(Heck, even the Mall of America is more popular than a White House tour — that behemoth in Minnesota gets 40 million visitors each year.)
So maybe it’s understandable how so many of our fellow Americans think we’re not really a place and shouldn’t be a state. For them, maybe “Washington” is just an idea. Or a punchline.
We started the week here in D.C. (yes, people actually wake up here, in our beds, in the District of Columbia) greeted by a Gallup poll that said 64 percent of our compatriots don’t favor statehood for us.
But it seems like such a no-brainer. Especially to anyone who waves a flag or says the Pledge of Allegiance.
You know, no taxation without representation, equal rights, liberty and justice for all and all that?
So let’s just pretend the firm denial of voting rights is about a lack of familiarity with the District.
Just about every Washingtonian — native or new — knows this is a real thing.
Plus, the Gallup poll showed that the farther people are from D.C., the less likely they are to support statehood.
Every few months, I run into some form that simply doesn’t offer D.C. as an option in the drop-down menu.
Or at a bar outside the Beltway: “I need a real ID, like from where you live,” a befuddled bartender in Alabama told me, after I showed my D.C. driver’s license years ago, when I still looked young enough to get carded. “Washington’s not, like, a real place.”
So when folks like that take a poll, they imagine a bunch of guys in suits and white marble buildings and the collective word they spit when they want to blame someone else for their woes — “Washington” — as the supposed “swamp” that wants to become a state.
Let me help.
Washington is generations of families who’ve been going to Lee’s Flower and Card Shop since it opened in 1945 or who have been getting their children’s first shoes at Ramer’s since 1982. It’s got go-go music and mumbo sauce. It’s a place of neighborhoods that throw block parties and neighbors who battle for the best lawn.
Washington has rowhouses, ranch houses, mansions and condos. (Maybe too many condos.) It’s scout troops and swim teams, American Legion halls and corner groceries. It’s not all politicians. We have janitors and teachers, accountants and construction workers, too.
Just like the rest of America.
And it’s necessary — and constitutional — for all of these folks to get a say in Congress.
We’re talking about this now not only because our nation is in a deep crisis over representation. The Trump presidency is the fifth time an American president who lost the popular vote took office because of the electoral college, and we live in a land of ridiculously gerrymandered districts designed to favor partisan wins.
We’re a nation where two states with populations lower than the District — Vermont and Wyoming — get more say in Congress than the 702,000 people of D.C. do.
In March, a bit of progress was made when the House passed legislation for the first time that supported giving D.C. voting rights.
“There is no other way to describe it — this is historic,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
Although Norton has been introducing bills like this for decades, she wasn’t the first to draw two lines between equal rights and statehood for the District.
The 1976 Republican Party platform said it supported “giving the District of Columbia voting representation in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.”
Candidate Donald Trump was all for it. Presidents from Andrew Jackson to Richard Nixon also thought it was logical, moral and appropriate for America.
“It should offend the democratic sense of this nation that the 850,000 citizens of its Capitol, comprising a population larger than 11 of its states, have no voice in the Congress,” Nixon said in a message to Congress on April 28, 1969.
Denying D.C. statehood is a prefab way to suppress the votes of thousands of African Americans. And because the District is reliably blue, it’s a way to keep Congress from growing by at least three Democrats.
That’s what it comes down to.
It’s political gamesmanship. But it’s also about a segment of Americans who have increasingly vocal opinions about entitlement and the very notion of citizenship.
It’s the same flavor as what President Trump suggested four liberal congresswomen of color should do. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” he wrote in a tweet on Sunday.
I became a D.C. resident when I moved here 20 years ago. My sons were both born in D.C., they learned to walk in D.C. parks and bike in D.C. alleys, and they will forever be Washington natives.
But after I wrote about Trump’s takeover of the Fourth of July celebrations in D.C. — a stunt that has left the District’s security fund bankrupt — I heard from folks who believe that the residents of D.C. really don’t deserve a say in what happens here.
“Just because you choose to live in the city of Washington, D.C. doesn’t mean it is ‘your’ city,” wrote Donna Marteney, a public school teacher in Leesburg, Va. “Of course only 4 percent of you voted for Trump, which is why your city must never become a state.”
There it is. Politics and division trump all in this America.
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