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Opinion How the Founders decided you needed a car dealership to be a state

Independence Hall, but where is the airport? (iStock)
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“D.C. would be the only state — the only state — without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city, without a landfill, without even a name on its own, and we could go on and on and on.”

— Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), arguing against statehood for the District of Columbia

The Founders were excited to start a new country called the United States, but there was one big problem: There were no states! There was Large Virginia and Long Connecticut and Doublewide Georgia and the Five-Headed Non-Contiguous Mass of Massachusetts, but none of them were states. This news was devastating to the Founders, and they sat down to try to figure out what to do.

“You are sure that none of these are states?” Robert Morris said, for the third time.

“Yes,” James Madison said sadly.

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“So we can’t be the United States."

“No,” James Madison said, even more sadly. "Everyone knows that states contain certain immutable characteristics: an airport, a landfill, industrial manufacturing and a car dealership.”

“Oh, my God!” Patrick Henry screamed. “James Madison is possessed by a demon and is making incomprehensible sounds!”

“Please,” Benjamin Franklin said, “we know that demons are not real. I am sure that he has simply been overcome by galvanism!"

“No,” James Madison said, “I am just saying into the record things that we the Founders know are important for statehood so that later generations can cite them. Everyone knows about car dealerships and how you need one to be a state."

“I know about airports because of that big Revolutionary War battle,” George Washington said. “Airports featured prominently in that. But I don’t know about car dealerships."

“I am sure he said card eelerships,” Alexander Hamilton said. “That thing or institution whereby you place an eel onto a card. I went to King’s College."

“I obviously did not say that,” James Madison said. “That would make even less sense than what I said.”

“And we, the Founders, we feel adamant about having these things?" Robert Morris asked.

“Yes," James Madison said. “Car dealerships—"

“Card eelerships?”


“But in the interim,” said Elbridge Gerry, “we can at least be content that we have something far better than statehood.”


“Yes,” Elbridge Gerry said, “people can post yard signs and placards where statesmen may regard them and be influenced by them."

“And?” Benjamin Franklin asked, after a long pause. “That can’t be the whole thing you were going to say.”

“No, that is it,” Elbridge Gerry said. “That is the whole thing I was going to say.”

“That doesn’t really make up for the lack of statehood,” Benjamin Franklin said. “States get senators.”

“Sometimes I read a yard sign and I really feel like my mind has been changed,” Gouverneur Morris said. “I laugh. I cry. I think new thoughts I didn’t know before. Simply through the power of the written word. On a — no, never mind, I am thinking of books.”

“We are drifting from the point, gentlemen,” James Madison said. "We are resolved, then, that all states must have a car dealership? And also a landfill and an airport. To say nothing of industrial manufacturing?”

“But these are characteristics that no state possesses,” Alexander Hamilton said. “It makes no sense to require them. By this logic, we will not have a country for maybe hundreds of years. Why are you saying this? These just feel like arbitrary objections to statehood that are being made for no particular reason.”

James Madison looked sadly down at his lap. “I don’t know. I was given this piece of paper by a time traveler who said that if we agree it was important to us, it would help disenfranchise the residents of a historically Black city.”

“Oh,” everyone said, perking up. “Why didn’t you say so sooner?”

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Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: D.C. statehood may no longer be a pipe dream

Carolyn Clendenin: I live in D.C., and House Republicans have convinced me I don’t really need representation

Paul Waldman: D.C. statehood can no longer be ignored. Will Democrats step up?

Alexandra Petri: Are you a logger, or does Tom Cotton think you shouldn’t vote?

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