It’s not because I think DC should be a state.
“I don’t even think that’s the real point, frankly,” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton says, in the very first quote of this depressing piece. My ballot tomorrow is going to be a fractal of civic helplessness. Let’s explore!
So first of all, even if the statehood proposal wins in a landslide, it will not happen. It is a pure protest vote. For some people it’s a protest vote for left-wing and especially socially progressive politics–cf. the role abortion plays in that City Paper piece. For me, and for I think pretty much everyone (including the abortion-rights voters), it is more centrally a vote against “Johnny Mac” MacMillan. That’s the South Carolina Democratic congressman who sent Walter Washington–the first mayor of DC chosen by his city’s voters–a truckload of watermelons to welcome him to office. The fight for home rule is a fight against not just disenfranchisement, but specifically racialized disenfranchisement.
Nobody has convinced me that DC is economically viable as a state. What might work would be carving out a federal district and returning the rest to Maryland–“retrocession,” which is what happened with the part of Virginia that used to be D.C. (That’s why the city is a broken diamond rather than a whole one. Build your own metaphor.) But retrocession isn’t on the ballot, I’m guessing because Maryland doesn’t want us; so yes, every part of this picture gets more humiliating the longer you look at it, like a Seurat of shame.
I have had I think only one conversation with an opponent of statehood which didn’t very quickly boil down to, “Lol everybody knows you guys aren’t capable of ruling yourselves.” Which translates as, “You, unlike others, deserve to be ruled. Trust us to do it.” Why on earth would we?
Voting for statehood is as much as we can do to say to Congress, “We don’t trust you to rule us.” I trust them even less than I trust myself, and that is really saying something.