Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Time for “Fairness”

Here’s the latest from the congress we all just re-elected. The house and the senate are getting ready to push through a little bit of legislation designed to give the District of Columbia’s non-voting congressional representative full voting rights in the US House of Representatives. To “appease” conservatives, they are also proposing adding one more congressional seat to Utah, which, for some reason, reminds me of all the compromises of the 1850’s that led up to the Civil War.

The logic is that there are 600,000 poor, neglected people in Washington, DC, that are denied the right to representation in congress. There are cries of “taxation without representation,” but before we cry too much, we need to note that DC will get more “bailout” money than seven legitimate states. Seems like a lack of representation has not hurt them too much so far.

The desire for DC representation shows such a horrifying lack of familiarity with the Constitution that I wonder how many of our elected officials, the same ones who have sworn to “honor and defend the Constitution of the United States of America,” have ever actually read it.

Some news outlets have picked this story up, noting that “finally” DC residents are going to get their “right” to vote. I know this sounds harsh and confusing, but there is NO constitutionally guaranteed “right” to vote. There are amendments that have done away with the poll tax and guaranteed the equality of blacks and women for suffrage, but there is nothing in the Constitution that guarantees an individual’s right to vote on national issues. Was that an oversight by the framers of the document? No, it is in perfect step with their own conception of our Republic.

The Constitution was a carefully written document that allowed for a voluntary cooperation of sovereign states, composed of free people, and allowed for a federal government to handle issues that involved the cooperation of states. The president was not to be elected by individual citizens, but by states. Congress was not to be composed of representatives of private individuals, but of states. The Senate was not to be composed of people elected by individuals, but by state legislatures.

Not only is the current Senate action under consideration ill-advised; it is illegal. Only states are guaranteed representation in the House or Senate. And the District of Columbia is, by design, NOT A STATE. It has no rights as a state, except for the mutilation of the constitution that gave the district three electoral votes. That alone is wrong: electoral votes were determined by the sum of representatives and senators that each state has, and since DC is not a state, it has none. By design. On purpose!

There is no constitutional provision that allows congress to arbitrarily assign representation to any entity. They might as well be assigning a representative to Guam, to Puerto Rico, or to American Samoa. They have as much authority to give a representative to the Republic of Colombia as they do to the District of Columbia – none.

Yet it appears it will be done, because our elected representatives are facing issues with emotion and arbitrary opinion. One senator said, “We’re the only nation in the world whose capital has no representation in its own government.” First, I doubt the truth of that statement, and second, since when do we want to be like everyone else? Our nation was founded as a unique experiment in self-government, and we have been copied, but never equaled, in our history. Why would we want to be like some European or Asian state? Our forefathers surely didn’t.

If this obscene idea must be pursued, let it at least be done by way of the Constitution – what’s left of it. Let the District of Columbia petition congress for statehood, and let congress and the states debate and decide on statehood. Don’t try to “sneak in” some representation based on an emotional appeal, especially by people whose emotions have more than once elected a convicted cocaine user to their own highest office.

If DC is to be granted statehood, don’t stop there. Texas was admitted with the agreement that it could be split into as many as five states. Let that happen, and add eight new senators to the mix – all from the state that has voted Republican every time since 1980. Don’t stop there. California is way too big. It’s obscene to have over 50 electoral votes, so let’s keep the liberal west and south, but split off a more conservative northern California and a moderate eastern California. Then, let’s give each of the two new Californias two senators, and divvy up the “fair” proportion of congress people to the new states. For too long, the presidential election has been about who gets California. Why not let the conservatives in the state get some representation? If you’re going to vote with your emotions, it’s only “fair.”

But congress needs to be stopped. Is it an impeachable offense for someone who has sworn to “uphold” the Constitution to act directly against it? I know most of our elected officials have never read it, and have no idea what it says, but the Supreme Court needs to intervene. Out of the nine, there are at least five or six who have read the Constitution. Please tell your elected officials to stop defying the law of the land. If DC “deserves” statehood, then start a drive to get it for them, if you dare. But the current action of Congress is a travesty that needs to be dealt with. Let’s nip this in the bud.

ADDENDUM: Two days after the above post, I discovered the following proposed amendment. Obviously, within the last decade, congress still knew it had no constitutional right to do what it is about to do. Therefore, an amendment was drawn up to give the District of Columbia statehood privileges without actually being a state. The amendment died for lack of support, which is probably why they are doing an "end around" this time. For your information, here is the text of the failed amendment:
Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution To Provide for Representation of the District of Columbia in the Congress
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress:
"Section 1. For purposes of representation in the Congress, election of the President and Vice President, and article V of this Constitution, the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall be treated as though it were a State.
"Section. 2. The exercise of the rights and powers conferred under this article shall be by the people of the District constituting the seat of government, and as shall be provided by the Congress.
"Section. 3. The twenty-third article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
"Section. 4. This article shall be inoperative, unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission."

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