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SIMMONS: Same old statehood snake oil won’t sell

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Hey, D.C. residents, do Americans really and truly want the District of Columbia to become the 51st state?

Then stop preaching to the choir and stop waiting for Democrats and Republicans in Washington to hop on your bandwagon.

Grab the spotlight and throw down the gauntlet.

The U.S. Constitution spells out the parameters for joining the Union in Article IV, Section 3, and it is an arduous task because it involves the people in the states supporting your cause.

"New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress," reads Clause 1.

Meanwhile, Clause 2 states "Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State."

Those absolute particulars say nothing about the amount of taxes D.C. residents pay and nothing about lives lost to war. They also don't discuss voter disenfranchisement or the well-worn, weak arguments statehood advocates make over and over again.

Stop it already.

Here's a refresher course.

1) In 1978, four years after D.C. voters exercised their first real taste of limited self-governance, Congress approved a constitutional amendment for statehood.

2) In 1982, the D.C. constitutional convention said the state would be named the State of New Columbia, and approved the election of two "shadow senators" and one "shadow representative" to lobby for statehood. Voters ratified the efforts in 1983 and that same year petitioned Congress. But by 1985, only 16 states had ratified the amendment.

Other efforts have been undertaken, including adding statehood to party platforms at national conventions, but the resounding "no" from 1985 still speaks volumes.

In a kumbaya moment, Congress even readdressed the issue in 1993 — Bill Clinton's first year as president and when Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House — but the D.C. statehood gambit fell to defeat in the House by a vote of 277-153.

That's why D.C. statehood proponents should change their ground strategy by first making certain that people in the 50 states want them to join the union, momentum they could carry straight to Capitol Hill.

Holding rallies and staging acts of civil disobedience are incestuous affairs that have proven ineffective toward reaching the goal of full unadulterated D.C. statehood.

Advocates need to exploit this week's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray rarely misses an opportunity to invoke the lack of statehood and full voting representation in Congress at press conferences and other news-making events.

Still, D.C. officials get the cold shoulder from Democrats and Republicans alike, including the city's duly elected nonvoting congressional delegate begging for a speaking spot at her party's own convention.

Meanwhile, the "shadow senators" and "shadow representatives" are a cruel joke, calling Congress racist in its approach to statehood and, in their latest undertaking, erecting billboards of powdered-wigged forefathers with "Support DC Statehood NOW!" in bold red lettering.

What a waste of political capital.

Amending the U.S. Constitution takes bold leadership, something the D.C. statehood movement lacks.

Supporters should lay out a strong, forthright state-by-state strategy to rally the people's voices and votes.

Until then, dispense with the dog-and-pony shows. Americans have far more timely and important matters on the front burner, like deciding whom to elect for president in November.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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