Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Repression As a Political Gimmick

Am I the only person out there who thinks the DC government's crusade to stamp its "Taxation Without Representation" slogan on everything is obnoxious and pointless? Last week, the city council announced plans to rename South Capitol Street in front of Nationals Park "Taxation Without Representation" Street, because the Nats refused to post a big sign with the slogan inside the stadium. Now, the city is asking President Obama to ride with "TWR" tags on his limo in the inauguration. Previously, the city wanted to stamp the slogan on the D.C. version of the quarter, but the U.S. Mint killed that proposal.

I have never understood why the residents of the District of Columbia think a slogan that effectively says "We are repressed" is suitable as the city's primary marketing message. They are shouting a complaint that no one is hearing. People who live in the DC area have spent our entire lives being pounded with "DC Statehood" campaigns, and people who don't live in the DC area either don't know or don't care about the city's complaint.

The city wants a "fair" vote in Congress - ideally by becoming a state, with a House member and two Senators. That, pragmatically speaking, is never ever going to happen, even with Democrats controlling both Congress and the White House. There are more than enough constitutional questions to keep it from happening anytime soon, and you'll never find enough momentum for lawmakers to make it a priority to get the deal done.

And can someone please tell me how repressed the people of Washington, D.C. really ARE? I get the concept that they are being taxed by the government without having a say as to how their taxes are spent. And yes, I know that Congress has the right to overturn DC laws. But that's been the deal from the get-go in Washington. The city, for better or worse, was created that way by design. DC residents do have the freedom of choice to move a matter of a couple of miles if they really feel the need to have that right to vote. No one is making you stay put if it's that big of a deal to you. My father has lived in DC for most of the past 40 years, and somehow managed to avoid caring about having a vote in Congress. And he pays more taxes than most people, believe me!

This whole "Taxation Without Representation" shtick is a political gimmick. Every politician has one - something to hang his hat on to create buzz. Barack Obama's gimmick was "Change you can believe in", and that got him pretty far. I sometimes think DC pushes this whole "vote in Congress" thing just to keep itself in the news. They need something to bitch about.

To me, D.C.'s use of "Taxation Without Representation" speaks a message of snarky bitterness. It thumbs its nose at Congress, and by extension, to the rest of the United States... Ironic, considering the city wants to be INcluded and not EXcluded. I don't know... If I wanted to be invited to a party, I don't think I'd start off by telling the party's host that she's ugly.
But that's just me!


Julie Matthews said...

I strongly disagree. Our Constitution - the very heart of our democracy - guarantees every citizen the right of representation. Just because our Founding Fathers established the city based on archaic, not-fully-thought-out rules doesn't mean that Congress shouldn't give DC citizens representation now. It is immoral if not downright illegal to deny Washington residents voting Senators and Congressmen/Congresswomen.

And let's be honest here: this is ultimately an issue of race. If DC were filled to the brim with rich, white Republicans like our father, the city would have four Senators and 17 Representatives!

I hope Obama chooses to use the Taxation without Representation tag on his inaugural limo. While he's at it, he should work diligently to give every DC citizen their Constitutional rights.

John Matthews said...

I was hoping to avoid the political arguments for and against statehood, because frankly, that could be a blog unto itself, and it's not by any means as simple as Congress passing a law. There are constitutional issues at play, which means individual states ratifying amendments and all kinds of stuff that I have neither the time nor patience to research and blog about.

I am going to avoid the temptation to jump into this with you, although I will say that the race issue is losing steam with each passing year as the city's racial mix changes. What was a 75 percent black-majority city 30 years ago is now at 55 percent and falling.

My point is that I think using "Taxation Without Representation" as the city's primary marketing slogan is a bad idea and borderline offensive. And I don't think the DC government is going to get very far using it.

And I don't think it makes a whiff of difference whether Obama uses it on his limo or not.

If President Obama and Congress have ANY time over the next eight years to pay any attention to this issue, we will be able to give a big yah-hooooo, because it will mean many many more pressing issues - like recession and war and education and health care and terrorism - will have been addressed.

I'm not holding my breath.

Love, your brother.