This is a big week for D.C. politics aficionados. Tuesday is primary day for D.C. Democrats, with four contested D.C. Council seats and that last-in-the-nation presidential primary. A few days ago, Bernie Sanders promised to focus on the issue of D.C. statehood, an issue Hillary Clinton has also recently championed. (“We have an entire populace that is routinely denied a voice in its own democracy,” she recently wrote.)
And that’s not all. The District’s new constitutional convention began Monday night and continues next weekend, part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s statehood push. “D.C. mayor calls for citywide vote to make nation’s capital the 51st state,” read one recent Post headline. Heck, our paper recently kicked off a series on statehood issues, named “The 51st State,” and published yet another staff editorial Tuesday morning in favor of statehood. (“Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has proposed a new push to win statehood for the District; other advocates argue for the incremental step of securing at least a voting representative in the House. Either would represent progress,” the Editorial Board wrote.)
So forgive statehood advocates for getting slightly giddy with excitement when, in that vibrant context, Bryce Harper decided to wear a “51st State” T-shirt Monday evening.
The shirt came from Bailiwick Clothing Company, a local outfit that sells a variety of D.C.-centric apparel — the same company that also made the “202” shirt Harper wore when he debuted his “Make Baseball Fun Again” cap. The company’s founders, who are originally from Cleveland, periodically send apparel to Harper, but they’ve said they don’t know when he will choose to wear their stuff in public.
“I had no expectation that he would wear it, but I did it on a whim and said, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ ” J.C. Smith told us after the “202” episode. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Smith told DCist that the “202” shirt sold out after Harper wore it, and that they already have had a surge in “51st State” sales since Harper’s Monday evening interview session.
You can find the shirt here, along with a spicy description. (“DC residents get a raw deal when it comes to voting representation. In addition to paying federal taxes, we also pay local taxes and bear all the other responsibilities of citizenship. Of course DC should be the 51st State! Our population is similar to Delaware’s and Alaska’s, and its even larger than Vermont and Wyoming! We gotta get one of these shirts into Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s hands!”)
Harper, to my knowledge, hasn’t spoken out on the issue, but that didn’t stop others from seeing this as an endorsement of the cause.
“Harper…is supporting Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s bid to make the District of Columbia a state,” the New York Daily News wrote, while Bowser’s chief of staff invited Harper to the Friday session. Sadly, the Nationals will be on the West Coast by then.