Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 1:46 PM ET, 12/22/2010

D.C. now larger than Wyoming, but still powerless in Congress

By Ezra Klein

Over e-mail, a reader directed my attention to an interesting tidbit from the Census: Washington, D.C., now has 601,723 residents. Wyoming has 563,626. And yet Wyoming has two senators and a congressman, all of whom have the full suite of powers and responsibilities that their position suggests. D.C.'s representatives, of course, remain powerless. This is also something that the 111th Congress should've fixed but didn't.

Correction: On Twitter, I implied that D.C. being more populous than Wyoming is a new phenomenon. As Tim Carney noted over e-mail, D.C. has long been more populous than Wyoming. He even made a graph:

Wyoming vs DC.jpg

By Ezra Klein  | December 22, 2010; 1:46 PM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The 'Angry Birds' Congress
Next: They're going to need some cough drops

Comments

Why not give DC residents the right to register to vote in any congressional district in the country? That way, they get nominal representation in Congress without having to change the number of senators and congressmen. Could such a change be done by statute, or would it require a constitutional amendment?

Posted by: DavidinCambridge | December 22, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

No thanks, I believe in the Constitution.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 22, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Change the "federal district" as set forth in the Constitution so it includes only the White House, the Mall, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the memorials. There are no residents of that area other than the President.

Then start a bloody battle royale over what to do with the rest of the District.

Democrats would want it to become the 51st state.

Republicans would want to cede it back to Maryland.

Either would be better than what we have now.

Posted by: dal20402 | December 22, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Change the "federal district" as set forth in the Constitution so it includes only the White House, the Mall, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the memorials. There are no residents of that area other than the President.

Then start a bloody battle royale over what to do with the rest of the District.

Democrats would want it to become the 51st state.

Republicans would want to cede it back to Maryland.

Either would be better than what we have now.

Posted by: dal20402 | December 22, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

DC should be bordered by Mass Ave to K st on the north, 25th St on the West, and the Anacostia on the east. Everything else should go back to Maryland.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 22, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

just out of curiousity i wonder how much of that growth has come since the beginning of 2009???

Posted by: visionbrkr | December 22, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"This is also something that the 111th Congress should've fixed but didn't."


May I suggest that the residents of the District who are bothered by this might consider moving a couple miles in order to acquire representation?

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 22, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Ah, yes: Because responding to taxation-without-representation by moving back where you came from is what made this country great!

Posted by: Ezra Klein | December 22, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

ok,

OK, give DC Statehood. But then split Utah into Northern and Southern halves. That leaves 52 states and won't change the balance in the Senate.

Opposed? When then you don't really care about justice. It's political advantage that you are seeking, now isn't it?

Also, 52 stars on the flag makes a nicer pattern (4 repeated rows of 7 and 6 stars), than whatever you could figure out to do with 51 stars.

Posted by: ElGipper | December 22, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

"No thanks, I believe in the Constitution."

He's right. However, the constitution is always seen as some obstacle and something to end-run by liberals.

It's just not that important to them.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | December 22, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

And yet, look on the bright side: is it really worth the increase in your political power to leave DC and move to Wyoming? No? Didn't think so. Progressives continue to value the amenities of urban life -- for which we in many places to pay through the nose -- over the increased per-capita voting influence we'd get living in Wyoming or Alaska or N. Dakota or any of those places.

Posted by: hicknera | December 22, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

The trick here is for DC voters not just to move, but to move TO WYOMING. Send 100K, 200K people out there. Turn that red state purple as a bruise.

That, or shut down the capital with nonviolent protests.

Sitting and waiting won't get much more than it already has, though.

Posted by: scarpy | December 22, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"He's right. However, the constitution is always seen as some obstacle and something to end-run by liberals."

Have you *actually* read the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13-16th, 19th, 23-24th amendments? Do they sound like something conservatives usually support? I think not.

Posted by: Chris_ | December 22, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, DC has always been larger than WY. News is we're catching up with VT, which passed us some years back.

And a 51-star flag is no problem:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_51_Star_possible_Flag.svg

Posted by: KCinDC1 | December 22, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Retrocession to Maryland is in many ways the ideal solution.

* The District of Columbia would be redefined to contain only Congress, the Supreme Court, the White House, the Mall etc.
* The remainder of what is now DC would become the new city of Washington, Maryland
* The 23rd amendment would be repealed (so that the new empty DC would not be entitled to 3 presidential electors).

The benefits of this would be split between Republicans and Democrats:
* Residents of what is now DC would have full congressional representation in the House and Senate
* The Democrats would get 1-2 extra representatives in Maryland
* The Senate would be unchanged (except that the 2 Maryland Senators would be even more likely to be Democrats than they are now)
* The Democrats would get 1-2 fewer electors in the Electoral College as a result of the repeal of the 23rd Amdendment (but Maryland would be even more "red" in Presidential elections than it is now).

There's also a historical precedent: what is now Alexanderia, VA used to be part of DC until 1847.

