Presidential Campaign

DC primary is the Rodney Dangerfield of politics

Michelle Kinsey Bruns/flickr

The District of Columbia is the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics. It gets no respect!

First, it gets no respect from the country. This is a place where 675,000 people live but have no voting representation in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. (Yes, they have a non-voting delegate who can vote in committees, but not on the floor.) It was not until 1964 that the citizens of Washington were allowed to vote for president of the United States.

{mosads}But maybe even more hurtful, D.C. gets no respect from the national Democratic Party. The District has the highest percentage of registered Democrats in the country: 75 percent of registered voters are Democrats. No other state comes anywhere near that number. Since 1964, D.C. has gone Democratic with astounding percentages. President Lyndon Johnson got 85 percent of the vote; Barack Obama got 93 percent in 2008 and 91 percent in 2012.

This coming Tuesday is the D.C. Democratic primary. I’m sure you won’t hear or read much about it. Yes, I know Hillary Clinton has locked up the nomination. But even if she hadn’t, we here in D.C. are used to being overlooked and ignored. It starts at the top.

The No. 1 Democrat, President Obama, has spent seven-and-a-half years willfully and deliberately dissing us. Never has he championed our cause for full citizenship through D.C. statehood. He only answers questions on the subject with lame, laconic responses.

The chair of the Democratic Party is even worse. When I asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) about our plight, she had the appalling gall to say, “It’s not a national issue.”

Don’t think the issue of D.C. statehood will be taken care of in the 2016 Democratic Party Platform.

One of our very own, District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, wimped out in 2008 and 2012 and made sure it never found its way into print.

To be fair and accurate, Hillary Clinton has long been a true and sincere supporter for D.C. statehood. When she became a U.S. senator she was one of the original co-sponsors of the statehood bill. (At that time, there were only four co-sponsors.) And just recently, she penned a column in The Washington Informer, a local African-American-oriented newspaper, reiterating her support.

But it does not look like she will be in D.C. to campaign in our primary. Today, she is making a speech at the national headquarters of Planned Parenthood in downtown Washington. In the evening, she is hosting a fundraiser at her home in the District. (She lives in Ward 2.) But these two events are not in any way local. So once again, we are being taken for granted.

Regardless, Clinton will win big in D.C. African-Americans in four of the eight wards will come out in droves for her, especially African-American women. She probably will win seven of the eight wards and will approach 60 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

But it would be appreciated if she decided to stay around for Tuesday night and say “thank you” to the District.

Even better, she could use that evening’s victory to elevate the issue of D.C. statehood by looking into a bank of cameras and proclaiming her support for it. Once again, D.C. will be passed over, since Clinton plans to be somewhere else on Tuesday. The story never, ever seems to change. Take our votes and forget about us.

It should be noted, however, that Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) has not yet given up on D.C. At what might be his last rally, held near R.F.K. Stadium yesterday, he said that he was “aware of the situation” in the District, adding, “And the next time I come back here, I want to come back to the state of Washington, D.C.”

Working the rope line, I asked him directly if he would campaign in D.C. before Tuesday’s primary. He said, “Yes, I will.” The crucial thing to remember is that he cared enough to come. Earlier in the day, he left a one-on-one meeting with the president at the White House, and in an extraordinary statement, brought up D.C.’s peculiar political status, saying:

“The major point that I will be making to the citizens of the District of Columbia is that I am strongly in favor of D.C. statehood. The state of Vermont, which I represent, has about the same number of residents that Washington, D.C. has, except we have two United States senators and one congressman with full rights, while D.C. does not. That does not make any sense.”

In the final analysis, it’s up to the citizens of D.C. not to allow the continuation of the District’s unequal and undemocratic status. D.C. Democrats are just too accepting and polite to make things change for the better. The Rev. Jesse Jackson once said to me that it will never change until it “rises to the level of personal insult.” That has not yet happened.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.

Tags 2016 Democratic primary 2016 presidential campaign Barack Obama Bernie Sanders D.C. DC District of Columbia Hillary Clinton statehood voting rights Washington
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