New Columbia, Old Idea

Statehood effort gets points for public awareness, but a vote in the House is still the way to go.

The idea of a “New Columbia” has been around for nearly 30 years, when the D.C. statehood movement started its fight in Congress. It’s hard to argue against giving D.C. residents the same rights allowed every other state. The problem is, the possibility of turning D.C. into a state still isn’t there.

“It is time, frankly, for us to do something different,” said Mayor Vincent Gray during last week’s press conference announcing a new effort toward gaining statehood. In reality, the effort is nothing more than a public awareness campaign, and the mayor is right when he says it’s time to do something different. He ought to be honest with D.C. residents though, and stop pretending there’s any chance in the near future to gain outright statehood.

“If we don’t wage this fight day in and day out, nobody is going to pay attention to us,” Gray went on to say. Therein lies the problem. 

The city’s new effort is aimed at persuading state governments across the country to pass resolutions supporting statehood for DC. It prompts the question: why would any legislature want to pay attention to such an effort? How exactly would making D.C. a state benefit Colorado or Florida? Furthermore, what good does it do to pass resolutions? A resolution carries as much weight as Rick Perry in a presidential debate.

Last time I checked, the only state that had any interest whatsoever in the District was Utah. Remember that deal a couple of years back? It would have given D.C. a vote in the House of Representatives, and it nearly worked. 

Still, it was D.C.’s best chance to date, which is why there should be a renewed effort into gaining a vote in the House, because an advertising campaign isn’t going to work where it matters most. 

By the way, can we please hear from the mayor and Council how much this advertising blitz is going to cost city taxpayers?

Sure, a campaign pushing for a “New Columbia” mixes things up. At the very least, it can serve as a public awareness tool, educating those across the country about the plight our city faces. It does no real work on the ground, however, at gaining voting rights.

Admittedly, given the current makeup of Congress, the District has slim chance at gaining a vote in either chamber. The beauty of it is, the makeup of Congress changes, and when it does the District needs to be ready to pounce. 

Given the right circumstances in Congress, the unwavering work of Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will ultimately prove to be the winning formula.

It may go against all conventional wisdom, just like the age-old question of whether the chicken came before the egg. In D.C.’s case, history will prove the vote came before the state.


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