So why doesn't retrocession happen? The biggest problem is that Maryland absolutely *hates* the idea :)


Posted by: dn131 | December 22, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Because the DC area really needs someone on the hill to 'bring home the bacon'.

Posted by: eggnogfool | December 22, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

"OK, give DC Statehood. But then split Utah into Northern and Southern halves. That leaves 52 states and won't change the balance in the Senate."

Utah!?
Utah only has 2.7 million people, 2.1 million of which live in the Wasatch Front. That just makes the disproportionate bias of the Senate worse.

The policy of admitting free states if and only if we can create a new slave state as well was never a good idea. The current political balance of power is not something that should be preserved for its own sake.

Yes, allowing people in DC to have representation would be advantageous to Democrats. But it's also the right thing to do. It just means the current status quo is unfairly biased towards Republicans.

Posted by: adamiani | December 22, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

If a state really needs to be created:

1. Take San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the 9-10 counties in between and reform them into New California.

2. Take the rest of the state and reform it into West California.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 22, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

If a state really needs to be created:

1. Take San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the 9-10 counties in between and reform them into New California.

2. Take the rest of the state and reform it into East California.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 22, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

If a state really needs to be created:

1. Take San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the 9-10 counties in between and reform them into New California.

2. Take the rest of the state and reform it into East California.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 22, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Don't get me started on small states. Wyoming should merge with Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and the two Dakotas. Call it Rocky Plains and give it the number of Senators it deserves...two. Shove DC back into Maryland.

Posted by: dave89 | December 22, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, KCinDC1 is right- this isn't new at all, DC was already bigger than Wyoming in the last census. In the 2000 census Wyoming had 493,000 residents and DC had 572,000. And in the 1990 census DC was bigger than 3 states (Vermont, Alaska, and Wyoming).

Of course Ezra's point about representation still stands, and the fact that this discrepancy isn't new makes it even more egregious that nothing has been done about it yet. Looking at the new 2010 census numbers DC (601,000) is not only bigger than Wyoming, but is also pretty close to Vermont (625,000), North Dakota (672,000), or Alaska (710,000).

Posted by: ricky_b | December 22, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

As a DC resident, I will absolutely never accept living under the banner of those colonial-era royal family crests that make up the Maryland flag.

That said, it is completely acceptable for DC residents to vote for members of the Maryland congressional and Senate delegations. Returning most of DC to Maryland is also ok, despite the flag issue, as am alternative to DC statehood.

Posted by: constans | December 22, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Wassamatter, Klein? You need a state government as a bulwark between you and the feds? No, you should continue to reap the benefits of direct representation. You should live right in the rot you work to foist on the rest of us.

Posted by: msoja | December 22, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Ezra:

You responded to you posters several times today. I am floored! Hitting the eggnog before the office party?

On behalf of all the token conservatives here, (in Rubin's column I am a token liberal) wishing you a Happy Holidays.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 22, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Constans, do you have a problem with living under the colonial-era family crest (George Washington's) that makes up the DC flag?

Posted by: KCinDC1 | December 22, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

The demands of DC residents re: representation in Congress reminds me of nothing so much as of a conversation that I have with my six year-old, in one variation or another, almost every night.

"You can have ice cream now if you insist, but it's early, and there'll be no more snacks tonight after that. I suggest that you wait, but if you can't, don't even think of asking for something else later."

"OK!" (gobbles ice cream)

(30 minutes later:)

"Dad, can I have..."

"NO!"

Give me a break, people. It's not like you didn't know the rules -- established by the Constitution long, *long* ago -- when you made the decision to live in the District.

And if taxation without representation is *really* your beef, go ahead and propose a bill to make DC residents exempt from federal income tax. I'd support it, and so would a lot of others if it'd get you people to stop whining. What's more, it'd be a great way for the District to boost its tax base. Of course that extra money would instantly be squandered on and by the corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy that has helped turned the District into such a mess in the first place, but one step at a time....

Posted by: matt22191 | December 22, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

*Constans, do you have a problem with living under the colonial-era family crest (George Washington's) that makes up the DC flag?*

Less so, because Maryland's flag contains the family crests of the British nobility who were the colonial administrators of Maryland. It just seems kind of anti-democratic, whereas Virginia's flag has the enlightenment-era personification of liberty which is more in keeping with our nation's founding revolutionary values.

Posted by: constans | December 22, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Likewise, matt22191, in the pre-civil-rights era, people could just move to states which had voting rights laws that would allow them to vote. The situation in DC is quite simply counter to our professed value system. I'd be perfectly ok with registering to vote in the district of the last address I held in a sate of the union, much as American expats are allowed to do and vote there, or any number of other alternatives.

Posted by: constans | December 22, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

How about expanding the number of congressional districts? It's been 435 for many years now. Maybe it would ensure less gerrymandering and better representation from smaller districts.

Posted by: MerrillFrank | December 22, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

"Likewise, matt22191, in the pre-civil-rights era, people could just move to states which had voting rights laws that would allow them to vote."

