Triggering hatred and fear is the road well-traveled in the nation’s capital, and sometimes regardless who’s occupying the White House and or holding the reins of the House and the Senate, and regardless of whether it’s a presidential election year or not.
2020 is no different.
The Republican nominees, Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and their Democratic counterparts, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, are preparing for their upcoming debates. So, as a note, in case you’re looking for candor and civility, look to Mr. Pence, who likely will be the lone grownup at the debate podiums. Even on such gnawing issues as D.C. statehood and congressional voting rights.
“The fact that more than half a million Americans living in the District of Columbia are denied a single voting representative in Congress is clearly a historic wrong,” Mr. Pence in the spring of 2007 as a member of the House.
“The single overreaching principle of the American founding was that laws should be based upon the consent of the governed,” he said. “It is inconceivable to me that our founders would have been willing to accept the denial of representation to so great a throng of Americans in perpetuity.”
Applause for his sincerity, deliberative thought and nod to constitutional law.
Congress can grant voting rights to the District, but cannot summarily grant statehood. For statehood, the legally registered voters of the States, as in “the governed,” get a chance to say yea or nay.
The last consequential debates about statehood involved Alaska and Hawaii, and national security concerns were in order. The country was still recovering from Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II, and Alaska’s proximity to the USSR was too close for comfort.
So the then-leaders of the Senate and the House, Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson and Rep. Sam Rayburn, both Democrats, compromised. The two Texans agreed that pushing statehood for both at the same time would be appealing to Dems and the GOP.
And so it was: Alaska joined the union in January 1959 and Hawaii in August. The two new states, in a way, cancelled each other.
In the District, there’s no question which way the political winds will blow, as if voters and other residents are still indebted to John F. Kennedy for its first presidential pick.
So, even though D.C. voting-rights supporter Mr. Pence is no longer a member of the House, don’t count on Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris using their precious podium time during the debates to fight for ol’ D.C.
Prime-time TV viewing is too valuable to waste when triggering fear and hatred amid partisan fire.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at email@example.com.
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