With the signing of SB 202 by Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia moves to widely suppress the votes of Black and Brown citizens, and inadvertently, offers the Democrats their first and best chance to move DC statehood out of the party platform and into reality.
While the Party has technically supported statehood since 1988, that support has rarely translated into vocal advocacy or legislative action . But now — perhaps for the first time — there is clear political incentive to do so.
A Modern-Day Case for DC Statehood
In 2021, statehood for DC can be more than a liberal fever dream; it has become a necessary bulwark against GOP-backed return to minority rule, where Americans of color are routinely prevented from voting, and largely unrepresented in government.
The January 6 insurrection, the police murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, and the return of Jim Crow-era disenfranchisement — all profound attacks on democracy itself — give Democrats a rare opportunity to take sweeping action of their own.
The 400,000+ eligible voters in the district have long endured taxation without representation — a fate far too many Georgians will soon be experiencing if the new voter suppression law is not struck down by the courts. DC statehood may be the firewall against GOP overreach.
South Dakota GOP Senator Mike Rounds expressed one of the key Republican talking points when he tweeted that, “The Founding Fathers never intended for Washington D.C. to be a state.”
Rounds is probably correct.
…if his point is that Black votes shouldn’t be counted.
It is also likely the Founders never imagined that a Black woman would someday read, vote, own property, or (God forbid) be elected vice president, but here we are.
America has far outgrown this origin story, and the vision for America’s future must do likewise. The Founders’ true intention was to create a living, breathing Constitution that would protect the rights of the people; prevent monarchy or dictatorship from taking root; and grow along with a mighty nation.
President Joe Biden has been a liberal-leaning, moderate Dem during his decades-long career in public service. And while he has supported DC statehood, he was unlikely to be cast as its most vocal champion. But he should be actively supporting it now — as boldly and fiercely as he works on the COVID vaccine rollout and climate change.
And while the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party may believe they’re pushing Joe to the left, the real wind at Biden’s back is coming from the hardline, Trump-worshipping right. In Trump’s wake, 147 congressmen and 6 senators worked to prevent certification of the election and overturn the will of the people.
And they’re not done trying. Even now, GOP-led state legislatures are using Trump’s Big Lie to implement sweeping rollbacks to voting rights, targeting Black and Brown citizens.
The Time is Now
Americans learned during the last four years that we cannot depend upon honor, patriotism, or fidelity to the Constitution to protect us from Trump extremists, especially when they have clearly taken over the heart and soul of the GOP.
In this environment, statehood for DC — with its majority Black population and 76% Dem voting bloc — becomes much more than a pawn in Beltway political games. As a sovereign state with two senators, it becomes a seawall against the rising tide of GOP fanaticism.
On a dozen issues ranging from reforming the filibuster to student loan debt, Biden’s natural inclination is to land just barely left of center. He has been noncommittal, for example, on expanding the Supreme Court in an effort to dilute the influence of Trump’s three conservative appointments.
But what will happen…
…if the Court fails to strike down Georgia’s 2021 Jim Crow voter suppression laws?
…if the Court allows the disenfranchisement of Black and Brown citizens?
Shouldn’t our president take whatever steps are necessary to preserve, protect and defend every American’s equality under the law — as the Founding Fathers intended — up to and including expanding the Court?
Likewise for DC statehood.
The brutal wind from the right is molding Joe Biden into the most progressive president ever to serve. Statehood for DC could be one of his many historic legacies.
And the Dems should forge ahead to make it happen, just as brazenly and unapologetically as the Trump cultists are sweeping through Black and Brown communities, destroying hard-won civil rights, and, perhaps, democracy itself.