Many in the District agree that President Obama should use his State of the Union Address to speak about is fondness for democracy advocates in Burma or his disgust at long waiting lines to vote in the United States. Those are both important and worthy issues for the President to speak out about but it is disappointing that once again he failed to stand with and stand up for those of us who live across the street from the US Capitol where he spoke. We, the residents of the District of Columbia, deserve his attention, the Congress’ attention, and the nation’s attention because for 212 years we have been living under a system of taxation without representation, a system which our founders fought a war to break free from. We live in the shadows of the US Capitol yet are denied representation in it.
While the President’s omission wasn’t shocking it was hurtful but what was shocking is a quote but the District Delegate to Congress when asked about what she would do as a result of the omission. The Washington Post reports that she said “I’m going to call the White House tomorrow,” Norton said. “I’m going to try to find out: What do we have to do?” It’s highly unlikely that the White House will responsd to the Delegate’s “what do we have to do” question so I will:
- It Starts with Us: We need to be better organized and more active. The only way the President or Congress will stand up for the District is if we first stand up for ourselves. In the 1960-80s there was a great grassroots movement for statehood but in the late 1980s, throughout the 1990s, and in the early part of the 2000s the city was in such turmoil that statehood activism took a back seat to many other issues. Now the city is thriving and it’s time we turn our attention back toward the statehood cause, the fulfillment of our unalienable right to democratic governance. No back steppin’ and no half-steppin’, our cause needs to be about statehood and nothing else. So Del. Norton, the first thing we need to organize all 8 Wards, all 130+ neighborhoods, and all 632,000 people to start talking the talking and walking the walk for DC Statehood.
- Clear & Concise Messaging: We need our elected leaders to stop the insanity and end the pointless muddled messaging that has prevailed over the last 10 years. Stop asking for a partial vote on the floor. Stop asking for one vote. Stop asking for budget autonomy. Stop asking for crumbs and start demanding the whole cake. The people of the District are not opposed to budget autonomy, or equal voting rights, or real power for our attorney general but all of those things are found within statehood so let’s just stay consistent and ask for statehood. So, Del. Norton the second thing you can do is to say it loud and clear (as we know you can and have done) ‘We Want Statehood.’ We need you to be our leader not just on the House floor but in messaging to the American people with a clear and consistent pro-statehood message and hopefully the rest of our leadership will follow suit.
- Be a Constant Presence: In every Congress we need to constantly, methodically, and persistently knock on all 435 doors in the House and all 100 doors in the Senate saying ‘we want statehood.’ Since November 2012, Neighbors United for DC Statehood has met with about 20 Senate offices and only former Senator Joe Lieberman’s office said they had ever had anyone (no citizens and no elected officials) contact them about DC Statehood. We need to make sure that every House member and every member of the Senate and their staff have heard from us, the people, and our Delegate, saying “we want statehood.” If we don’t meet with offices in the House and Senate to ask directly for statehood how can we ever expect them to push for it. If we don’t do this who will?
- Friends in 50 Places: Because we are relatively small (in size and population) we all know people (friends, family, and coworkers) who live in one of the 50 states. We need to start engaging our friends in the 50 states and have them become advocates on our behalf. Sadly, no matter how well organized we are, no matter how consistent we are with our messaging, no matter how many congressional doors we knock on, members of Congress do not answer to us, they answer to their constituents. Our most difficult, time consuming, and costly task is to get the people of the 50 states to become our allies and our advocates because their power of the ballot is stronger than ours and can ultimately be the key to granting us equal power as the 51st state.
What more do we need to do? We need to be more organized and active, we need to be clear and consistent, we need persistent and present, and we need to engage our friends in the 50 states. The reality is, we’re all to blame for the President ignoring us, he still should be ashamed that he chose to ignore our plight, but if we’re not engaged, if we’re not persistent, and if we’re not clear he and others will continue to ignore our plight. We know what needs to be done to make statehood a reality we just need to focus on it and get it done. That, Delegate Norton, is what more we need to do.
Neighbors United for DC Statehood