Norton Blasts GOP Stance on the District
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton made it clear that she didn't like the part of the Republican Party platform that disparaged the District of Columbia.
"The Republicans have just rejected attempts by D.C. Republicans for a D.C. voting rights plank that is virtually the same as the bill for a D.C. House vote, whose chief sponsor was former Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican," Norton said on the heels of the Republican National Convention. "The bill passed both the House and Senate and would be law today except for a gun safety amendment that sought to eliminate all the city's gun safety laws."
The D.C. platform that the GOP adopted at its convention last week in Tampa, under the subhead of "Preserving the District of Columbia", said that the "nation's capital city, a special responsibility of the federal government, belongs to its residents and to all Americans, millions of whom visit it every year."
The platform talked about efforts to provide school choice to low-income District residents, corruption among the city's elected leaders, called for a non-partisan elected attorney general and a call to stop "one party-rule." It also said that the city's tough gun laws should be gutted and remained very clear on one specific topic.
"We oppose statehood for the District of Columbia."
There's a perception that the Republican Party and most members of the party have always opposed District political representation, autonomy and statehood. However, that's not the case. Nelson Rimensnyder, a candidate for D.C. shadow senator, published a piece in The Washington Post in 2005. He said that President Dwight D. Eisenhower became an advocate for the city while serving in office.
Indeed, Eisenhower, in his 1954 State of the Union Address, said "in the District of Columbia the time is long overdue for granting national suffrage to its citizens and also applying the principle of local self-government to the nation's capital."
Rimensnyder said that Eisenhower supported a 25-member legislative body and a governor to run the city. He said that Eisenhower had Sen. Prescott Bush (R-Conn.) push for the adoption of the 23rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which allowed the District three votes in the U.S. Electoral College.
The amendment passed in 1961 and the District supported Democrat Lyndon Johnson for president in 1964. Moderate Republicans such as Sen. Charles Mathias of Maryland supported D.C. Home Rule and voting rights in the U.S. Congress.
However, the GOP abandoned its support for full political rights for the District in 1980, when the conservatives took over the party. Since then, most conservative Republicans have not supported expanding D.C. political representation and autonomy, stating that the Constitution prohibits the city from participating in national affairs because of its status as the nation's capital.
Conservative Republicans have argued that the city should retrocede back into Maryland, but that has been rejected by political leaders in both political parties and those in Maryland.
However, some conservative legal scholars such as Kenneth Starr have argued that the District deserves a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and points out that the U.S. Congress can do this under the authority given by the Constitution.
Ironically, Prescott Bush's son and grandson, Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, don't support a voting member of the U.S. Congress from the District or D.C. statehood.
The Democrats have supported, in theory, the political aspirations of District residents in their party platforms but recent bills that support D.C. statehood or a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives have fallen short.
Norton, 75, who did not get a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte at Informer press time, said that the Republican platform aims to disempower D.C. residents.
"We did not expect the Republicans to fully embrace our rights, but we had every right to expect more than the most hostile Republican language on the District of Columbia in a Republican platform in American history."