Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet loves Washington and represents the city well. If the senator gets his way, Washington will become a state like Colorado — at the expense of Colorado. We cannot create another state without diluting the influence of the other 50.
Bennet boldly leads the congressional push to make the District of Columbia a state, and his motive is obvious. Bennet, a loyal Democrat from a Democrat-safe state, wants D.C. voters to elect members of Congress. All will be Democrats, guaranteed. More than 90% of District voters favored Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in the last four presidential elections. Republicans comprise 6.1% of Washington’s registered voters.
Bennet represents Colorado, but Washington is home. He grew up in the District. His father ran the U.S. Agency for International Development under Democratic President Jimmy Carter and worked as an aide to Democratic Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
The senator’s grandfather was an economic adviser to Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The senator attended Washington’s St. Albans, a fashionable prep school for the children of Washington’s political elite. Bennet worked as a congressional page.
Politicians don’t get more Washingtonian than Sen. Michael Bennet, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Washington is a great, world-class city that should feel like home to all Americans. In no way should anyone fault a senator for his lifelong ties to Washington, for growing up in a political household, or for a first-rate East Coast education.
Here’s the problem. Washington has for 231 years been a federal enclave devoid of the special interests of statehood. It belongs to no state and lacks the influence of a state.
This is not a mistake. It was carefully planned by the founders of the United States.
They wanted a homeland for the federal government and its employees that did not belong to a state with a governor, a legislature, federal representatives and sovereignty from federal authority. They wanted the center of power, designed to serve all states, buffered from the influence and control of any member-state of the union.
In The Federalist No. 43, Alexander Hamilton warned how a state hosting the federal government “might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the Government, and dissatisfactory to the other members of the confederacy.”
The U.S. Constitution grants Congress “exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever” over a “District” — not exceeding 10 square miles — to “become the Seat of the Government of the United States.”
Washington, by design, is a small city one can traverse on foot. People live there by choice. Without traveling 20 minutes from the city’s core, one can live in Virginia or Maryland and enjoy all of the benefits provided by a state. Meanwhile, no one confuses Virginia or Maryland as the center of government.
By choosing to live in D.C., a resident gives up almost nothing and gains the benefits of a city that controls an enormous chunk of the country’s wealth.
The District has three electors in presidential elections, just like Wyoming, Delaware, Vermont, and three other states with the country’s smallest populations. Unlike their peers in most small states, D.C. residents enjoy some of the world’s best museums, the Federal Archives the Library of Congress and other federal assets, media organizations from around the globe, 2,457 restaurants and bars, protection of multiple world-class law enforcement agencies, federally subsidized arts and cultural assets, prestigious universities, and some of the highest individual and household incomes in the world — all crammed into 10 square miles made special by the White House, the Capitol, scores of federal bureaucracies, and trillions in taxes paid by the rest of the country.
Bennet wants to make Washington a state because the city’s reliably liberal urban electorate would guarantee three more Democrats in the House and two more in the Senate. It would give that influence to about 700,000 people, most of whom have never seen a coal mine or a highway that stretches 100 miles between gas stations. It would give statehood to a jurisdiction with fewer residents than live in El Paso County, the home of Colorado Springs. Bennet would surely balk at statehood for Colorado Springs, which consistently votes for Republicans but has no control of a state with 6 million residents.
Colorado has big problems as Bennet champions D.C. Unlike the District, Colorado has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the country. Small businesses are failing in droves or struggling to survive. We have a growing homeless population, a dearth of affordable housing, a troublesome crime rate, a transportation infrastructure crisis, increasing traffic fatalities, and a drug problem that ranks among the worst in the country.
Sen. Bennet is supposed to represent Colorado, not his hometown — a city of privilege the law excludes from statehood for principled reasons.