‘Our moment is now’: can Washington DC statehood finally become a reality?

Thousands of miles from the US capital, a group of progressive protesters recently marched to the office of their senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, to demand that she support statehood for Washington DC.

The protest was notable because of its setting of Anchorage, アラスカ, and similar demonstrations have recently been popping up all across America. Progressives from Arizona to New York have taken pictures with 51-star flags to show their support for making DC the first new state to join the union since Hawaii in 1959.

Previously dismissed by its critics as a regional issue, DC statehood has gained national prominence in recent years, and that increased attention has now translated into legislative action. Late last month, the House passed a DC statehood bill with a record number of co-sponsors, and Joe Biden has offered a full-throated endorsement of the proposal.

This momentum has given activists hope that now – with 民主党 controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress – DC statehood may finally become a reality. しかしながら, numerous challenges remain in the evenly divided Senate, and Republicans are determined to keep just 50 stars on the American flag.

For statehood advocates, this moment feels like an opportunity to correct a 200-year-old injustice. The District’s population of 700,000 is more than that of Wyoming and Vermont, and DC residents pay more in federal taxes than their counterparts in 22 州, yet they do not have congressional representation. Perhaps even more infuriating for statehood supporters is the fact that DC laws are subject to congressional review, meaning lawmakers from around the country have an effective veto on local proposals.

The issue of race if also front and center, given that DC’s citizens are predominantly people of color and their full rights as Americans are being curtailed mostly by Republicans in the Senate, who skew heavily white.

DC residents themselves largely support statehood. に 2016, the District held a referendum on the issue, そして 86% of voters backed statehood.

“This fight is the most pressing voting rights fight and the most pressing civil rights fight of our lifetime,” said Jamal Holtz, a leader of 51 ために 51, which advocates for statehood. “We should not be okay with American citizens not having voter representation.”

The lack of representation for DC residents has been the subject of international condemnation. The United Nations human rights committee has repeatedly said DC’s current political status is a human rights violation that flies in the face of America’s international treaty obligations.

Arturo Carrillo, the director of the International Human Rights Clinic at George Washington University law school, said the injustice of the situation is somewhat ironic. In the capital of one of the oldest democracies in the world, citizens are not represented at the federal level.

“The paradox is so profound that you almost don’t believe it,” Carrillo said. “It can’t really be like that, can it? しかし、それは. It is exactly as bad as it looks. And all you’ve got to do is drive around Washington DC, and look at our license plates. You’ll see they say, ‘End taxation without representation.’”

But for Republicans, the true injustice would be if DC, a city of just 68 平方マイル, were granted statehood and the two US senators that come with it. Republican leaders have criticized the statehood push as a Democratic “power grab” that contradicts the founders’ wishes for the capital district to be completely under federal control.

“If DC were to become a state, Democrats would gain two reliably liberal seats in the US Senate,” said Emma Vaughn, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. “They cite various reasons for why they want DC statehood, but the truth is that these extra Senate seats would be a rubber stamp for their radical, far-left agenda.”

Statehood advocates acknowledge DC would probably elect two Democratic senators if it becomes a state. に 2020, ただ 5% of DC voters backed Donald Trump, 一方 92% supported Biden. But activists say DC residents should not be deprived of basic democratic rights because of their political leanings.

“It is a much larger power grab to deny representation to people because you don’t think that they would vote for you. That’s the power grab,” said Meagan Hatcher-Mays, the director of democracy policy for the progressive group Indivisible.

Holtz also described Republican arguments against statehood as “racist dog whistles”, given that the majority of DC residents are people of color.

“Republicans are afraid of admitting DC as the first plurality Black state in the nation,” Holtz said. “Regardless of occupation and political party, all Americans deserve representation.”

Holtz’s organization is urging Senate Democrats to end 議事妨害 to get statehood passed, hence the group’s name of 51 ために 51, 意味 51 votes for the 51st state. (With the filibuster mechanism in place, Democrats need 60 votes to advance the statehood bill, which is considered an impossible task given Republicans’ fervent opposition.)

But even if Democrats do end the filibuster, it may not be enough to get the statehood bill to Biden’s desk. Senator Joe Manchin said on Friday that he does not support the legislation, and four other Senate Democrats have not taken a stance on the bill.

Without the filibuster, the Senate majority leader, チャックシューマー, would still need all five of them on board to pass the proposal. Those five holdouts are probably why Schumer has not committed to a timeline for voting on a bill, instead simply 言って the Senate is “working to make [statehood] a reality”.

Hatcher-Mays urged Democratic senators to move quickly on statehood, noting that the party’s hold on the White House and both chambers of Congress is unlikely to last long.

“History does tell us that trifectas are pretty rare, and they’re pretty fleeting,” Hatcher-Mays said. “We really need Democrats in the Senate to understand that this is what we gave you this majority for, so it’s really urgent to take this up and get this passed as soon as possible.”

For Holtz and many other District residents, the wait for statehood has already been long enough.

“Our moment is now,” Holtz said. “We cannot continue to count our days where there are people disenfranchised in our nation’s capital.”