to placate his restless liberal base of support.
Last year alone, Obama promised executive orders to advance progressive initiatives like hiking the minimum wage, creating federal retirement accounts that mirror Roth IRA or savings bonds, job training, pushing for more paid leave for families, and the establishment of a universal pre-kindergarten bureaucracy behemoth. Obama asked Congress to comply with his demand that they facilitate the closure of Guantanamo Bay and fast-track comprehensive immigration reform – two initiatives he took on himself via controversial executive action.
Much of what he proposed in 2014 sounded similar to that which he pledged to pursue in 2013. The repetition was necessary because most of his proposals from the year prior had gone ignored. There was one distinction, however, in that Obama insisted that “Newtown deserves a vote” on stricter gun laws. They got one out of the Democrat-dominated Senate in the 113th Congress, and that vote failed. This did nothing to sate the demands of progressive activists who still insist that new gun laws are both popular and necessary.
When Obama endorses an initiative in the State of the Union, it does not suddenly grow more attractive. In fact, the opposite may be true. What is clear, however, is that the president’s endorsement has all the moral authority of an anti-police “die in.” It is hard to ignore the ostentatious display, but its effects on the observer’s behavior are negligible.
So, Republicans who oppose statehood for Washington D.C. should only hope that Obama backs the expansion of the Union in his address to Congress. It would only help advance their opposition.