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2020: An Election in Hindsight

Nearly all reelection campaigns ultimately boil down to a referendum on the incumbent, but few have seen such a clear divide between the individual and his party.

“Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.” —George Washington, First Inaugural Address.

Two weeks ago, the United States of America held its 59th presidential election since George Washington won the office that the Framers of the Constitution designed for him in 1789. While one could well argue that none of his 45 successors thus far have been so well suited to the role as Washington was, it is nevertheless remarkable that nearly all of those successors, save Lincoln in 1860 and 1864, enjoyed the legal recognition, however grudging, of the entire country.

I do not believe this will change.

Our history is littered with occasional political has-beens who peddle partisan pablum about stolen or hacked elections, quenching the last embers from the smoldering wreckage of their ruined careers with the bitter vintage of sour grapes and tears of self-pity—particularly recently. In days past, they ran off to the West or went abroad. Now, they do book tours. The country can endure another one.

Even with ongoing legal battles over ballots in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Biden’s margin in Pennsylvania alone is enough to ensure he reaches a majority of 270 electoral votes. Nevertheless, I expect those cases to play out with respect for due process and they should be allowed to do so, just as they did in the courts in 2000 for Florida, or the failed Congressional objection in 2004 over Ohio, or the numerous investigations into various aspects of the 2016 election—none of which ultimately altered the electoral outcome.  

America is exceptional in no small part because of our long unbroken history of lawful elections and peaceful transfers of power, which will continue when Joseph R. Biden, Jr. is inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States this January. While we should remain confident in the continuity of our governing institutions, this is not to say that poorly executed transitions are without cost or should be excused.

The 9/11 Commission Report specifically cited the delayed transfer of power from the Clinton White House to the incoming Bush Administration for growing gaps in national security on the eve of the worst terrorist attacks in US history. People may also still remember the Clintons departed with $190,000 in pilfered White House gifts and furnishings, of which $28,000 had to be returned and the balance paid for. One may also recall the petty and childish vandalism of office equipment adding insult to injury, but worse than these anecdotal lapses in judgement was the failure to bring new officials up to speed to avoid disruption or oversights.

The only silver lining from these unfortunate antics was that they have been the exception, not the rule; an interregnum in a line of generally good interparty transfers of power. George H.W. Bush penned a now-famous letter to Clinton and cooperated with his team in 1992, making the latter’s failure to reciprocate with his son eight years later all the more striking. George W. Bush vowed not to inflict the same experience on his successor Obama, and Obama to his credit fully cooperated with the incoming Trump team as well, despite immense pressure to behave otherwise. He could easily have gotten away with another partisan stunt, and been applauded for it, but he didn’t. 

It would be bad for the country if bruised egos and sticky fingers once again disrupted the Executive Branch, as appears possible. It was wrong when the Clintons did it, and it would be no less wrong for Trump to do it now. Nor, with the bar so exceptionally low, would it be terribly hard for Trump to acquit himself well enough in these final weeks to draw a contrast with his erstwhile rivals, but I have my doubts. Yet perhaps we may still be cautiously optimistic that the ill effects will be more limited than in 2000, given the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 in the interim, as well as the unusual experience of the incoming Administration compared to most successful challengers. Biden is the first former Vice President to win the White House in his own right since George H.W. Bush in 1988, and the first non-consecutive vice presidential successor since Nixon in 1968.  

This was an unusual election in many ways. Biden scored a considerable 300-vote victory in the Electoral College, which is about as commanding as could be expected in such a polarized age. While pollsters predicted that much, they utterly failed to recognize how narrow his margins in crucial swing states would be, and overestimated Democrats’ performance at every other level of government. His campaign succeeded in many states where Republicans hold the edge in voter registration, voter turnout, and where Republicans won Congressional and state elections. Biden outperformed Congressional and state Democrats, including in the key swing states. The clear inference is that a significant number of voters backed Biden while still supporting down-ballot Republicans, indicating opposition to Trump within the GOP proved fatal to his reelection bid and Biden’s appeal to bipartisanship worked, even if it disappointed some on the Left—or perhaps it worked precisely because it disappointed the Left.  

This is only the third presidential election in 104 years where a Democrat has won the White House while Republicans gained seats in the House of Representatives; the others were 1916 and 1960. It will be the first such election in 136 years in which this occurred for a non-incumbent Democratic challenger with a Republican Senate, harkening back to the 1884 victory of New York Governor Grover Cleveland over Senator James G. Blaine (R-ME).  

