In North Michigan Park, among the city’s most politically active neighborhoods, the feeling is the budget compromise left the District in a “bad position,” said Ernest Harris, a retired federal employee.
“I didn’t expect him to just be able to do everything that we might want him to do. I understood that he wasn’t just the black president,” said Harris, 74. “But in terms of D.C., he’s throwing us under the bus. He caved too easily. He should have stood up. I know statehood and full representation is a long way off, but he’s taking us for granted. And he can’t do that anymore. . . . I’m not sure if I’m going to vote for him again over this.”
Presidents have long had a tenuous relationship with their host city. Richard M. Nixon ventured into the District in the early days of his first term, when he went to inspect the remnants of the 1968 riots along Seventh Street NW. Bill Clinton, as president-elect, went for a stroll along Georgia Avenue and then spent most of his next eight years here inside the White House. For a rare night on the town, George W. Bush preferred a Mexican restaurant in Virginia.
Beyond the marbled monuments, the District has not always provided an illustrious backdrop, whether it was when Marion Barry was caught smoking crack on videotape or when the city’s homicide rate earned it the title “Murder Capital,” or when the government fell into bankruptcy and Congress ordered its spending monitored by a financial control board.
Even as memories linger, the District is not the same city it was a generation ago. Since moving to the White House, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have gone about town, whether to their daughter’s soccer games or to eat in restaurants or visit public schools.
The president has expressed support for the District’s cause, his strongest statement uttered as a Democratic candidate when he said, “Residents of Washington, D.C., shouldn’t be treated as tenants, fortunate enough to share the same space as our government.”
Obama was more cautious after his victory, describing himself as a “strong proponent” of voting rights even as he added that “this takes on a partisan flavor, and, you know, right now I think our legislative agenda is chock- full.”
A year ago, while commemorating D.C. Emancipation Day, Obama issued a statement that said in part: “I urge Congress to finally pass legislation that provides D.C. residents with voting representation and to take steps to improve the Home Rule Charter.”