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I read the Feb. 7 Loose Lips column on congressional voting rights for D.C. with an all-too-familiar feeling of disappointment. Once again, a local media outlet frames it in terms of D.C. statehood, as if that were the only method available. Once again, a local writer castigates those mean old Republicans for denying statehood, because D.C. is overwhelmingly Democratic across all racial and income barriers, and would send Democratic representatives—and, especially, two Democratic senators—to Congress.
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I have lived in the District for over 40 years, and I could count on one hand the number of times I have seen local commentators mention (briefly) a far simpler method: retrocession of the District to Maryland, with a small federal core downtown preserved for government buildings. I have never yet heard any local media outlet mention how this far simpler method is also opposed, this time by the Democrats, the so-called party of the little guy. After all, Maryland is also overwhelmingly Democratic, and if D.C. were added to it, it would merely make the state more Democratic than ever. The Democratic elites (oops, sorry “leaders”) would gain little or nothing. Remember, the last Republican senator the state had was Mathias, and until Ehrlich came along, the last Republican governor was Agnew.
Retrocession would be far easier than D.C. statehood. There is even a precedent: The Virginia portion of D.C. was retroceded in 1846, no muss, no fuss, and became Arlington County. By contrast, when the D.C. statehood amendment was presented by Congress to the states about 20 years ago, it got nowhere near the 38 assents required for passage—something the statehood proponents never bring up now.
Not only would retrocession be easier, it would also dilute the D.C. establishment in the larger field of Maryland politics. Does anyone really think our local elite will ever really tackle our city’s problems or remove the culture of don’t-know-how-to-do-anything?