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Yesterday was April 17, the deadline for filing 2011 federal income taxes.

Most of the 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia filed their federal income tax returns before yesterday's deadline—and while we don't have data for 2011, the data for 2009 reveals that DC residents paid $3.6 billion in federal income taxes that year.

And yet, DC residents had to knock on Congressmembers' doors yesterday just to beg them to let us spend our own city tax money as we'd like—a perfectly representative anecdote for the basic civil rights being denied to 600,000 American citizens.

The word "representative" there is ironic, since we don't have any voting representation in Congress—only the nonvoting Eleanor Holmes Norton in the House, and bupkis in the Senate.

Taxation without representation... where have I heard that phrase before? Maybe that orange squiggly thing will remind me...

Ah, yes. Now I remember. There was a little skirmish fought between our ancestors and some chaps in red uniforms over that a few hundred years ago.

Modern Americans of all stripes acknowledge that the revolutionaries' cause was just—and that one of the chief offenses England was committing against their American colonists was that the English were taxing the Americans without giving the Americans any say in the central government.

It is doubly ironic, then, that such a condition is tolerated—even by many progressives—right in the very backyard of the American central government.

Washington, DC has about 601,000 residents—about the same number as Nashville, Tennessee, and 60,000 more than the state of Wyoming.

If the residents of the city of Nashville were told tomorrow that their city would no longer get representation in the House, and that their votes would no longer count toward Tennessee's Senate representation, the progressive movement would be up in arms. There wouldn't be a Democratic politician in the country who could get away with inaction on this issue; "what will you do to give the residents of Nashville their civil rights?" would be a litmus test for any politician who wanted progressive support.

If a bill were introduced in Congress to strip Wyoming of statehood and send it back to "territory" status without a representative and Senators, nobody here would blink an eye before calling their member of Congress and demanding unequivocally that they vote against that bill, despite the fact that Wyoming couldn't possibly disagree with progressives any more on just about every issue. Voting rights are voting rights.

And yet, a group of people whose population is equal to that of Nashville, and more than that of Wyoming, are being denied this civil right as I write this—with barely a peep of protest out of the progressive movements. MoveOn doesn't send out email blasts on our behalf, DFA barely acknowledges our existence, and even the Occupy movements that aren't actively telling us we aren't full Americans haven't made 600,000 people being denied the most basic civil rights a major issue (with the exception of Occupy DC, which obviously has some skin in the game).

So this is a callout diary: I'm calling out each and every person here who resides in the 50 enfranchised states. Think about how you would respond if Nashville were denied the right to Congressional representation, or if Wyoming were stripped of statehood.

If your response to the continuing disenfranchisement of DC isn't at least as energetic, at least as active, then you are doing nothing less than telling me and my 600,000 fellow residents of the nation's capital—a majority of whom are people of color—that we aren't really Americans, that we deserve to be second-class citizens.

If you're active in an Occupy movement, bring this up at the next GA and demand that DC statehood be a top-tier issue for your local Occupy group. If you're a member of MoveOn, DFA, or any of the other progressive issue groups, demand that they take action.

And if you'd make Nashville a litmus test for your vote for a Congressmember or Senator, then you owe it to the residents of DC to make our rights just as much a litmus test. Call your representative and Senators today and tell them that you'll accept no delay in their taking action on DC statehood.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ontheleftcoast, marleycat, kefauver, sfbob

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Wed Apr 18, 2012 at 08:51:31 AM PDT

  •  I think there's only one way to get this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sit-in strikes. Get thousands, probably tens of thousands, of residents to occupy the steps of Congress, various federal buildings. You should even get some help from neighboring states. Cause such a huge amount of gridlock in the city they'll be forced to deal with it. That's about the only hope I see you having.

    All my sig lines are hand-crafted by demented elves living in my skull.

    by ontheleftcoast on Wed Apr 18, 2012 at 09:01:49 AM PDT

    •  Tens of thousands of our residents... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ontheleftcoast, sfbob

      ...already occupy the federal buildings, usually from about 8am-5pm or so... :-)

      But I think you're right... while a vast majority of DC residents agree that we should have statehood, there's sadly not a lot of organized energy behind nonviolent direct action for statehood here.

      We cheer when our mayor and councilmembers get arrested for civil disobedience, but there's no mass movement to shut the city down—and I'd wager that a lot of people would be resistant because it's our own city, and it would be our own residents who would bear the brunt of the problems a shutdown would cause.

      Congress would find another way to get around everything and do jack-shit like they're currently doing, the Pentagon would go on as usual, and what work didn't get done in the various federal buildings would be stuff like Social Security, Medicare, etc. that helps the struggling—and it would be DCites who would have to deal with the vast majority of snarled traffic, lack of access for emergency vehicles, economic hits, etc. that would result.

      But I still don't think that gets progressives in the 50 enfranchised states off the hook.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Wed Apr 18, 2012 at 09:09:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And there's fringe benefits for the progressives (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        across the country. With two more Senators, probably both Democrats, the Repukes will need 41 votes to block everything they don't like. We really should make this a national movement because it is a national disgrace.

        All my sig lines are hand-crafted by demented elves living in my skull.

        by ontheleftcoast on Wed Apr 18, 2012 at 09:14:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If it would make you feel any better (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamesGG, ontheleftcoast

    I'll support removing Wyoming's representatives .

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Wed Apr 18, 2012 at 09:03:09 AM PDT

  •  I was a DC resident from 1980-1986 (0+ / 0-)

    As much as I loved living in the District (particularly in the spring and fall; summertime not so much), the issue of home rule was always to me one of the most galling. Other American citizens take it for granted that they at least theoretically have a voice and three votes (a representative and two senators) in Congress. And that their local government's every single move is not subject to a veto by people who don't reside in their town.

    Now that the District's representative has been reduced to observer status (she previously had a vote in committee meetings but thanks to the Repubs she no longer has even that) it's way past time to correct what amounts to the complete disenfranchisement of 600,000 citizens.

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