February 28, 2009


Sam Smith

With magnificent irony, the US Senate has pacified the local capital establishment by approving a token vote for DC in the House - carefully balanced by a new and certain GOP vote in Utah. In doing so, however, the Senate included a clear statement that the capital is still a colony by also approving a major change in gun laws to be forced upon the city.

For over a century local and national politicians have used the prospect of a vote in the House to lessen the pressure for, in the early days, home rule and, later on, for statehood. In 1888, conservative newspaperman Theodore Noyes of the Washington Star launched a campaign for congressional representation while strongly opposing real democracy. Noyes wrote, "National representation for the capital community is not in the slightest degree inconsistent with control of the capital by the nation through Congress."

Noyes' view has been confirmed by the Democratic Senate, which made clear with its gun law amendment that a vote in the House doesn't alter the city's true colonial status at all. Instead, the city will continue to be run by what a political scientist in 1899 called a "representative aristocracy."

The energy and constituency for true democracy and self government have withered in the capital as a younger generation - trained in so many ways to accept symbolism as reality - has come into power. Personal status has submerged common goals and personal rights have become less important in a society that has been diligently voiding these rights over the past three decades. In DC, as elsewhere in this country, fewer and fewer even understand what freedom and democracy are about.