Voters in the District overwhelmingly passed a referendum in support of statehood with over 227,000 votes in favor of statehood (86% of those who voted on Referendum B). A complete statehood package was rushed through by District leaders with the hopes of a Democratic wave election. What we got out of it was a complete statehood package and a national election that brought about no short-term prospects for statehood. In reality, a Democratic wave election was always electoral fantasyland given how gerrymandered House districts are. Additionally, in the Senate statehood prospects would have been slim given the number of Democratic Senators up for reelection in 2018 from rural/conservative states.
What we have before us now with a new president and new Congress is the short-term dream of statehood officially dead but the long-term prospects alive and well. Our biggest hurdles aren’t Democrats or Republicans, they are ignorance and apathy. With no prospects of statehood in Congress we must now turn our attention to building a real movement for statehood both at home here in the District and in the 50 states. We must awaken the nation to our status and make them allies in our cause.
Locally, we need to be better organized both for pro-statehood efforts but also to prepare to defend Home Rule. Our elected leaders and the citizenry as a whole need to be ready for an all out assault on Home Rule. Who knows if it will actually transpire but what’s past is prologue and there are those in the Republican Congress that now have a clear path to overturn out gun laws, our abortion laws, and budget autonomy. We need to be ready to fight back in a way that lays bare to the nation our unjust status and we need to be willing to make sacrifices.
We also need to keep thinking long-term about how we can use local connections to build a national network of pro-statehood people and groups. We should start forming local statehood committees that build statehood coalitions within the faith community, the civil rights community, the unions, and other groups in an effort to enlist local chapters of these groups to both defend Home Rule and support statehood. These groups then can act as our conduits to help bring the statehood cause to their national networks so we have both national organization supporting statehood as well as local chapters in the 50 states. The DC League of Women Voters is doing that right now and it should be used as a model for how we can organize both locally and nationally.
Our Council and Mayor, in addition to defending Home Rule, should move forward developing a transition plan for statehood that addresses how we will take back and pay for control over our court and prison system. If we can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a cost benefit analysis of a soccer stadium we should do the same thing for statehood. Let’s draft a financial and logistical transition plan so that when our time comes on the Hill we can show oversight committees that we have a thoughtful transition plan for statehood both administratively and financially.
And for those of us unhappy with the rushed constitutional convention earlier this year we should pressure our elected leaders to call for and fund a real constitutional convention in the next few years. We have the time to be deliberate about this now. There really is no rush on a constitution but we should plan out the structure of a convention, have elections for delegates, given the convention time to make a sound document, and then put it to the voters for support. Let’s take our time and do it right and develop a document that reflects our values and principles in the type of government powers and structure we want for our new state.
Nationally, we need to get out to the 50 states. We need a plan and strategy for states to focus on where we build networks of supporters in those states so that we can count on them to advocate on our behalf. While reaching all 50 states is important we also need to focus on targeted states. We need to work states like Maine, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, and others that elect both Democrats and moderate Republicans. We need to start by reaching out to friends and families in those states to get them on board and then using their networks to build state-by-state pro statehood networks. In fact, you can start this process right now by writing an Op-Ed for DC Statehood!
We need to recognize that elections matter too and that being morally and constitutionally right on statehood does not mean a goddamn thing if we do not have the votes to pass the legislation. So while we need to be hopeful, optimistic, and inclusive when educating citizens in the 50 states we need to be brutally calculating and laser focused in supporting candidates that will support us and go after those who do not. We need to use our money and resources to build a congressional caucus of statehood supporters and make those who do not support it fear us.
Over the last few years we have made significant strides in building congressional support for statehood legislation and we should not give up on active lobbying and advocacy for statehood in Congress. We need to keep going back up to the Hill over and over again to press our cause forward to build more cosponsor on the bill and to keep working to break through the partisan divide on this issue. People of all parties voted for D.C. statehood yesterday and we need to engage D.C. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Statehood-Greens, and Independents in an all out non-stop effort on the Hill to find and/or develop more supporters for our cause irrespective of political party.
In truth, we need to organize, organize, organize, and then we need to organize some more. We need to finally build a real local and national movement for statehood so that on a local level. We need a diverse coalition of people and groups to adopt this cause as their cause. Over 227,000 District voters said that they want and believe in statehood so let’s harness that spirit and turn it into concrete actions. We need to bring in new people, new talents, and new funds to build a real statehood movement that will result in statehood for D.C. after redistricting in 2022 (focus like a laser on the 2024 election).
District voters overwhelmingly confirmed that we believe that statehood should be our democratic right and destiny but we need to work for it, voting for it simply is not enough. No great social justice movement ever relied on a miracle election, instead these movements were methodical and organized and push toward a goal by engaging the whole nation. Slavery did not end because of an election, women’s suffrage did not come about because of an election, and the civil rights movement did not succeed because of an election. These movements all succeeded because people got organized and compelled others to join their cause, even those inflicting the injustice on them. These movements all succeeded because they had a plan to push forward and raise their cause at a national level so that their injustices could no longer be ignored and they compelled the nation to right these wrongs.
What we do now is follow in the footsteps of the abolitionists, the suffragists, and civil rights workers and focus on how we awaken the people of this country to our unjust status. We need to develop a plan to go state-by-state to make our cause a national cause and to place it on the national agenda. We need to commit our time, our energy, our stories, and our money to making this a real movement rather than waiting for a fantasy electoral moment. This will not be easy but it is possible and it is achievable if we all commit ourselves to it.
We can do this and we will do this, together.
My love to you all now let’s get organized.