D.C. MAYOR Muriel E. Bowser (D) was in Cleveland on Tuesday, Day 2 of the Republican National Convention, to lobby for voting rights and statehood for the District. Given Republican animus toward the predominantly Democratic city, and the adoption the day before of a party platform fiercely opposed to D.C. rights, she was on a quixotic mission. But there is still value in focusing national attention on the District’s plight and on the utter hypocrisy of Republicans who give easy lip service to the importance of local control.
“Statehood is really a conservative issue, if you ask me,” said Ms. Bowser, explaining her logic in going to the convention as part of her campaign to win congressional voting representation for the District. “It’s the conservative principle of having the most government closest to the people, at the local level.” Unfortunately for the District, Republicans see no shame in ditching that principle when it doesn’t suit their partisan interests.
The GOP platform adopted this week starts as a paean to “returning to the people and the states the control that belongs to them.” But when it comes to the District, this same document dismisses the city’s right to local budget autonomy, calls for overturning local gun laws, insults the governing ability of local officials and employs some of the strongest language to date opposing D.C. statehood. Republican disdain extended to how the local Republican delegation was treated on the convention floor: Arcane rules were used to change votes against the delegation’s will. “This is Donald Trump and the Republican Party giving the District of Columbia a big middle finger,” said one D.C. delegate.
The District will likely fare better next week in Philadelphia. The draft Democratic platform calls for D.C. statehood, and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton is promising to push for it if elected. Of course, this won’t be the first time that support for the District has been included in the Democratic platform. What really matters is follow-through. If Democrats are successful in November, they should remember their promise to the District and the 670,000 residents who pay taxes, go to war and fulfill other requirements of citizenship without representation in the chambers where decisions on taxes and war are made.