The Washington Post
So you want to run D.C.? Cool, here’s your fix-it list.
It’s true — car crimes have been wild lately.
There were the two teens — 15 and 16 — who allegedly took an Instacart driver’s car from her at gunpoint and led police on a wild chase through town.
Then a taxi driver was pistolwhipped and dumped out of her cab. And how about the 18-yearold arrested in the BB gun carjacking of a woman and her young daughter in the middle of the afternoon?
This is life in Bakersfield, Calif. — the insurance industry’s nightmare as the per capita cartheft capital of America.
It is also the home district of House Speaker Kevin Mccarthy (R- Calif.), who left the problems of his majority-white rural and suburban hometown to come to Washington and — what — tell us how to run our city?
“Two weeks ago, two 18-year
old carjackers crashed into two Capitol Police vehicles just yards away from this floor,” Mccarthy said in a speech on the House floor last month, when he led the congressional charge to take control over local, D.C. politics.
Hello, pot. How about you leave the kettle alone?
In a sweeping rebuke of American democracy, the party of small government — joined by Democrats mortgaging their principles — enacted a big, fat, hostile takeover of the taxed but unrepresented people of D.C. on Wednesday night when they voted to overturn local legislation for the first time in more than 30 years.
Okay, then. You want to rule D.C.? I’m especially looking at you, Democrats, who were supposed to be the District’s biggest supporters in statehood. Roll your sleeves up, and let’s get to work.
Yo, Rep. Wiley Nickel! You came up here from North Carolina but decided to vote on D.C.’S local legislation. So why don’t you also come over to the alleys of Georgetown to deal with the rat problem?
Congrats on your win, Rep. Nikki Budzinski! You’ve been in D.C. but a hot minute after your election by the good people of Illinois. But a couple months after landing here, your vote tells us you’re itching to run the city. Wanna get to work on fixing those streetlights out by Bancroft Elementary School?
Hey, Rep. Greg Landsman! Look at you, coming over to the big kids’ table in Washington after starting out on the Cincinnati City Council. But you voted like you want to U-turn right back into local politics. So let’s get cracking and get yourself over to the Wilson Building to work on that upcoming electric bike rebate program.
Go for it, Washingtonians. Call these folks about your potholes, parking passes and tree trimming!
Here’s the thing.
Before D.C. finally earned home rule in 1973, the District was governed by one of the least glamorous, low-end committees in Congress — the District Committee. Those members complained that they didn’t work so hard to make it to a national office only to be back to a city council seat, deciding on teacher salaries and student bus fares for teachers and students they’d never met. Nobody wanted this.
“The District has been starving to death politically for 70 years,” West Virginia Sen. Matthew Neely (D) said back in 1951, when he argued to get out of local politics and grant home rule to D.C. It took 22 years after that for us to be free of the whims of out-of-town politicos.
Yet on the 50-year anniversary of Home Rule, we’ve come full circle, and members of Congress are weirdly clamoring to take over running the District again.
It’s a big mess that began after D.C. tried to enact the first, comprehensive revision of its creaky criminal code in 100 years.
But a 275-page, complex and nuanced piece of legislation that addressed old timey laws that addressed steamboats, outhouses and livestock riding the railroad in D.C. was chopped into sound bites and catastrophized by the folks who score cheap points anytime they can scream, “But crime!”
By folks who were not elected by the people they are trying to govern.
Let’s be clear — the fight over this is not about criminal codes, carjackings or public safety. (This column isn’t about the criminal code itself, but there’s plenty of reading that will show you it’s not radical or crazy; at least 4,000 pages of commentary about the revision process will show the soundbiters that most of it simply updates D.C.’S laws to look more like those across America.)
If reducing crime is what Mccarthy cared about, he’d be working on ways to stop the escalating car thefts in his hometown and the alarming crime rate in his home county. Los Angeles Times columnist Anita Chabria dove into the state’s crime data to explore why “violent crime is spiking in Trump’s California.” That’s Mccarthy’s California. ( Violent crime in D.C., despite the GOP hysterics, is actually down by 8 percent this year.)
The real crime here is that politicians did something that should be unthinkable — ignore the District’s right to home rule — in the name of political gamesmanship.
This was a natural for Republicans, who love sucking down martinis and posing at gyms in D.C.’S ever-swankier neighborhoods, then calling the District a “crime-ridden hell hole.”
But then too many Democrats — headed by the chief Dem, President Biden — joined in, frightened of appearing soft on crime by allowing a thriving, vibrant city to govern itself.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said it best outside the Capitol on Wednesday, as the disastrous vote was about to go down.
“Keep your hands off D.C.,” Holmes said. “You either support D.C. home rule or you don’t. There are no exceptions. And there is no middle ground on D.C.’S right to selfgovernment.”