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Brava to Loose Lips for her blast of fresh air on Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s “Taxation Without Representation” scheme (“Bill of Goods,” May 24). Exempting D.C. residents from federal taxes would turn the District into a haven for every wealthy tax dodger, driving up property taxes and rent and displacing thousands of residents. Many D.C. taxpayers glad for a tax break the first year would find themselves priced out of their homes the second.
How long will Norton and D.C. Vote maintain the fiction that voting representation in Congress somehow advances democracy? History is full of examples of colonies, territories, and Soviet Republics that enjoyed legislative representation but still suffered tyranny. Algeria held seats in the French Assembly but needed a revolution to break free of colonial rule and exploitation. Our own founding fathers said, “Give me liberty or give me death!”not “Give me seats in Parliament!” or “Give me a tax break!”
Voting rights per se for D.C. wouldn’t remove Congress’ power to impose unwanted, destructive laws and financial policies affecting housing, education, and jobs. Nor would voting rights stop Congress from gutting voters’ ballot measures, such as Initiative 59 (medical marijuana, passed with a 69 percent majority) or from forcing the dismissal of valuable teachers like Tom Briggs under a Hatch Act rule that applies only to D.C. The solution to these insults is self-government.
The irony is that self-government would be easier to achieve than voting rights. Voting rights for D.C. would require ratification by two-thirds of the states, to amend the Constitution. Self-governmentgiving D.C. the option to become a state, upon which we’d achieve control over our own laws and get our seats in Congressrequires an act of Congress, passed by a simple 51 percent majority. Why is Norton wasting our time with half-measures that defer real democracy? As Julius Hobson said, having voting rights in Congress without self-government “is like being a eunuch at an orgy.”
Advocates of D.C. democracy should ignore the mythical “Norton rule,” which forbids anyone besides our esteemed delegate from talking to Capitol Hill. In past decades, Statehood Party veterans such as Hobson and Josephine Butler and, more recently, the Stand Up For Democracy coalition and ad hoc groups like the “D.C. Democracy 7,” arrested for protesting in the House Gallery, have taken the demand for self-government directly to Congress. The rest of us should, too.