By Coach Kathy Kemper
Published on July 3, 2007
Ranco Santa Fe Review Commentary
Washingtonians celebrate the Fourth of July with a little bit of sorrow.
We love being Americans. Growing up, we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance and studied the country’s history: ‘Taxation without Representation,’ the revolt against British rule, the Declaration of Independence. Generations of Washingtonians have paid their taxes, fought in wars, and served on juries. We have fulfilled our patriotic duty as citizens.
Yet, we Washingtonians have less to celebrate on the Fourth of July. Here, in a place that should be the epitome of Democracy, residents are without voting representation in the US Congress. Here, where the White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court stand as iconographic reminders of the principles on which this country was founded, residents are forced each day to reenact the country’s colonial beginnings and recite our forefathers’ motto: ‘Taxation without Representation.’
Longtime DC resident, Frederick Douglass’ comments still echo true today since he spoke them on July 5, 1852: “Fellow citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask … What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?” Without a vote in Congress, the nearly 600,000 tax-paying residents of Washington, DC are still waiting for democracy.
Yet, after more than 200 years of DC’s injustice, Congress is on the verge of solving this problem. In April, the House of Representatives passed the DC House Voting Rights Act, a bill that would give DC citizens our first-ever vote in Congress. The bill also cleared a Senate committee, and the next step is a vote on the Senate floor.
We need help from people in California and elsewhere. There are some senators who are considering blocking this bill. No senators has the used the filibuster (a procedural trick that denies a vote on a bill) to block a voting rights bill since the days of segregation. Let’s not repeat one of the darkest periods in American history.
While you are celebrating America’s independence with barbeque and fireworks, you can also do something truly patriotic. Urge your senators to end taxation without representation in the nation’s capital by passing the DC House Voting Rights Act. We look forward to the day when the people of Washington, DC can join the Fourth of July celebrations and have them no longer ring false—to the day when freedom will finally ring across the nation’s capital.
Coach Kathy Kemper is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Education Washington DC and Rancho Sante Fe resident