The Washington Post editorial board issued a rather scathing attack on the Republican Party this week (really?) over the party platform’s dim view of statehood for the District of Columbia. Attempting to purloin some standard conservative language in their critique, the editors claim that a real conservative would want local control more than federal, which would be a fine point to make were we talking about a normal state or territory. Still, they let the GOP have it with both barrels.
The GOP platform adopted this week starts as a paean to “returning to the people and the states the control that belongs to them.” But when it comes to the District, this same document dismisses the city’s right to local budget autonomy, calls for overturning local gun laws, insults the governing ability of local officials and employs some of the strongest language to date opposing D.C. statehood. Republican disdain extended to how the local Republican delegation was treated on the convention floor: Arcane rules were used to change votes against the delegation’s will. “This is Donald Trump and the Republican Party giving the District of Columbia a big middle finger,” said one D.C. delegate.
The District will likely fare better next week in Philadelphia. The draft Democratic platform calls for D.C. statehood, and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton is promising to push for it if elected.
I’m not sure exactly when the WaPo editorial board became so concerned about small government principles, but you’ll pardon me if I’m a tad bit skeptical over their motives here. Still, just to play along with this game for a moment, let’s take a stab at why the GOP might actually oppose DC statehood as a concept. While I know many scholars who long for this result have danced around the rules to explain away the underlying problems, Republicans tend to be fond of the Constitution. And in Article I Section 8 it specifies one of the duties of Congress as:
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
If the Founders had intended for the particular states to cede land to be a new state I think they would have said so. So there you have it… a constitutional reason to oppose the idea.
But that’s really not what liberals (including the WaPo board) want out of making the District of Columbia a state. What they’d really like to see is, to a lesser degree, the immediate addition of another Democratic seat in the House of Representatives. (They have less than 700K residents, which is below the national average per congressional district, so they would only get one at large congressperson.) Far more importantly, though, would be two more seats in the Senate, also to be placed in the hands of the Democrats for generations.
It remains a highly unlikely prospect, but I got to thinking this weekend and wondering what the Republicans should do if the Democrats actually pull this off. Only one answer came to mind: contact the party leadership in Texas and ask them to begin an immediate drive to split the state up into at least two or possibly even five separate states.
Why Texas? Because partitioning out a new state anywhere else would be logistically challenging to say the least and it would take ages to accomplish. (Also, most of the ones you would want to split off would be large population centers and they would produce more Democratic senators.) But Texas is different… maybe. You can read about the running debate on this subject here, but at least some scholars believe that the Texas Annexation Resolution of 1 March, 1845 gives the Lone Star State perpetual authority to split off as many as four other states without the consent of Congress. Congress disagreed, of course, and worded the Texas Admission Act in such a way that some experts believe the Annexation Resolution is nullified.
Either way, it would be an interesting fight. And if they could pull it off, you could add anywhere from two to eight new Senators into the mix with a good chance that at least a majority of them would be Republicans. Would Texas go for it? Actually I rather doubt it, but it’s fun to think about on a Sunday while we wait for the Democrats to kick off their big party.