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Commentary
Texas GOP notes statehood struggle
(Published February 6, 2006)

By BILL MOSLEY

Sometimes it seems that the efforts of the people of the District of Columbia to gain full citizenship continually fall on deaf ears. We petition, we protest, we hold teach-ins and meetings, and year after year our status remains the same: a colony within our own nation.

But it recently came to my attention that our cause has caught an unlikely ear: that of the Texas Republican Party -- the august institution that gave the nation two President Bushes, Rep. Tom DeLay (recently forced by scandal to resign as House majority leader) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (who never met a D.C. handgun law she liked). The party took time out from its busy schedule of gerrymandering the state’s congressional districts to take note of D.C.’s quarter-century quest to achieve statehood. One of several hundred planks in the party’s 2004 platform reads: "The Party strongly opposes all efforts to make the District of Columbia a state in the United States of America."

The platform declines to elaborate on why it would consider D.C. statehood a threat to the good citizens of Lubbock and Amarillo. Oddly enough, the plank on D.C. falls in a section entitled "Preserving American Freedom," an Orwellian contradiction big enough to fill a 10-gallon hat.

At first glance, this disdain for D.C. statehood is puzzling, given other parts of the platform that would cast Texas Republicans as potentially sympathetic to the District’s cause. One plank endorses "the right to select our judges by a direct vote of the people," music to the ears of D.C. residents laboring under a federally controlled local judiciary. In another section, the platform expresses opposition to the federalization of local police forces – something we’ve been complaining about here for decades, as our own officers are frequently snatched from our neighborhoods to protect the federal enclave during marches and demonstrations. A plank calling for "equal suffrage for all citizens of voting age" could be considered an endorsement of congressional voting representation for the District. The document also calls for the contents of all proposed legislation to "be germane to the title of the act," which if adopted by the U.S. Congress could free the District of the policy riders attached to our annual appropriations bills, many of which are hardly "germane" to how we spend our funds. We might even ask the Texas party whether the platform’s call to "restrict the power of the federal government over the states and the people" might not be extended to reducing the federal government’s virtually unrestricted power over D.C.

But other provisions provide a clue to this lone-star loathing of democracy for the District. For one thing, the document reveals a strong affinity for guns, calling on "the Texas Legislature and the United States Congress to repeal any and all laws that infringe upon the right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms." This provides a clue to why Sen. Hutchison is so keen on seeing a pistol under every pillow in the District, which so far has fended off repeated attempts to gut our gun-control laws. The platform, in two different places, expresses opposition to needle-exchange programs as a means of preventing the spread of HIV, a conviction the Texas congressional delegation has helped to impose on the District in the form of a ban on public funding for needle exchanges. Oddly, the platform also calls for AIDS to be "de-politicized" and urges that "we take all appropriate steps to protect our citizens from this epidemic." Consistency is apparently not a priority among Texas Republicans.

That the Texas GOP took the time to bash the District’s quest for full citizenship is no surprise, given that its platform addresses nearly every subject under the sun – foreign policy, Social Security privatization (in favor), the RU 486 birth-control pill (against) and the minimum wage (also against). Texas Republicans even have a space policy. The platform declares the United States a "Christian Nation," endorses the teaching of "intelligent design" and condemns homosexuality. A party that has such a phobia about the federal government telling it what to do is uncommonly free with advice for the rest of the country, and even the world. No wonder it has no qualms about meddling in D.C. affairs.

Texas Republicans’ hostility to D.C. statehood, then, is no surprise, given a gap in perspective wider than the Rio Grande between themselves and the District’s characteristically progressive, tolerant outlook. I’m sure DeLay’s legions want no part of competition from two senators and a voting House member from the District.

I called the D.C. Republican Committee to ask whether they might contact their sister party and suggest it mind its own business, but its spokesperson declined to respond. It’s worth noting that our local party endorses voting representation in Congress for the District, but not statehood.

Perhaps we in the District should find an appropriate way to respond to this disdain for our democratic rights. I’d suggest that one of our local political parties (step forward, anyone) adopt a plank endorsing giving Texas back to Mexico, reversing an unfortunate result of the Mexican War. That would eliminate many a headache in D.C. and elsewhere. "Forget the Alamo!" could be our new battle cry. At the very least, District residents who have family members or friends in Texas could ask them to call GOP officeholders, especially those in the state’s congressional delegation, to let them know their insult won’t go unanswered.

But the fact that Texas Republicans took time to spit on our aspirations shows that the D.C. democracy struggle is gaining visibility and traction. They wouldn’t have given us a second thought unless they took us seriously. As Oscar Wilde said, "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Given the party’s outlook as revealed in the platform, we should take its hostility to us as high praise indeed.

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Mosley is a member of the Stand Up! For Democracy in DC Coalition. Contact him at billmosley@comcast.net.

Copyright 2006 The Common Denominator