News Release

Sanders at White House: Statehood and Democracy

statehood

In his remarks outside the White House after meeting with President Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders just stated: “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.” [Video]

The Washington, D.C. primary is on Tuesday. Sanders will be holding a rally Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the D.C. Armory. For upcoming events, see accuracy.org/calendar.

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler[at]verizon.net, @graylanhagler
Hagler is senior pastor at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. and chairperson of Faith Strategies, which recently released a letter signed by a number of noted activists, clergy people, union officials and others in D.C.: “Bernie Sanders, with both his record of leadership over the years and his platform, has spoken out against injustice in ways that are virtually unprecedented in the history of U.S elections. His grassroots support that has almost completely funded his campaign is speaking loud and clear that we want meaningful change and we need to give a voice to those who are often voiceless.

“We believe that in order for our voices to be heard and to implement a truly progressive agenda in this country, we need to challenge the status quo in the Washington, D.C. primary and strengthen the people’s agenda going into the Democratic convention.”

ANISE JENKINS, standup_freeDC[at]yahoo.com, @msfreedc
Jenkins is with the Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. Coalition (Free D.C.). She said today: “We advocate for D.C. Statehood and an end to the federal government having power over local policy rather than the people of the city having such authority. It’s a ridiculous situation: 600,000 people have no voting representation in Congress or real autonomy.

“Hillary Clinton recently wrote a piece for the Washington Informer pledging that she’ll ‘be a vocal champion for D.C. statehood.’ Sanders voted for D.C. statehood when he was in the House. D.C. Statehood was in the Democratic Party platform, but was taken out over a decade ago. The new platform committee just heard testimony on Wednesday about D.C. statehood. But this process has taken so long — and we’ve learned you can’t take politician’s statements at face value. President Obama told me personally in 2008 that he wanted statehood for D.C. Of course, nothing happened, even when there was a Democratic majority in both houses of the Congress.

“Two states — Vermont and Wyoming — have smaller populations. About ten more have populations that are comparable.

“The fact that we’ve not been able to determine our own policies has done real damage to the people of the city. There’s some attention paid to Congress running roughshod over the public’s attempts to have gun control or medical marijuana, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“We don’t get to appoint or elect our own judges — that’s done through Congress. Congressmen have even threatened to arrest city officials for not being sufficiently servile. We don’t have budget autonomy. These types of things make the people less powerful and monied interests more powerful, so D.C. has been gentrified in recent years at an unprecedented rate. Meanwhile, people in D.C. still pay the highest federal taxes per person in the country.

“There’s a process underway that’s suddenly being fast-tracked by the D.C. government for a new constitution. The proposed constitution has a number of problems. For example, there’s no way for the people to amend the constitution. It would set up a D.C. with virtually the only unicameral legislative body with only 13 people. By contrast, Nebraska, the state with the only unicameral legislature and the smallest in the nation, has 49 members. Wyoming’s population is 586,107 and they have 30 in the Senate and 50 in the House; Vermont’s population is around 625,000, they have 150 in the House and 30 in the Senate.”

“D.C. residents are not giving up, we need to try every strategy possible to attain our full rights as citizens of this country since we meet above and sometimes beyond our civic responsibilities. The claim that the U.S. is a beacon for democracy will remain a hollow claim until this is rectified. We plan to take our protest to both upcoming conventions in July. We ask that the country and the world hear our plight and help us.”

 

[The original version of this release mistakenly stated that Sanders voted for D.C. statehood while in the Senate. Although he voted for D.C. voting rights in the Senate, his vote for D.C. statehood occurred when he was in the House.]