D.C. Vote Veto A Bad Idea

Dear Mr. President: Will you accept some unsolicited advice from a friend? No, you don't remember me; I'm one of thousands of people who have crossed paths with you over the years. You invited me to become a volunteer for your first political campaign "back in the day," as the kids say today. I was on your payroll for three years; I even got to visit you in the Oval Office along with a few of my colleagues. You were very generous with your time, respectful of the office and humbled by the charge you've been given. I like you, so please hear me out when I tell you your threat to veto a bill giving the residents of the District of Columbia their own representative in the U.S. Congress is not helping you or the Republican Party.

I've heard all the arguments against giving D.C. their own voting representative in Congress, but they don't amount to a hill of beans when compared to the goodwill you would earn for yourself and the GOP within the black community. "It gives the Democrats a guaranteed seat in the Congress," they'll tell you. The current legislation gives you a safe Republican seat in Utah in exchange, so it's a wash. "The Constitution says representation in Congress is for the states," they'll say. The Constitution also says the laws governing D.C. are set by Congress, which has delegated their authority to the city in a number of areas, so it appears that Congress has the constitutional authority to change the law. "They'll want two Senators next," they'll harrumph. Maybe, but we're fretting about a problem that hasn't presented itself yet.

The advice you're getting is all about short-term appeasement, not long-term gain. What's needed here, Mr. President, is the long view. This bill has great meaning to the black majority in Washington, D.C. and the black community as a whole, and you would be giving them a significant victory.

So will blacks come rushing to the Republican camp if you support this bill? No - in their eyes the GOP has a lot of work to do, and I know it isn't entirely fair. They say you're a racist, even though you're the first President to appoint a black man and subsequently a black woman as our nation's Secretary of State, making them easily the most powerful black people ever to serve in the U.S. government. Condoleeza Rice has been your trusted advisor and confidante on the most consequential matters in U.S. foreign policy for seven years. Personally, I haven't forgotten how you noticed a young black student in the back of a crowded politcal science class at Texas Tech and invited him on the spot to come work for you simply based on the substance of the questions he asked. A racist wouldn't do that - but I digress.

They think the Republican Party is anti-black despite the fact that from 1854 to 1964, every major civil rights law in the country, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act itself, was either sponsored by the GOP or wouldn't have passed without the GOP's support. Meanwhile, the Democrats either looked the other way, obstructed progress or were actively involved in the horrors of institutionalized racism and discrimination. Heck, it was a Republican congressman, Tom Davis of Virginia, who introduced the D.C. bill when Congress was still in Republican hands, and he is still a passionate advocate for its passage. The Democrats are the beneficiaries of short memories and clouded history, which is why their 43 years of belated enlightenment trumps 110 years of oppression - but again, I digress.

So if supporting this legislation won't bring immediate positive results to the GOP at the ballot box, why should you support it? Confucius said "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," and anything you can do to begin mending fences with the black community while still being true to the party's principles is a step forward. Saying "yes" may not yield instant results, but saying "no" will reinforce entrenched mindsets about the GOP and make it just a little harder for future Republicans to reach out to the next generation of black Americans.

The other reason is rooted in your deep passion for democracy. You believe that America has a moral obligation to be a force for democratic change around the world, and that people should have the right to determine their own destinies through the ballot box. Because of your beliefs, I think you'll understand the most important reason for supporting this bill - it gives the more than 580,000 people in the District the right to govern themselves. Our men and women in uniform are fighting and dying in faraway places to give others that right, and you can extend it to the citizens of our nation's capital with a stroke of a pen and without bloodshed. It's the right thing to do, Mr. President, and while it won't win you many friends overnight in the black community, it makes life a little easier for the Republican leaders who follow you. As a friend, I'd certainly appreciate it.