The groveling is complete. After four years, President Obama has finally thrown the District a bone. We now have the honor and privilege of seeing the leader of the free world highlight our cause in the push for congressional representation. I guess.
Monday, the president announced he’ll take a page out of Bill
Clinton’s book and return the “taxation without representation” license plates to the White House limo fleet. Let’s throw a parade. Oh, wait.
In four years, a lot in this country and across the globe has changed. But you know what hasn’t? The District’s lack of congressional representation. Or the battle for statehood. And for most of his first term, the president has done nothing for our cause — symbolically or otherwise.
So, why a sudden change of heart from POTUS?
Because our city officials finally paid the necessary tribute. After passing an emergency resolution to urge the move by Obama, the D.C. Council kept at it. DC Vote, the advocacy organization dedicated to securing full voting representation in Congress for District residents got involved, too, in the form of a petition.
After that, council member Mary M. Cheh, (D-Ward 3) and Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) scheduled a sit-down with the director of intergovernmental affairs and presented the actual plates required to make this happen.
Honestly, it was all a bit unseemly. Should it really require an official resolution, a petition, a meeting and a present to get what is effectively a bumper sticker on Obama’s car? No. But was it worth it? Yes.
If we’d gone through all that and gotten nothing out of the White House in Obama’s final term, I, for one, would have shut the door on the possibility that I’d see any progress on the larger front in my lifetime. And I’m not the kind of person who thinks Obama owes us anything.
“We have been for so long abused,” Cheh said this month, concerning the overall situation and thus, the “taxation” tags. I don’t want to think of the kind of embarrassing limbo we’d be in if Obama hadn’t conceded.
Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), suggested that residents throw license plates over the White House fence in protest should POTUS not play ball, The Washington Post’s Tim Craig reported last week. Thank God it didn’t come to that.
Think of it this way: In Season 5 of CBS’s hit sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” Ted finds himself involved with a girl that, for whatever reason, can’t be with him “right now.” While his friends try to explain to him that he’s hooked on a hopeless cause, his friend Lily reveals a story of a guy who’s still on her hook from high school, even though she married with Marshall’s kid. She’s a teacher, and he works in the lunchroom. But Lily can’t bring herself to not end every reply to his overtures without the requisite “not right now.”
Sometimes I think that’s what this city is for our president. On the hook for a person that’s never going to fully commit. And while I appreciate that this latest step has given us some hope and is understandably a ceremonial start to, hopefully, a longer process, I can’t help but think about the statement issued by the White House (not Obama) on Tuesday.
“Attaching these plates to the presidential vehicles demonstrates the President’s commitment to the principle of full representation for the people of the District of Columbia and his willingness to fight for voting rights, Home Rule and budget autonomy for the District,” it read.
In other words: He can’t really be with us. Not right now. Or ever.
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