On the day that the DC Statehood movement lost a stalwart ally in Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) a new potential ally could have been appointed to the Senate. Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) named Congressman Tim Scott (R-SC) to fill the seat of the recently retired Senator Jim Demint (R-SC). While Representative Scott has been aligned with the most ardent of conservatives in Congress he has also been a bit more ideologically pure and less of a ‘yes man’ for the Republican Party than other equally conservative members of Congress (most of his views scare the living daylights out of me but he seems less inclined to toe the party line).
In March of 2012, I met with a legislative assistant on Congressman Scott’s staff to discuss H.R. 265, the New Columbia Admission Act. While many people might expect a rampant conservative to be shut off to the idea of DC Statehood I found his staff member engaging and inquisitive about the issue. We had a productive 15-20 minute conversation about the process for admitting a state, the constitutionality of admitting New Columbia to the union, the arguments for and against it, and the prospects for obtaining Congressman Scott’s support for the bill. The legislative staffer at the meeting and thereafter never made any commitment toward the bill on the Congressman’s behalf and in fact never even confirmed that she had spoken with him about the issue. But at the end of our meeting she looked at me and said “so this really is about democracy.” That statement alone gives me a bit of hope.
Soon-to-be Senator Scott would be a strange ally for DC Statehood but in many ways he wouldn’t be. He’s a Tea Partier and 8 of their 10 core principles line-up with statehood for New Columbia:
- Eliminate Excessive Taxes (Not relevant b/c statehood doesn’t change federal tax policy)
- Eliminate the National Debt (New Columbia would have to pay for our courts which the federal government now does which brings $656million in savings for the federal budget. A small savings in the overall federal budget but a savings nonetheless)
- Eliminate Deficit Spending (same as #2)
- Protect Free Markets (Not relevant as statehood doesn’t change the economic structure of the country)
- Abide By the Constitution of the United States (Statehood is constitutional because the bill keeps a federal district that “does not exceed 100 sqaure miles.”)
- Promote Civic Responsibility (Civic responsibility starts with allowing people to control their own affairs and thus control their local government)
- Reduce Overall Size of Government (Statehood gives the DC courts to New Columbia and reduces the load on the US Attorney’s office for the District to just federal crimes)
- Believe in the People (yep, if you believe in the people you should believe that 638,000 people should control their own government and elect their own federal representatives)
- Avoid the Pitfalls of Politics (statehood has been mired in petty partisan politics for several generations and we need to move past it to an issue of right vs. wrong)
- Maintain Local Independence (yep, decentralization of authority should start across the street from the Capitol and White House in New Columbia.
So as we say good-bye to a long-time statehood supporter in Sen. Daniel Inouye we need to look toward not just our historic allies of lefties but look to form new coalitions with those, like Representative Scott, who might be crazy but from time to time he could be our kind of crazy. Despite vast differences with the majority of District residents on most issues there could be a glimmer of hope with soon-to-be Senator Scott because he could look at this issue through a fresh lens as his legislative assistant said to me and believe that “this is about democracy.”
I hope my cynical optimism pays off one of these days because I had the same feeling toward Senator Rand Paul and he turned out to be a shameless intellectually dishonest hypocrite hell-bent on being a federal interventionist in the District of Columbia. But for right now, I’ll have some cynically optimistic hope in the potential for Senator Scott to be a friend of the District and a supporter of New Columbia.
With cynicism & optimism,
Follow on Twitter: @JBurchDC
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