April 21, 2021

In Brief: How to Solve DC Statehood

Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University, says “retrocession” is the answer.

The Founders had a design for the federal district, and Democrats aim to destroy it with legislation to make the District of Columbia its own state, complete with — coincidentally, we’re sure — two Democrat senators. However, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley has a better solution.

What was missing by design in the House was any acknowledgment, let alone consideration, of alternatives to creating the first Vatican-like city-state in the country. Most importantly, there was no discussion of what district citizens could gain from an alternative to statehood — retrocession.

Turley discusses polling and the deep division surrounding such a blatantly political issue, as well as Democrat refusal to debate or even discuss alternatives. But, he explains:

Retrocession refers to returning the district from whence it came: to Maryland. Originally, the district was designed to be a diamond-shaped “federal city” composed of land ceded equally from Maryland and Virginia. The Framers did not want any state to control the federal city and, thus, its citizens would be represented by the Congress as a whole. After a few years, the district’s Virginians decided they wanted to go back and were allowed to retrocede. The Marylanders decided to remain as a federal city without direct representation. …

Under my proposal, the Mall and core federal buildings would remain the District of Columbia (as is the case in this legislation) but the remainder of the district would retrocede back to Maryland, as did the original district’s other half to Virginia. In this way, residents would receive full representation while receiving the benefits of various Maryland educational and other opportunities. That reduction of the federal enclave has been incorporated in the latest statehood proposal without retrocession.

Democrats don’t want to hear this, of course, for two reasons: National Democrats wouldn’t gain two Senate seats, and Maryland Democrats would see a “power shift from Baltimore to Washington.” Retrocession would still benefit the Democrats’ constituents.

Turley is no right-winger, though, and he concludes:

There are strong arguments for statehood, and this is a difficult question for many of us. However, both the district and the country deserve a debate on whether to add not just a new state but the first city-state resembling an American Liechtenstein. That debate should consider the alternatives and opportunities offered by retrocession.

Read the whole thing here.

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