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D.C. should not settle for less than statehood

I disagree with Patrick Mara [“What is D.C. willing to give to get budget autonomy?,” Local Opinions, Sept. 16]. Negotiating for a partial measure of our rights is not the answer, and it is untrue that a “stubborn all-or-nothing posture . . . has gotten us nothing.” All that the District has done over the past several years is negotiate.

We wasted five years pushing for the D.C. Voting Rights Act, and in the end we walked away empty-handed. What more do we have to negotiate with? We have given our money, our service to our country for 200 years, even our lives. Should we offer up unlimited guns on our streets? Or reduced health care for poor women?

Republicans do want us “controlled by the federal government” and Democrats do “take us for granted,” as Mr. Mara wrote, but the fact is that the “official pitch relegated to an area for fringe activists” at the Democratic National Convention was supporting Mr. Mara’s goal: budget autonomy, not statehood. A strong effort by volunteers changed that focus. We put up billboards and had 40 volunteers giving out thousands of statehood brochures, T-shirts and buttons to Democrats, who enthusiastically wore them and signed petitions of support. Statehood became the message in Charlotte because it is the right message. We learned that we need to take our battle to the people and not simply to Capitol Hill.

As another Republican, Frederick Douglass, put it, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Now is not the time to bargain for what should already be ours. Now is the time to stand up, make our demand and engage America to stand with us.

Michael D. Brown, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, is a shadow U.S. senator representing the District of Columbia.

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