50, Not 51: D.C. and Statehood

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When was the last time you looked at the American flag? Maybe it was last night at a sports game, or this morning as you said the Pledge of Allegiance. Whenever it was, you might have noticed a consistency between every current U.S. flag: the 50 stars, one for every state in America. The U.S. has been comprised of 50 states since 1959 when Hawaii was added to the union. But in recent years, residents of our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., have been rallying to turn the District of Columbia into a state. I believe that the District of Columbia should not become the United States’ 51st state. Today I would like to give you some background on both the District and the present conflict, as well as express a few reasons as to why giving D.C. statehood is not a good idea.

I would like to begin by presenting some basic information about the District of Columbia and why its statehood is an issue. George Washington chose the site as the future capitol in 1791. It officially became the capitol on June 11, 1800. The District has an area of 68.25 square miles and a population of over 600,000 people. The name Washington of course refers to the nation’s first president and Columbia makes a reference to Christopher Columbus, who is credited with the discovery of America. D.C. residents pay federal and local taxes and can vote for president, but have no representation in the Senate and only a nonvoting seat in the House, often called a ‘shadow representative’ who can present his views in Congress but cannot vote on issues. After viewing several different sources, the citizens’ main complaint seems to be that they are taxed without being fully represented in Congress. An attempt at a constitutional amendment called the 1978 Voting Rights Amendment that would have given the people representation in Congress was passed by Congress but only ratified by 16 of the necessary 38 states. To use a famous quote put on some D.C. license plates, “Taxation without Representation.” However, this could be remedied with other methods besides statehood. One such way would be to give the land back to Maryland, minus the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court, and Mall. Another would be to count D.C. residents as Maryland residents for the purpose of Senate representation. Let them vote for Maryland’s two senators rather than giving them their own. As you can see, this is not a new issue, and one that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

“To exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District…as may, by Cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the Government of the United States…” There’s a key phrase in that quote from our nation’s Constitution: “Cession of particular states.” The fact that states would have to give up land to form a capital implies that our forefathers never intended for the District of Columbia to be a state. If the capital was meant to be in a state, wouldn’t they have left in Pennsylvania or one of the other states?

The District of Columbia just doesn’t compare to the states. It is more city than state. In fact, it is the 27th largest city by population in America, passed by the likes of Nashville, Seattle, Denver, Boston, and so on and so forth. Also population wise, it is smaller than 49 out of the 50 states, bigger only that Wyoming. If a state, D.C. would be the smallest by far in area. The current smallest is Rhode Island, with an area of 1,545 square miles. That’s more than 20 times the size of the District of Columbia!

There would be repercussions if D.C. was to become a state. For example, on a slightly less serious note, the stars on our flag are evenly spaced and orderly. With a 51st state would have to come a 51st star. A new flag would require a new design and the manufacturing of countless new flags. Sure, it’s been done before, but there were also less people in the nation then. With close to 314 million people in the U.S. as of 2012, a lot of new flags would be needed. In addition, all sorts of maps, textbooks, and various other materials would need to be redone. Adding a 51st state would cost the U.S. and its businesses quite a lot of money and resources.

In conclusion, making Washington, D.C. a state isn’t the best move for our country. While the residents’ complaints are not totally unfounded, there are other ways to resolve this decades-long issue. The founders of this nation never intended D.C. to be a state. The District doesn’t stack up to the current 50 states. Finally, there would be consequences from giving D.C. statehood. The District of Columbia should not be added to the union as the 51st state. So when you look at the American flag, remember those 50 states and stars, and why it shouldn’t be 51.





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