- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

Some folks want all or nothing — and they want it right now.Gail Dixon, a member of the D.C. Statehood Green Party for more than 20 years, is not impressed with incremental steps toward empowerment.

“I’m old enough to remember when [whites] told black folks that you had to wait to use the water fountain after they let you walk on the same side of the sidewalk. That’s increments,” she says.

Although the majority, including the mayor and the D.C. Council, praised Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, for introducing legislation this week that would grant the District a vote in one chamber of the nation’s bicameral legislature, Ms. Dixon shrugs off the proposal, calling it “that stupid thing.”

The D.C. Fairness in Representation Act would allow the District’s congressional delegate to vote in the House in exchange for Utah’s being granted an additional, temporary seat.

“[The Davis bill] is another end run around what we want, and [Mr. Davis] could care less about us,” Ms. Dixon says. “If he truly wanted the District to have the equality that it should, then he’d put [a bill] forth that states this is the democratic, American way.”

To critics who contend that the District is not big enough to be a state, Ms. Dixon says: “Look at Connecticut or Rhode Island: They’re as big as a postage stamp.”

I always say if you’re going to take the time and energy to take on a project, do it right the first time.

Some supporters of Mr. Davis’ measure, such as DCVote, believe that something is better than nothing — for now. And, half-stepping is better than standing still.

“There is a history of empowerment in increments,” civil rights stalwart Lawrence Guyot says.

He refers to Frederick Douglass’ defense of the 15th Amendment that granted black men the right to vote but not American women.

Ms. Dixon wants no part of that “crawl before you walk” cliche.

“We need to storm the streets and storm the Hill and say, ‘We’re not going to take this lying down anymore,’” Ms. Dixon says.

However, she sadly acknowledges that those in her camp need more numbers to make a louder case. “People are afraid to [fight] alone. The masses are not energized and they are scared.”

Ms. Dixon is a devotee of the late Julius Hobson, founder of the D.C. Statehood Party, who vehemently warned that the limited 1973 D.C. Home Rule charter was deficient and defective. “Home fool, not home rule” was his oft-spoken slogan.

Mr. Hobson could foresee the inherent hypocrisy in a shadow government structure that provided provisional local empowerment by heavy-handed congressional overseers.

With the Davis bill, D.C. residents again are being offered crumbs, Ms. Dixon says.

“We’ll look at giving you this little bit which we can take back if someone gets their nose out of joint, instead of granting statehood, which would bring us into our fair share of democratic rights,” she says.

“We’ve been waiting too long, for years believing that people would do the right thing,” she says. “The Democrats didn’t do much, and when they did, they did it incrementally. The Republicans said outright as far as we’re concerned, ‘You don’t deserve a thing.’”

Well, you’re on the same page with Mr. Davis in his attempt to right the democratic wrong as long as you don’t dare whisper “commuter tax,” and you throw in another seat for a Republican-leaning state such as Utah for good measure.

Enough with the window dressing.

For his part, Mr. Davis said his bill seeks “to correct a historic wrong.” The sooner the better, pilgrim.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton also has introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, that seeks full voting rights in both chambers. She thanked Mr. Davis for his efforts, saying, “The more bills the merrier.”

Four D.C. voting rights bills are circulating on the Hill, but no action.

If the Rev. Al Sharpton and former Rep. Jack Kemp utter the same words in the same week, you’d think that leaders in their respective parties might listen and do the right, freedom-loving thing?

Each man, at different venues, argued that if America can wage a war to bring democracy in Iraq, then it must bring democracy to the nation’s capital. Or, as Mr. Kemp put it, support for the Davis bill would at least send “a statement that Congress can make that the epicenter of the democratic ideal gets a vote.”

However, behind closed door, the Democrats, who had their chance, oppose Mr. Davis’ incremental measure, saying it does not go far enough, but mainly because of its inclusion of an extra House seat for Utah.

The Republican leadership in both congressional chambers and the White House oppose it, too, falling back on arcane language in the Constitution as it pertains to the District.

Ah, at last, a bill both sides of the aisle agree on — taxation without representation for more than 500,000 citizens.

Still, Ms. Dixon doesn’t seem to doubt Mr. Davis’ sincerity. But she questions his motives, suggesting they have nothing to do with the District but everything to do with image and politics.

“He’s just trying to balance the side people see as dastardly with being a good guy. He can put something out there, but if nothing happens, you will come out looking like a cowboy,” she says.

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