U.S. News Truculent Over D.C. Voting Rights Arguments

Arguing in support of legislation before Congress to grant voting rights for District of Columbia residents, Robert Schlesinger, author and deputy editor of the U.S. News and World Report (and a former reporter for The Hill) challenges his readers, “If you think the plan on the table is unconstitutional, then you need to come up with a better solution.”

It reminds me at once of both Andy Kaufman and President Obama. Kaufman for tauntingly searching for suitable female wrestling opponents in his audiences, and President Obama’s asking Republican members of Congress to bring ideas to the table, then impugning those ideas that were not already his.

So it was that Schlesinger challenged my recent post suggesting District of Columbia residents should not be subject to federal income taxes, based on the principle of taxation without representation. In arguing “D.C. Voting Rights Can’t Be Traded for Tax Breaks,” however, he creates an inherently false choice; one can’t trade something that doesn’t already exist.

His arguments fail to take hold because of his Lennon-esque rhetoric. “Imagine if Las Vegas were cut out of the congressional map,” he argues, in addition to putting forth scenarios where Tucson could choose to skip taxes if the city also handed over the right to free assembly or a Nashville that was tax-free but had no freedom of religion and offering a string of other locations — Denver, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Albuquerque, N.M., and the state of Wyoming — all of which Schlesinger says were not selected at random. Are they all mentioned in Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”? No, I checked. All have a similar, or smaller, population as Washington. That’s a fine distinction, but doesn’t make his fantastic scenarios, or his comparing apples to grapefruit, bear fruit.

Schlesinger, whose White House Ghosts is a must-read for anyone interested in political history, says people should be outraged over the status quo. Being a D.C. resident, I am indeed outraged that I am forced to pay taxes while having no representation. As I see it, there are currently only two options: I can either move or join the Obama Cabinet, where paying taxes seems more of a suggestion than a requirement.



* * *



P.S. Robert — you’ve also argued that the right to keep and bear arms is a “secondary” issue compared to D.C. voting rights. Let me assure you that when someone in the District is the victim of a crime, proper self-defense is their primary concern, not Eleanor Holmes Norton’s voting status or committee assignments.