One of this blog's hobbyhorses, D.C. Statehood, is back in the news today, thanks to an NYT op-ed from historian Kate Masur. Jamelle Bouie has more. Both of them blame race and partisanship for the failure to secure meaningful democracy for the District.
If I recall correctly, my old posts on this consisted mainly of wondering, without any answer, about why Democrats in the historic 111th Congress didn't press the issue -- especially during the brief window of 60 Democrats in the Senate. But I think, now, that I have the answer, although I'll admit that it's speculative. It's not race or partisanship, per se, although both obviously set the stage for it.
No, I think perhaps the reason is that for whatever reason, in recent years Republicans have tended to use their best legislative and executive chances to secure long-term electoral advantages, while Democrats have tended to use theirs to enact substantive policy. (see my previous post on this here, Kevin Drum here, and me again here). As I said, I'm very reluctant to assert that there are long-term strategic differences between the parties, but this sure seems to be one.
Remember, the point here isn't that the Democrats are especially spineless (or that Republicans are especially ruthless) -- it's that they (may) think about, and use, power differently. On the whole, I tend to think that Democrats have the better strategy...there was no conservative policy triumph equivalent to ACA during the Bush years, in my view. Using majorities to "consolidate" power is, I think, futile. But others disagree.
Speaking of which...this also explains another of this blog's hobbyhorses, the GOP certainty that Democrats are going to re-instate the Fairness Doctrine in order to shut down Rush Limbaugh and other conservative radio hosts. If it's true that conservatives do think as Drum and I have speculated, then their belief is explained because they know that that's what they would do if they were in a similar situation. And guess what? As soon as they gained a majority in the House (at least this time around), conservatives moved quickly to defund NPR, which they see as the liberal alternative to conservative talk radio.
I do want to caution that this is only speculative, and I can think of several counterexamples. Still, there does appear to be a pattern here. And it does help explain what I think is otherwise a very puzzling lack of interest by national Democrats in DC statehood in 2009.