Thursday, March 09, 2023

Even Friendly Dominance Is Still Dominance

For some reason, a slew of congressional Democrats (along with President Joe Biden), most whom purport to support DC statehood -- most of whom I think genuinely support DC statehood -- voted to overturn the DC government's recent alterations to its criminal code.

This was a foolish decision, not the least because you give the GOP and inch and it takes a mile on these things.

But in its way, it demonstrates exactly why DC needs statehood.

The simple fact is that no matter how warm or empathetic any particular national politician feels towards DC, they cannot be trusted to govern DC insofar as they are not elected by DC voters. That's the entire point of democracy -- that our representatives are chosen by us, and so gain the legitimacy to write laws on our behalf. If DC were a state then normal, local lawmaking about DC would be undertaken by politicians accountable to DC voters. That doesn't mean all their choices will be good or salutary, but DC residents have the same right to make what some might deem to be mistaken policy choices as Kentucky or Idaho or Maine voters.

And the setup that DC has now -- with putative home rule, but subject to the oversight and approval of Congress -- will never substitute for actual home rule. Even men and women who think of themselves as DC supporters, who have naught but fair-feeling towards the people of DC, will be unable to resist the allure of substituting their own judgment for those of the actual DC polity. Whether because of strong feelings on a given issue or simply the happenstance of political maneuvering, those who have the power to dominant will exercise that power.

So long as Congress has the special power to override DC home rule, it will exercise that power -- it does not ultimately matter how "friendly" the individual Senators and Representatives are. The only way to end that is to give DC true, actual homerule on the same terms as any other American jurisdiction -- that is to say, by statehood.

No comments: