Monday, August 3, 2015
Media Source: 
WAMU Radio (DC)
Martin Austermuhle

Residents of Washington, D.C. have long complained about the city's second-class status — not only do they not have representation in Congress, but members of Congress from across the country periodically try to substitute themselves for the city's local legislators. (It's happened with drug laws, abortion and guns.)

The only problem is that not many people across the U.S. know of the city's status, nor do national figures often make a cause of it.

That's why advocates for D.C. autonomy and statehood were probably excited when British comedian John Oliver dedicated a segment on his weekly show Last Week Tonight on Sunday to explore why exactly D.C. residents are denied voting representation and why the nation's capital should be given the chance to become the 51st state.

"You can understand why many people in D.C. are angry," said Oliver. "Think about it. They pay federal taxes and fight in wars, and yet have no member of Congress who is able to vote on their behalf, even though their population is larger than Vermont and Wyoming and their gross domestic product is larger than that of 16 states."

He continued: "And if you think, 'Well, isn't this how countries treat their capital cities?' It actually isn't. We're the only democracy in the world that does this."

Oliver, who got his start on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, also highlighted a Senate bill that would grant D.C. statehood. A hearing was held on the measure last year, and the bill was re-introduced this year. Still, he recognizes that it faces steep odds on Capitol Hill, a reality he blames on "inertia."

This isn't the first time that the city's cause has made it to national airwaves — Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report famously interviewed D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton about the issue — but it may be the first time a troupe of kids sang a tune backing the fight for D.C. statehood.