Speaking of Republican Senators from Maine, one of the biggest surprises of the night was not only the reelection of Senator Susan Collins amidst an onslaught of out-of-state Democratic money flooding the state, but also her commanding margin of victory—she defeated Gideon by more than 9% in an election for which Democrats had been amassing funds and had been gunning to flip for the past two years. Illusory advantages in polling for Democrats likely contributed to this enormous financial advantage by enticing credulous donors eager to back a winner. It turns out votes matter more than money: Senate Democrats vastly outspent Republicans in several races that did not turn out to be terribly close, raising a collective $300 million only to go down in defeat by large margins in Maine (9%), Texas (10%), South Carolina (11%), and Kentucky (20%).

Donald Trump lost by nearly the same electoral margin by which he won in 2016. Nearly all reelection campaigns ultimately boil down to a referendum on the incumbent, but few have seen such a clear divide between the individual and his party. Republicans on every other level appear to have either retained control or actually made gains at Democrats’ expense, making the degree to which Trump himself has been rebuked impossible to conflate with cyclical trends and made all the more starkly personal by the fact he lacked the “negative coattails” of a Carter or a Goldwater with the rest of his party.

While Trump is certainly not without his supporters and actually made gains among African-American and Latino voters, it appears in this high turnout election that he aroused more opposition than support. His loss in Arizona in particular, where state Republicans appear to have retained control, seemed a direct rejoinder to his bitter feud with the late Senator John McCain and his family. This highlights the difficulty of Trump’s fraud claims; they depend on several Republican-controlled states being complicit, which makes even less sense than typical conspiracy theories do. It’s also hard to imagine that supposed Democratic plotters would inflict several embarrassing Congressional defeats on themselves in the process if they were somehow behind the result. 

Despite overheated rhetoric to the contrary, this election actually represented a notable decline in racial polarization; Biden increased the Democrats’ share of white voters over 2016, while Republicans attracted greater support from minorities. The latter proved decisive for Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos Giménez flipping two Congressional seats in Florida. Salazar’s victory came in retaking Florida’s 27th District, represented for 30 years by Ilhena Ros-Lehtinen, the trailblazing Cuban-American Republican who was the first Latina ever elected to Congress.

Yet while Trump and House Democrats were both clear losers in this election, it cannot be overlooked that the biggest defeat may be for pollsters, who failed us yet again. Skepticism toward polling has shifted from the fringe to mainstream opinion for a good reason. Although their error wasn’t enough to predict the wrong outcome this time, they have evidently not learned from 2016. Only the fact that Biden ran a stronger campaign with even bigger leads for them to vastly inflate saved them from another reversal. The Democratic wave most pollsters predicted not only failed to appear, but proved to be more ebb than flow. Republicans increased their share of state legislatures under full control from 29 to 30 (to Democrats’ 19). State Republicans also increased their advantage in governorships from 26 to 27. Since 2020 is a decennial redistricting year, this gives Republicans the edge in drawing new House districts going into the 2022 midterms. (By way of comparison, the GOP controlled 29 statehouses at the last redistricting in 2010).  

There are numerous theories as to why pollsters got it wrong again; social desirability bias (AKA the “Shy Trump Voter” hypothesis), systematic sampling errors, asymmetric partisan trust in media impacting response rates, polls-as-wish-fulfillment (if driven by a desire for clicks from nervous Dems) or polls-as-propaganda (if intended to influence voter behavior, like encouraging donations or demoralizing opponents to depress turnout). Incompetence may be the simplest explanation, however.

I don’t know which if any of these is closest to the mark, but there’s clearly something very wrong and one worries the fact it didn’t make as much of a splash this time means they will be even less motivated to correct their mistake than they were after 2016, despite their clear failure to do so. How is it in an era of ever more intrusive and uncanny algorithms, predictive behavioral analysis, and pervasive surveillance that somehow we’re worse at polling than people were 50 years ago who had landlines, pencils, and graph paper? It fundamentally doesn’t make sense and we’ve yet to find a satisfactory explanation. 

Senate control will remain undecided until January, but with 50 Republicans to 48 Democrats currently, Republicans hold the edge if they win one or both of Georgia’s two special elections to retain control. This appears likely given the returns from last week; incumbent senior Senator David Perdue led his challenger by 1.7% or about 87,000 votes, even as Democratic turnout efforts helped Biden carry the state. Senator Perdue fell 0.3% short of the 50% threshold Georgia law requires in order to avoid a runoff. 

