THE EFFORT by Senate Republicans to hold onto majority control of the chamber — now accelerating into high gear with Georgia’s upcoming runoff elections for two Senate seats — has been larded with ominous warnings about the dangers of Democrats controlling both the White House and Congress and implementing a radical agenda. They have trotted out what Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called a “parade of horribles.” Front and center is D.C. statehood. Republicans characterize the idea as nothing more than a power grab to get Democrats two more senators. That won’t cut it.

If you oppose D.C. statehood, you need to explain why it is acceptable to deprive 705,000 citizens of their rights to full representation in their government.

A historic moment in the District’s quest for voting rights came in June when the House of Representatives voted largely along party lines to make D.C. the 51st state by shrinking the seat of the federal government to a two-square-mile enclave and designating the rest of the District as the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made clear he would not bring the measure to the floor, and the White House vowed a veto. But the vote was the first time either chamber of Congress passed statehood legislation. It underscored how far the issue has come in recent years and helped make it a flash point for the escalating attacks of Republicans wanting to hold onto their majority in the Senate.

“If they win, it is not going to be about a health-care debate,” said Mr. Graham, referring to the last time Democrats had unified control of the government in 2009. “They are going to structurally change the country to make it harder for a Republican to get elected president. They are going to make D.C. a state, altering the balance of power in the Senate.” No doubt there is a political calculation to statehood for D.C. — and for Puerto Rico, which Republicans have also attacked — and it is fair to ask whether Democrats would support statehood for D.C. if they thought it would result in two additional Republican senators.

But there is a more basic principle in play. U.S. citizens — no matter their party affiliation — deserve to be fully represented in Congress. The population of D.C. is larger than that of Wyoming or Vermont, D.C. residents pay more in federal taxes than those living in 22 states, and Washingtonians live up to all their responsibilities as citizens, including going to war to serve their country. Yet they are denied a voice in Congress.

Republicans know that is just plain wrong. But just as they have sought to hold onto their power by systematically making it harder for people to vote, so are they willing to play politics with the civil rights of the U.S. citizens who live in D.C.

Read more: