The Fun-Loving Case for DC Statehood


When President Obama announced in 2013 that he’d be placing DC’s infamous, politically charged “Taxation without representation” license plates on all presidential limousines, it was assumed that the District would finally earn its statehood.

After all, when the leader of the free world comes out and says he has, “seen firsthand how patently unfair it is for working families in DC to work hard, raise children, and pay taxes, without having a vote in Congress” it’s sort of a given that something is going to change, right?

Hahahaha! It’s adorable that you thought that.

Look, it’s no surprise that DC statehood hasn’t happened yet given the pace at which this country moves on, well, anything. The ridiculous unfairness of this situation has been well documented by John Oliver and many other less social media-friendly Americans who don’t seamlessly work Fifty Shades of Grey references into their arguments.

But aside from the blatant injustice of it all, there’s another reason to push for Washington DC as the flag-altering 51st state: it would be fun as hell! To wit:

It’s completely unlike anywhere else

Here’s a fun measuring stick: start your car at Union Station and drive 90 minutes in any direction. Get out of your car, and see if wherever you end up feels anything like DC.

Richmond might as well be Alabama and Dover is a NASCAR track; I’m fairly sure everything west of Leesburg in Virginia is still the unexplored frontier.

And then there’s DC, a singularly unique place where you can feel the nation’s pulse (at least until Trump’s prophecy comes true and China takes over). The second you set foot in DC, you can feel it. You’re someplace different. It’s certainly a more pronounced transition than, say, crossing over from one Dakota to a… different Dakota.

Never mind the insanity of 660,000 Washingtonians -- what with their population bigger than Vermont or Wyoming and a GDP that dwarfs even more states’ -- being denied the basic perks of statehood (because, again, this isn’t even about that).

Shouldn’t such a vibrant, energetic “I’m someplace that matters” locale merit all the prestige that comes along with being called a state?

Shouldn’t high school kids talking about all the different states they’ve visited be able to offer up that awkward eighth grade Washington trip (the one where they ALMOST snuck out and went to one of the girls’ rooms, if it wasn’t for that dumb chaperone) as another feather in their collective cap?

Shouldn’t America embrace the fact that odd numbers are way more fun than even numbers (looking at you, 13 colonies)?

Yes, yes it should.

Getty/Joe Arnon

It’s depriving the country of even BETTER scandals

Sure, one of the city’s most beloved mayors of all time smoked crack. And sure, DC has played home to leaders from every other part of the nation firebombing their own careers -- far too many to mention here, so let’s just mention Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner, because it’s been a long damn time and yes it remains hilarious.

But a DC state government apparatus? That’s a whole ‘nother level of government to corrupt! And state-level political scandals just feel more organic, right? Remember Rod Blagojevich and the Senate seat for sale? Eliot Spitzer and Alexandra Dupre? Governor (and now Congressman?!?!) Sanford and the Appalachian walkabout that wasn’t?

Just imagine what the eventual governor of DC would be capable of. It’d definitely be something no one’s ever contemplated, like a plot to sell the Jefferson Memorial to Putin or something.

In a city where political scandals are so thoroughly ingrained in the culture and the House of Cards release is basically a citywide holiday despite what Kevin Spacey did to Kate Mara, adding another layer to the madness isn’t just what the American people want, it’s what they deserve.

There would be another state with legal weed

“Nothing we do here matters.” That’s not just a lyric from Dashboard Confessional’s new reunion album (all the teenage angst, now mixed with middle-aged ennui!). For politically active members of the DC community (read: everyone), it’s a sad reality.

Remember in November of last year when 65% of all voters voted to pass Initiative 71 and make the recreational use of marijuana legal inside the District? That was fun! Well, except for the fact that it didn’t mean shit. Sure, DC residents can currently grow their own pot, but Congress stepped in and decided the legal sale of marijuana (read: additional state revenue, if DC was, you know, a state) shouldn’t be allowed, because, well, I mean, are you really surprised?If DC gets statehood, there’s no congressional oversight preventing it from going all-in on being the Amsterdam of the East Coast. Who will be the first elected official caught trying to clandestinely sneak out of a dispensary, only to fall all over himself (yeah, it’ll definitely be a dude) claiming he thought it was a watch repair shop, even though what he was doing was perfectly legal. No one minds that you like to party, hypothetical congressman!

Our state flag would be cooler than any other state flag

The Louisiana state flag features a pelican feeding three baby pelicans. Not to be outdone by its neighbor's odd fascination with maritime birds, Mississippi has upped the ante by still featuring, you guessed it, the Confederate stars and bars!

And while the Magnolia State’s flag is down South doing its best impression of your least-favorite uncle to talk to at Thanksgiving, you know what DC’s flag is up to? Looking fan-fucking-tastic, that’s what.

And that’s not just some guy’s opinion (even though it’s also that). A survey by the North American Vexillological Association (people who study flags, apparently) in 2004 revealed that DC had the best flag of any US city. You could argue with that, but the only person crazier than someone who studies flags for a living is someone else who argues with somebody who studies flags for a living.

Maybe we’d get another state quarter?

Sure, they threw DC a bone in 2009 after everyone was tired of the whole “state quarter gimmick,” but that went down before DC statehood! Even though Duke Ellington’s a fine choice, it’d be a chance for fresh ideas. Perhaps two bros in Adams Morgan fighting over a jumbo slice? Maybe Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper as Matt Williams stares at clouds? It’s a dialogue that needs to happen.

So, just let DC be a state, OK?

This all sounds pretty great, right? Let’s do it, America.You may not always be a fan of stuff like “fairness,” but you’ve always loved a good time.

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Robert Pursell loves DC almost as much as he loves a good scandal. If you know of any, drop him a line @Robert_Pursell.