The Maine Line

Like it or not, America is a great country with a massive influence on both the peace and the future of the world. Though their institutionalised two-party system may seem simplistic to Europeans, it has generally served them and their democratic principles well. Then came Trump.

He did not invent venal hostility between the two parties—that dishonour goes to Newt Gingrich with his bind obsession in discraditing Bill Clinton and, by extension, the Democrats. Republicans did their level best to derail Obama’s efforts to bring in a sensible and fair health care system and generally carry the Reaganomics banner that all government is bad, especially when it comes to taxing the rich.

For four years, Donald Trump, with enthusiastic support from Senate Leader Mitch McConnel put this policy on steroids. Many people, watching Biden’s energetic unrolling of all that, thinks the worst is over. That may be. But most Republicans have bought in to Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen and are using every means they can think up to prove him right. A shrewd observer of all this is journalist Heather Cox Richardson, who, despite being holed up in a scenic corner of Maine, nonetheless has her finger firmly on the pulse of her nation. She writes a daily blog that takes few prisoners. Europeans interested in crisp doses of US political reality should consider the $5 for a month’s subscription most worthwhile. What follows is a sample of her work.

By a vote of 216 to 208, the House of Representatives passed a bill to grant statehood to the District of Columbia. The measure would carve out the area around Capitol Hill, the White House, and the National Mall to remain much as they are today, but the rest of what is now the District would get one representative in Congress and two senators. About 712,000 people live in Washington, D.C., only about 37.5% of whom are non-Hispanic white.

Republicans are furiously arguing that this is a naked power play on the part of the Democrats, for D.C.’s inhabitants are presumed to be Democratic voters. In response, those in favor of D.C. statehood point out that the Republican Party, quite famously, admitted six states in twelve months between 1889 and 1890. They were not shy about what they were doing. The admission of North Dakota, South Dakota (they split the Dakota Territory in two), Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming, Republicans said, should guarantee to the Republican Party a permanent majority. (They were so blatant that they convinced a number of Republicans to turn against them.)

But today’s vote to admit D.C. to the Union is not quite the same as the power grab of the 1890s for the simple reason that Washington, D.C., in 2021 has a lot of people in it. Republicans pushed for the admission of their six new states as quickly as they did because they knew that the 1890 census would reveal that the new states did not have enough people in them to become states (unlike Arizona and New Mexico, which did have a lot of people, but those folks supported the Democrats).

In contrast to that push to create states purely for political power, today’s D.C. has people in it. A lot of them. It has more people today than Vermont… and Wyoming, one of the states the Republican brought in in 1890.

—Heather Cox Richardson, April 22nd 2021

About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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