I grew up in Arlington VA and have returned (as of 2003), and that’s another narrative. But one of the things I wondered as a boy is why Washington residents did not have the right to vote or to govern themselves. Yes, I wondered why the Washington Senators had to be such a horrible baseball team (remember the 18-game losing streak in 1959?)
The issue came up when popular Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper wore a “51st state” T-shirt (maybe at Ted’s Bulletin) and seemed to join the political battle, surprisingly on the “liberal” side, given his upbringing (Dan Steinberg’s Washington Post story). Did Bryce buy a condo in the District and find out after the fact he had lost some voting rights?
Wikipedia has a definitive article on “District of Columbia Voting Rights” with all the details. The residents can vote for their own council, but often finds Congress tends tries to intervene on local wishes (on issues ranging from guns, to same-sex marriage, to partial legalization of marijuana). The residents now can elect one representative in the House, who on most matters cannot vote, and have no representation in the Senate. DC license plates read “Taxation Without Representation”.
The most obvious objection to full statehood would be that the population does not justify two Senators (but ask Vermont and Wyoming). More obvious is the idea that Senators and Representatives, and a governor, would almost certainly be Democratic. (Although Blue states, for example, have elected more moderate Republicans as governors: Romney and Weld in Massachusetts, Pawlenty in Minnesota, and Hogan in Maryland, the latter of whom might have made an excellent GOP presidential candidate precisely because of his moderation and humility learned in his recent medical issues.)
The simplest solution to give residents voting rights would be re-retrocession of almost all the city to Maryland. That would follow the example of Ottawa, which is actually in a province in Canada, Ontario. (But many other large democracies carve out federal zones for their capital cities.) That would result in Maryland nearly always voting Democratic on everything. Maryland is not eager to do this; it has its hand full with Baltimore.
Another idea would be to make a City of Greater Washington, comprising the District, Arlington, and Alexandria (as “counties”), and giving it two senators (for slightly over 1 million residents). The inclusion of Virginia counties or cities would add to population diversity and make the party balance more competitive (for the GOP). But on local matters the original states would maintain jurisdiction (Maryland for DC, and Virginia for its portion). New York City already comprises five counties (although all in one state). Many world capitals have a “Greater City” concept, with some autonomy for “boroughs” or “cities”, like London. But no world capital is in two states, as far as I know. The risk is making Washington into another “Belgium” as a political artifice.
(Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2016, at 5 PM EDT)
Update: July 10
Aaron C. Davis has a story in the Washington Post about a bizarre statehood referendum, which would be binding and propose a “constitution” that doesn’t exist.