I find it astonishing that the Democrats in the Senate believe that of all the important issues facing our nation at this time, passing the Lilly Ledbetter law (a ridiculous bill solving a problem that barely exists based entirely on pandering) and now representation for the District of Columbia is among their top concerns upon taking the Presidency, House and Senate. It’s hardly believable, to be honest, to think that finding ways to manage the federal budget, stabilize the banking system, continue to fund our troops effectively, manage our borders more effectively, etc… are not of far greater pressing value.
Not only is it a misguided priority, but they choose to push through an unconstitutional, poorly thought-out solution to the problem. Over at National Review Online, Hans von Spaksovsky has an excellent piece addressing the statute today.
Many people have posted their thoughts on this topic, and I appreciate the opinions shared. But, putting aside the irrationality of Democrats pushing forward a solution that many believe to be clearly unconstitutional, there are two larger problems with the whole mess.
First. The use of “injustice” here is just a little more than I can possibly swallow. Is it “technically” an injustice? Perhaps. No one denies that in a perfect world, we would prefer not to have a situation where several hundred thousand Americans do not have direct representation in Congress. But, seriously? We have 305 million Americans (give or take). Some 304.5 million of them (to the extent that number is accurate) are represented because they live in states. So, the great democratic republic is functioning with less than one third of one percent existing, technically, without representation.
When I said people had a “free will.” I meant it. It matters. Free will means something. And that you were born in DC does not mean you both still do not have a free will now and that you are not a product of the free will of your parent, your grandparent or someone else.
Is it not a far greater injustice that the Voting Rights Act – in its current form – is a flawed, unconstitutional scheme whereby discrimination is enshrined in our law for some 22 more years… resulting in the bastardization of our representative form of government through race-based gerrymandering?
Is it not a far greater injustice that judges are making up the law as they go, removing from the people the most fundamental right in a representative form of government – the right to live, collectively, according to the dictates of their conscience?
Is it not a far greater injustice to sit by as our federal government usurps on a daily basis its Constitutionally-given (and thereby limited) powers, trampling on federalism and the tenth amendment though the expansive interpretation of “interstate commerce” and its spending power (among other things)?
Which brings me to my second point.
Second. Injustice or not, we must always balance interests when deciding how to solve supposed problems. It is far more dangerous to me to reflexively respond to the problem identified (citizens without a direct representative) by throwing out other equally important – if not more important – principles.
Our system of government was the product of significant thought, struggle, negotiation and compromise. At its core are a number of principles – including representation and (with the addition of the Bill of Rights) protection of individual liberty. But also at its core – and arguably most fundamentally at its core – is a unique federalist structure that brings together the people through the several states. It doesn’t take a deep reading of the Constitution to see throughout it a deference to the state as a sovereign unto itself.
That representation is designed to attach to the states is significant. That the Senate reflects the states is significant (even considering direct election via the 17th Amendment). That the electoral college is our means for electing the President is significant. That the states must ratify amendments is significant.
To offer this representation extra-state is to tug at the thread holding our Republic together. If we begin tugging, how long before an argument is made by an activist court that representation no longer attaches to the state? Why not just take 305 million and divide by 435 – and apportion throughout the land regardless of state boundaries? How long before the electoral college is ignored?
These things matter. I would posit that at the center of our current problems we face as a nation lies the abandonment of the ability of the people to live locally, by and through their states and local governments without interference from Washington. To continue down this path is perilous, and to offer an amendment to the Constitution, and particularly to offer an unconstitutional statute, that will turn our federalist structure on its head is wrong-headed.