Not at all comparable in my view. First, the basis for Jim Crow -- racism -- was inherently immoral. There's nothing inherently immoral about the DC rule; the basis for that rule is perfectly reasonable, if a bit antiquated by today's standards, and it was imposed long before any of the District's current residents chose to live there. What's more, everyone in the District necessarily lives a stone's throw from an actual state; it's not comparable to having to flee to the North from, say, somewhere deep in Alabama.

I'd add that it's not at all counter to *my* professed value system -- or that of a great many Americans, I think -- to treat people as moral agents who are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their own choices.

When I chose to join the military, lo, these many years ago, I knew that I was giving up certain rights. My right to free speech, for example, was significantly curtailed in a dozen different ways, as were my rights to decide where I'd live, what job I'd do (within broad limits), on what terms, etc., etc. Hell, even my own bodily integrity wasn't entirely mine to control anymore. It would not have occurred to me to complain about any of this, because I knew the deal going in. Would you say that voluntary surrendering certain rights in order to serve in the military is contrary to our professed values? I don't think so. People are entitled to surrender certain rights if they consider it to their advantage -- particularly when, as in the case of DC residents and voting, the surrender can be undone fairly easily.

Posted by: matt22191 | December 22, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

*Not at all comparable in my view. First, the basis for Jim Crow -- racism -- was inherently immoral.*

Many people would have disagreed.

*There's nothing inherently immoral about the DC rule*

So say you! Plenty of people are willing to argue that all sorts of crazy stuff isn't "immoral," yet it is entirely against what we purport to believe. It doesn't even make *logical* sense. I have noticed, though, that certain people with agendas they want to push will argue things like "well, I'm just a disinterested observer *following the rules*". When in fact that faux-detachment is just perpetuating a messed up situation that makes absolutely no sense.

*to treat people as moral agents *

yes, which allows us to morally judge a system which runs counter to a set of values that people claim to believe in. The situation in DC is simply incompatible with the democratic value system that some people claim they believe in and instead appeal to a false claim that they're just interested in "the rules" to cover up their hostility to a democratic value system.

*When I chose to join the military, lo, these many years ago, I knew that I was giving up certain rights*

interestingly, being able to vote for representatives in the house and the senate was not one of those rights you had to give up! Voting rights-- good enough for you you while you were in the military, but not good enough for other american citizens. And you're unwilling to lift a finger to change that situation. I find you to be on extremely morally dubious ground. If your entire justification for DC's situation is that "it's a rule," why aren't you advocating "changing the rule"? I don't understand this argument from you at all-- it makes absolutely no sense, and it kind of makes it difficult for me to believe that yo believe in all that "representation' stuff that our country was founded on. I just think it's weird, that's all, that you claim to be an American but don't actually "believe" all that stuff that americans talk about. You're not even arguing for a set of possible alternatives. As I said, it's just strange.

Posted by: constans | December 22, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Yes, our democracy is so perfect it can't be improved -- has been since 1789, never mind that women couldn't vote, slavery was constitutional, Senators weren't directly elected...it was perfect and should never be changed because the founding fathers were perfect and got everything they wanted out of negotiations to get a union.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | December 22, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

"Interestingly, being able to vote for representatives in the house and the senate was not one of those rights you had to give up!"

No, the rights I surrendered were considerably more significant in the life of the average person than the right to vote for members of Congress. But that's beside the point: the point is simply that there's nothing "contrary to our professed value system" about the idea that moral agents should be entitled to surrender rights -- including the right to vote - if they believe it's worthwhile. And prima facie, people who choose to live in DC have made that choice. To conclude otherwise is to conclude that they're incapable of managing their own affairs. So, yeah, I find it difficult to muster any great sense of outrage about the situation. It reminds me of that old definition of chutzpah.

However, in point of fact, I have no problem with the idea of retrocession to Maryland. All you have to do is persuade Maryland to absorb the mess that you folks have managed to make of the District. What I object to, mainly, is the suggestion to simply ignore the Constitution because it's inconvenient, which seems to be the most commonly proposed solution to the problem. (Not so much in this comment thread, though, which is commendable.)

Posted by: matt22191 | December 22, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Wyoming never had a larger population than DC, and furthermore Alaska was much smaller than DC when it became a state. See the Philadelphia Jewih Voice http://blog.pjvoice.com/diary/226/why-wyoming-and-not-dc for details.

Posted by: loeb17 | December 22, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

matt22191: "There's nothing inherently immoral about the DC rule; the basis for that rule is perfectly reasonable, if a bit antiquated by today's standards"

It's not a bit antiquated, it's totally antiquated. I don't think there's another capital in any of our peer nations--and many of our non-peer nations--which disenfranchises its own citizens. And as I recall, "no taxation without representation" was a rallying cry that started this whole experiment in democracy to begin with.

No one should have to move to exercise the right to representation in a body that makes laws for them, just as no one should have to move to assert their right to free speech or religion.

Posted by: dasimon | December 24, 2010 1:39 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company