Lessons from New Hampshire

Earlier today I listened to a recording of the New Hampshire House of Representatives debate on a bill in support of DC Statehood. The debate lasted all of 20 minutes (yes, a debate on whether or not 617,000 people deserved full citizenship rights only lasted 20 minutes). Listening to the audio made me more convinced that the statehouse by statehouse strategy for building support for Statehood is really a dangerous gamble.

All credit should go to Cindy Rosenwald for sponsoring the bill but shame on us in DC for not adequately educating and lobbying the state’s House of Representatives. Our delegation spent all of a half day there before the committee vote testifying and it showed. That little bit of effort showed that members of the state House didn’t learn a doggone thing. Listening to the debate it sounded like our delegation did very little to educate both our detractors and our defenders.

When a detractor stated that it’s unconstitutional to have the capital be a part of a State thus DC Statehood is unconstitutional one of our defenders basically replied ‘that’s a good point, I have to look into it.’ He didn’t know that the federal District as articulated in the Constitution would still exist, just smaller and definitely not part of the State of New Columbia. Our delegation did a poor job of educating our defenders.

Our detractors, however, really threw the whole kitchen sink at us saying we “elected a drug dealer as Mayor and thief as school board president.” That the noise they could hear was the giant sucking sound of DC on the federal budget; that Mexico imitated our model of a capital city because they liked it so much; that we pay high taxes because we have 2 million high paying government jobs. And to all those false and misleading claims, not one rebuttal, not a peep.

No one said, gee “2 million government jobs when only 617,000 people live in the city. How could they have 2 million jobs?” There are lots of jobs in DC but it doesn’t mean they only go to District residents and those tax dollars on the income certainly doesn’t stay here.

No one said “wait, the District gets fewer government dollars as a percentage as their overall budget than 5 states. And the same percent as 3 other states.”

No one said “sucking sound, what sucking sound? The District pays per capita the highest federal taxes in the country and pays more cumulatively in federal taxes than 18 states. The citizens are not a drain on the federal budget, they are contributors like all of us in NH to the federal budget.”

No one said “wait, we’ve elected corrupt officials here in New Hampshire, too it’s part of the drawbacks with democracy sometimes you elect saints, sometimes sinners, and most of the time somewhere inbetween.”

No one said “sure, Mexico copied the model for having a federal district but over the last 20 years they’ve made progressive changes to provide autonomy and representation to the citizens of Mexico City and there is a movement for statehood there as well.”

It’s sad how bad we got jumped up in New Hampshire but it’s because we didn’t prepare well and we weren’t focused. Those who support this strategy need to think long and hard about it and spend a lot more time educating and organizing at the local level in future states before pushing for a vote on any statehood bill. What happened in New Hampshire is shameful to us for how ill prepared we were for what happened and shameful to the people of New Hampshire for how ignorant many of their legislators looked and sounded.

To listen to the 20 minute debate follow this link:http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/media/live_media.htm and go to the Afternoon debate on February 8th at the 1 hour and 10 minute mark you’ll hear Representative Cindy Rosenwald recognized which starts the debate.

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