As American as Baseball, Guns and Voting Rights
||Dallas Morning News (TX)
||Thursday, July 7, 2005
Thousands thronged the National Mall on Monday to listen to the National Symphony Orchestra, sample displays at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and watch the fireworks in one of the capital's favorite rituals.
But a couple of things were different on this July Fourth. Barely two miles away, a sellout crowd of nearly 44,000 fans in a city long starved for Major League Baseball thronged aging Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium to watch the surprisingly successful Nationals, their enthusiasm undimmed by the first-place team's first loss in over a week.
And though the festivities represent nonpolitical Americana at its best, they came at a time we D.C. residents may soon regain our missing political role – voting representation in Congress.
To some, that's more than we can realistically hope for. To others, including some top Democrats, it's inadequate because the city's half million residents still won't have a vote in the Senate.
Rep. Tom Davis, a shrewd Virginia Republican, has proposed a compromise, balancing a voting House seat for the heavily Democratic capital with a fourth seat for almost equally Republican Utah, the last state losing out on an extra seat after the 2000 census.
Under his bill, the size of the House would increase temporarily from 435 to 437. After the 2010 census, it would revert to 435, but D.C. would keep its seat.
Utah's total would depend on the 2010 census but, with Western growth continuing, it would probably keep its fourth seat.
The Davis bill has 16 co-sponsors, including three Democrats. Neither party leadership backs it, and no effort has yet been made to build Senate support.
Most Republicans are waiting to see what support the bill gets. Democrats are clearly cool, an ironic stance since the party has long favored D.C. voting rights.
A major Democratic concern, aides say, is giving heavily GOP Utah an extra seat. Party strategists fear a new effort to eliminate its one Democratic congressman.
Washington's nonvoting representative, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, has also withheld support. She favors her own long-stymied bill for two senators as well as a voting House member.
The White House position is unknown. But President Bush removed local license plates declaring "Taxation Without Representation" that President Bill Clinton put on his limousines.
The best thing going for D.C. voting is Mr. Davis. His support will do a lot more for the district than a nonbinding resolution urging voting rights that was passed this week by the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at the behest of some local Democrats. The Virginia congressman plans a hearing on his bill and rival proposals soon. But he needs Democratic help.
Even if voting representation is approved, there's no sign members of Congress will cease using their legislative authority to inflict their own views on the district.
Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison illustrated that practice recently when she introduced legislation to let private citizens here own handguns, restricted now to police and military personnel.
She said they're needed for self-protection, but Mayor Anthony Williams denounced it as "a slap in the face to me and to the people who live in my city" at a House hearing last week.
Meanwhile, some Republicans have warned baseball's owners against selecting as the Nationals' new owners a syndicate including leftist millionaire George Soros, who spent millions trying to defeat Mr. Bush last year.
Baseball officials are presumably smart enough to avoid such a fight. Most reports indicate the favorite for the team is a bipartisan local group headed by Fred Malek, a Republican with long ties to Mr. Bush, that also includes former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Most of us who long yearned for the return of baseball care a lot less about the political complexion of the owners than whether they have the deep pockets needed to compete in today's high-stakes sports environment.
Having the Nationals in first place this summer has been a big boost for a city that hasn't had a major pro champion since the Redskins won the Super Bowl 13 years ago. But the way to ensure the team's long-term success is the same here as everywhere else – to turn it into a consistent contender.
Meanwhile, top Democrats should recognize that, in today's political world, Mr. Davis' plan is the best local residents can hope for.