Lack of DC Statehood Makes DC Government Worse

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sapphir3blu3/3223461134/sizes/m/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Flickr/sapphireblue</a>


Adam Serwer is filling in while Kevin is on vacation.

Harry Thomas Jr., the former Ward 5 City Councilman who relinquished his seat in disgrace after being indicted for corruption, came under public scrutiny in part because of the efforts of relatively liberal Republican Tim Day. But in a city like DC, where the GOP brand is just utterly toxic, even a black, gay, liberal Republican who helps oust corrupt Democrats like Thomas didn’t stand much of a chance against the other contenders for Thomas’ seat in Tuesday’s special election:

With all 18 precincts reporting at 9:30 p.m., [Kenyan] McDuffie took 44.50 percent of the vote. Second-place finisher Delano Hunter only mustered 20 percent, while Frank Wilds took 14.8 percent. Republican contender Tim Day, the man responsible for the investigation that eventually brought down Thomas, only managed 5.3 percent of the vote.

McDuffie wasn’t a bad candidate by any means, but Day’s poor showing speaks to an ongoing structural problem caused by the city’s lack of congressional representation. DC’s local shenanigans occasionally prompt critics to argue that the city doesn’t deserve representation in Congress, despite having a larger population than Wyoming, which has two Senators and a congressional representative. This gets things exactly backwards: The lack of congressional representation places a ceiling on political ambitions that reduces the incentive for local politicians to behave. DC’s best politicians don’t have a governorship, House or Senate seat to look forward to. It’s a political cul-de-sac. As Jonathan Bernstein pointed out Tuesday night, DC’s lack of representation also means Republicans have little reason to invest in a stronger local party whose partisanship might also serve as a check on local corruption. There’s also the weirdness of having national parties contest local elections, which makes little sense in the context of local DC politics and burdens candidates like Day who don’t have much in common with, say, Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Retrocession into Maryland would solve some of these problems, but as a DC partisan I favor the city’s right to exist as an independent entity. Unfortunately, given that DC statehood would mean two new Democratic Senators, the constitutional changes necessary for statehood aren’t ever likely to happen, despite the fact that the United States was founded to combat the injustice of taxation without representation.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.