Obama and Trump could help D.C. with just a sig­na­ture


Some of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton could gen­er­ate a mas­sive pro-D.C. state­hood vic­tory just by sign­ing on the bot­tom line. Where’s their sig­na­ture needed? Not on a piece of leg­is­la­tion. Not yet.

Pres­i­dent Trump ob­vi­ously could help that way. But, be­lieve it or not, it’s not too late for for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama to help. And it is not too late for Michelle Obama to help, ei­ther. An Ivanka Trump or Jared Kush­ner sig­na­ture would also fit the bill.

How could a sin­gle sig­na­ture from any­one in this di­verse group of the Dis­trict’s most pow­er­ful res­i­dents gen­er­ate a vic­tory for the D.C. state­hood move­ment? If that sig­na­ture were to be on a D.C. voter regis­tra­tion form.

When a voter who has moved to the Dis­trict from any of the 50 states regis­ters to vote in the Dis­trict, he or she lit­er­ally is sign­ing away the right to elect some­one to Congress. We all learn in school that our fed­eral gov­ern­ment has three branches: two elected and one nom­i­nated. Not so for Dis­trict vot­ers. If you are from an­other state, it is a unique, in­fu­ri­at­ing and hu­mil­i­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to sign a D.C. voter regis­tra­tion form, know­ing full well that you are be­ing forced to aban­don a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of your demo­cratic rights. Congress ap­proves our taxes (which D.C. res­i­dents pay) and de­clares our wars (which D.C. res­i­dents fight), but D.C. res­i­dents have no vote there.

Crit­i­cally, few Amer­i­cans out­side of the D.C. area un­der­stand that more than 680,000 of their fel­low Amer­i­cans have no vote in Congress. Na­tional ig­no­rance of our vote­less plight is the sin­gle great­est bar­rier to progress on this front.

Were a Trump or an Obama to sign a D.C. voter regis­tra­tion form (ide­ally at a high-pro­file event, per­haps at a venue with res­o­nance for the Dis­trict, such as the Wil­son Build­ing), that sin­gle ges­ture would ar­guably gen­er­ate more pub­lic­ity for the vot­ing rights move­ment than any event in his­tory.

The VIPs on the list above have ei­ther reached the peak of their po­lit­i­cal ca­reers or deny they have any fu­ture po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions. That elim­i­nates any po­lit­i­cal risk from tem­po­rar­ily aban­don­ing home-state voter regis­tra­tion.

When the Oba­mas or Trumps even­tu­ally re­turn to Illi­nois or New York, we would fully ex­pect them to reg­is­ter to vote there. But, in the hand­ful of years that these crit­i­cal, high-pro­file in­di­vid­u­als make the Dis­trict home, they would be do­ing our cause a mon­u­men­tal ser­vice with a sim­ple sig­na­ture on a mass-pro­duced gov­ern­ment form.

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