On April 18, 2013, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin signed on to the New Columbia Admission Act (DC Statehood bill) effectively driving the final nail into the coffin to the idea of retrocession. Over the last two years at dozens of meetings on the Hill, in conversations with friends and at community meetings the idea of retrocession back to Maryland is often brought up as an alternative to statehood. Today, however, with the two Senators from the state of Maryland having signed on as cosponsors to the statehood bill the rhetoric about retrocession should begin to quietly fade away. Retrocession is not practical, neither entity wants it, and it’s logistically more complicated than statehood. It is worth rehashing why people seem to keep bringing up the idea of retrocession and why it is a bad idea.
First, people look to the fact that Arlington and Alexandria were ceded back to Virginia in 1847 as the logic behind why portions of the current District should be ceded back to Maryland. It’s just not that simple. First, Arlington and Alexandria wanted to go back to Virginia because they feared the end of the slave trade was coming in the District. Second, many residents of Alexandria and Arlington had been Virginia residents prior to 1801 so they were still Virginians in body, mind, and spirit. These days while there are many things that bond the District with Maryland we are still distinctly different entities in our political ethos. Retroceding back to Maryland just doesn’t make sense from a social, political, economic, or cultural point of view. We’re just two distinctly different entities and that’s okay.
Second, retroceding back to Maryland usually sounds best to “national” Republicans because essentially what they’d like to prevent is two new Senators from New Columbia who at least initially would probably be Democrats. Aside from being a shameful tactic to pin citizenship rights to party registration the big flaw with retrocession is not just that the District doesn’t want to join Maryland it’s that Maryland doesn’t want the District. We’d completely destroy Maryland’s traditional political power bases and structures, and not surprisingly politicians are selfish and adding 632,000 voters to Maryland could really take away the power structure now centered around Baltimore and Annapolis. Maryland having to accept us also makes statehood more complicated because it’s one more step than with statehood. With statehood Congress and the President have to okay it and we move forward with retrocession Maryland would also have to accept us, and they don’t want us.
So the fact that in 2012 the Prince Georges County Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of DC Statehood, plus the fact that Governor O’Malley in his state of the state address referred to his friends from “New Columbia” were evidence enough that Maryland didn’t want us but today is the nail in the coffin. We owe Senators Mikulski and Cardin a big ‘thank you’ for standing up for what’s right (and yes, they both have supported statehood in the past too), for standing up for their neighbors, and for saying that statehood is really the only viable constitutional option remaining for citizens of the District to become full and equal citizens. This issue is simple as we don’t want them and they don’t want us, we love them and they love us, and with that, let’s end the silly talk about retrocession.