There’s no founding principle in American democracy so revered that it can’t be politicized. That includes “no taxation without representation,” which doesn’t fully apply to the 690,000 Americans living in Washington, D.C.

The idea that taxation required representation was why the Stamp Act Congress met in 1765. The British government from across the Atlantic Ocean was taxing printed paper, playing cards and dice. Delegates eventually approved the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, which stated, “That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that no taxes be imposed on them, but with their own consent, given personally, or by their representatives.”

Eleven years later, the colonies declared their independence. Twelve years after that, the U.S. Constitution created a seat for the federal government that wasn’t part of a state and whose residents didn’t elect their own officials. Congress itself would administer the district, a place of governance that the Founders never imagined would be home to 690,000 people.

D.C. residents have tried to change the situation ever since, with some success. In 1964, they could vote for the first time in a presidential election following the ratification of the Constitution’s 23rd Amendment. In 1970, they elected their first non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1973, D.C. got its own mayor.

Today, D.C.’s House delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, serves on committees but still does not have a vote. No one represents D.C. in the Senate at all. At the same time, Wyoming, with 113,000 fewer residents, has two senators and one representative. D.C. is bigger than Vermont, too. Since 2000, the license plate used by D.C. residents has included the slogan “Taxation Without Representation,” or “End Taxation Without Representation.”

The issue has attracted new attention lately. Last week, the U.S. House passed a bill sponsored by Norton that would make D.C. the nation’s 51st state. It would include everything but the small part of the city known as the National Capital Service Area that includes the White House, the Capitol and other major government buildings. “D.C.” would stand for “Douglass Commonwealth” after abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The bill has little chance of passing the 50-50 Senate, where Republicans can use the filibuster to stop it.

Here’s where the party politics comes in.

Washington, D.C. is one of America’s most reliably Democratic cities. President Biden won the district’s three electors with 93 percent of the vote in 2020. If it were to become a state, the Democrats assuredly would gain two senators and one representative. Which is a big reason why Democrats are pushing it.

Republicans, of course, are opposed. They have policy arguments, but don’t think for a minute that politics isn’t motivating them, too. They don’t want the Democrats to get those two new senators and a representative.

Sen. Tom Cotton addressed the issue in a Talk Business & Politics interview broadcast Sunday. He said Washington, D.C. is a city, not a state, and that a constitutional amendment is required to bestow statehood upon it. He noted that the 23rd Amendment assigns the district the same number of presidential electors it would have “if it were a state” – which means it’s not one under the Constitution.

Passing any constitutional amendment is a high hurdle, especially these days, but he said Republicans might cooperate if the district’s land were given back to Maryland. Then the D.C. residents would become Marylanders governed by its elected representatives.

If anyone ever seriously tried to do that, then there would be a big political fight over that, too. Maryland is a blue state, but it has a Republican governor, so it’s at least somewhat competitive. Add D.C.’s 700,000 residents, and Maryland becomes deep blue. Also, D.C.’s population is the size of a congressional district, and Congress only has 435 of those, so the constitutional amendment would have to add another or some state would lose one of its seats.

Any fix would be messy and imperfect, and somebody with clout would lose something, which is why things don’t get fixed.

But a functioning democracy ought to figure out a way to remain true to a founding principle regardless. That way, 690,000 Americans living near the Capitol, like the rest of us, would be represented by voting members inside it.

Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist published in 17 outlets in Arkansas. Email him at brawnersteve@mac.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.

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