Imagine a metropolis with a lush canopy of nearly 2 million trees, one of the best job markets and one of the most educated workforces in the nation, a sprawling public transportation network, a homegrown style of music, some of the best museums in the world — free — and a bustling waterfront with parks, restaurants, stadiums and little water taxis to zip you around.
This place exists, and a recent survey of Americans concluded that it’s also the worst state in America.
Here’s the problem that the team at YouGov unveiled with its recent poll that put D.C. at the absolute bottom of the list of American states. (And Hawaii at the top.)
We’re not a state. Not yet, at least.
And Americans need to start thinking of D.C. — the history and the homes, the perks and the parks, the restaurants and the residents — as a state, a place, a part of America. And not the cesspool that’s inhabited by the characters sent here by the rest of America. (I’m looking at you, voters from Florida’s 1st Congressional District, sponsors of this month’s “Desperate Housemembers of D.C.” drama.)
Y’all may look at Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) or the horned shaman of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and think they’re D.C. But these clowns are all you, official States of America.
The push for D.C. statehood is superhot right now, with a vote moving out of House committee this week and headed to the chamber’s floor for the first time in 30 years. Next stop — a Democratic-majority Senate.
We’re practically stitching that 51st star on our porch flags over here, despite the uphill battle to 60 votes against a Senate filibuster.
But when too many Americans look at D.C., they refuse to judge the population — a population larger than two of our nation’s states — as fellow citizens. They somehow see D.C.’s residents as other.
When the folks at YouGov did their survey, they showed Americans two states and asked them to choose which one is better. Each subject saw a matchup seven times. And almost never did their subjects choose D.C.
They picked Mississippi, the nation’s hungriest and poorest state, over D.C.
And West Virginia, where nearly a third of the main roads are in poor condition.
And Alabama. We can talk about economy, infrastructure, education, health-care outcomes, anything, when it comes to the troubles in Alabama. But it still outranked D.C. in these matchups.
Maybe the folks voting knew that any state is better at being a state than D.C. Because Congress won’t let us be one.
Here’s a way to redo that whole survey so that it’s legit: Change the question the folks at YouGov told us they posed from “Which of these states is better?” to “Which of these states is better for upholding Americans’ constitutional right to a vote?”
There. Fixed it.
Let’s be honest.
It’s heartbreaking for me when I hear folks dismiss this fantastic city — the place where both of my children were born, where I saw James Brown and Chuck Brown in the same concert, where my kid asked about Leonardo da Vinci and we ducked into a free museum just to see the only one of his works in North America, then ran back outside and listened to the saxophone guy’s corner concert — as a federal land of nothing but buildings and bureaucrats.
There’s a powerful argument about the citizenship and humanity of more than 705,000 of my neighbors.
But that’s not why D.C. should become a state.
D.C. statehood is about voting rights, and it’s another flavor of the unethical, underhanded and un-American way that too many leaders are working to manipulate the right of every American to cast a vote.
“For American democracy to work for any of us, we must ensure the right to vote for all of us,” said a statement released this week signed by giants of corporate America and published in The Washington Post on Wednesday. “We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.
“Voting is the lifeblood of our democracy and we call upon all Americans to join us in taking a nonpartisan stand for this most basic and fundamental right of all Americans,” the statement concluded.
It was in response to the legislative measures being proposed by Republican lawmakers to limit voting rights in jurisdictions across America.
But in D.C., this struggle has been a constant. And it isn’t sneaky gerrymandering or wink-wink voter identification laws that we have lived with. It’s flat out, plain and simple, the law of the land that D.C. residents don’t get a vote in Congress.
So maybe the poll putting D.C. at the bottom of the list is legit. For all our cherry blossoms and museums, culture, talent, tradition and humanity, D.C. is a place where a fundamental American right continues to be denied. And until that’s fixed, our proper place on the list should stay at 51.
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