This year, like most of the 646,000 or so other people in my city, I paid my income tax to the federal government.
I obviously don't have the data yet for this year, but we do know that in fiscal year 2012, the people of my city returned 20.75 billion dollars in taxes to the federal government—a whopping $33,000 per capita, higher than any state in the union.
And yet, I and my 646,000 fellow Americans have no representation at all in the United States Senate—and only one non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives.
In case you hadn't guessed it yet, my city is the District of Columbia, the seat of the federal government and the home of over 600,000 Americans who are being denied the most basic and foundational civil right of a United States citizen, the right to vote and have that vote count.
People on this site get incensed at the Republican attacks on voting rights nationwide—voter ID laws that predominantly disenfranchise the elderly and people of color, restrictions on voter registration, cutbacks on early voting that make it impossible for some to vote, inequitable distribution of voting resources that lead to six-hour lines, and the purging of voter registration lists based on dubious or outright fraudulent data.
And we are right to be incensed, because these attacks threaten to disenfranchise tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of American citizens who have the legal right to cast their ballots and make their voices heard in government.
Yet at the very heart of that government, the nation's capital, 646,000 Americans are being systematically and openly denied their right to any representation in that government—and unlike the Republican vote-suppression efforts in the states, DC residents' civil rights are denied en bloc and without pretext.
Republicans don't even bother to come up with their usual flimsy bullshit about "voter fraud" in justifying their denying DC residents' right to vote; the mere fact that we reside in the District of Columbia is deemed sufficient reason to strip us of a basic civil right. "If they voted, they'd just vote for more Democrats!" So friggin' what? If that is the will of the people, then don't more Democrats belong in office?
But my criticism cuts both ways—because while (most) Republicans are blatantly honest about denying us our right to vote, most Democrats—including many who are loud and proud in their defense of voting rights in the various states—are conspicuously silent on, or at best paying lip-service to, the disenfranchisement of 646,000+ Americans in DC.
There have been no conspicuous efforts by Democrats in the House or Senate to grant DC the statehood we deserve, and no conspicuous efforts by the progressive activist organizations to push Congress on the issue. Despite the fact that we are living in the backyard of both Congress and these organizations, we're apparently invisible to them.
Here are some things you can do:
- Support organizations like DC Vote, DC Statehood, and the Committee for the Capital City.
- Write to your representative and senators demanding that they take action on DC statehood.
- Put DC statehood on the agenda for your local progressive organization, demand that it be on the agenda for any debates for Senate or House seats, and demand that a pledge for action on DC statehood be a condition for endorsement from your local and state party and any progressive organization.
- Share items on DC statehood with your friends and colleagues on social networks, and talk about it with people—particularly on this Tax Day of all days.
It's long past time for that to change—and it's long past time for the grassroots to be at the forefront of that demand.