The special election to fill out the balance of Senator Johnny Isakson’s term is a bit more complicated. After Isakson resigned last year due to Parkinson’s disease, Kelly Loeffler was appointed in the interim and is now running as the incumbent. Georgia has so-called “jungle election” rules, so two Republicans faced off against two Democrats; the top spot went to Democrat Warnock with 32.9% to Loeffler’s 25.9%, but the two Republicans overall pulled in 45.9% of the vote to the two Democrats’ collective 35.7%. Even assuming similar or identical turnout to the presidential election, which was already extremely favorable for Democrats, it appears likely at this point that Republicans will retain Senate control by holding one or both Georgia seats. In the meantime, the parties will likely spend tens of millions of dollars more in the next two months before the runoff to try to budge those numbers or keep them steady.

God Bless America.

Outgoing President Bush’s note to incoming President Clinton, Inauguration Day 1993.

The 2020 Election: The Short Case

“There need not be much integrity for a monarchial or despotic government to maintain or sustain itself. The force of the laws in the one and the prince’s ever-raised arm in the other can rule or contain the whole. But in a popular state there must be an additional spring, which is VIRTUE.” —Charles de Secondat, Baron Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, 1748.

“‘Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free Government. Who that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?” —George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796.

To maintain a republic, there must be virtue: among the people, and especially among their leaders. It must at least be outwardly displayed; but it is so much the better if it is held in those leaders’ hearts. Its importance infinitely exceeds that of policy. So long as both candidates in an electoral contest possess virtue, then we as citizens may decide the election on the basis of their particular plans or positions. But if only one possesses virtue, then the best interest of our Republic enjoins us to favor that candidate without equivocation, regardless of the flaws in their governing agenda.

Because, in the words of a philosopher well-acquainted with both good and bad men:

“Because the reordering of a city for a political way of life presupposes a good man, and becoming prince of a republic by violence presupposes a bad man, one will find that it very rarely happens that someone good wishes to become prince by bad ways, even though his end be good, and [it very rarely happens] that someone wicked, having become prince, wishes to work well, and that it will ever occur to his mind to use well the authority that he has acquired badly.” —Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses on Titus Livy, 1517.

It may be asked, what is this virtue? It is, certainly, commitment to liberty and free government. Yet nobody can be truly committed to liberty who does not possess a deeper and more fundamental virtue. That virtue is decency; it is compassion; it is love. As it was articulated a long time ago:

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.” —First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 13:1-8a.

Ask yourself, in full honesty: Do both candidates possess this virtue?

I have asked that question, and answered it. And so I will be for Mr. Biden, with all his faults. Because throughout his long life he has shown virtue, and his rival, only malice.

Postscript – The Past, The Present, and The Future

The 2020 Election: The Long Case

“The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.” —The Declaration of Independence.

The impending Presidential election does not present an ideal choice to those whose foremost concern is the upkeep of our Republic’s might and liberty. But it does, in my view, present an easy choice.

The history of the incumbent President of the United States is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all tending in instinct toward—though not yet mature in execution—the establishment of a capricious tyranny over these States. To show this, let facts be submitted to our beleaguered nation:

He has shown contempt for the freedom of the press, of religion, and of peaceable assembly; and his professed support for free speech extends only to the freedom of his own speech and the speech of those who praise him;

He has openly voiced his desire to remain in office past the term limit imposed by the Constitution of the United States, and he has several times refused to say that he would accept the results of elections in which he is a candidate and commit to a peaceable transfer of power, should he emerge the loser;

He has repeatedly sought the prosecution or imprisonment of his political rivals;

He has inflamed lawless violence, and he has refused to condemn unaccountable militants, but rather called upon them and other irregular forces to wait in readiness to support his claims to power;

He has recklessly pardoned convicted war criminals and intervened in military discipline, and he has asserted an unlawful authority to order soldiers to commit such crimes, while he has displayed rank indifference and contempt toward those who served honorably;

He has, without warning, abandoned allies who have borne the battle against our Union’s foes, and he has extorted others with the sole purpose of gaining undue advantage in his own Presidential election contest;

He has, in brazen violation of the Constitution of the United States, removed funds from the Treasury without an appropriation for such purpose made by law and against the expressed will of Congress;

He has asserted a total authority over the state governments in matters that are reserved by the Constitution to the several States;

He has surrounded himself with an entourage of criminals, and he has fostered an environment of base corruption reaching to the highest levels of government;

He has cavorted with the most ruthless tyrants abroad, and he has preferred their counsel to that of the Government of the United States;

He has propagated outrageous conspiracy theories, which debase our Republic’s political discourses;

He has rendered his party and his administration into empty and sycophantic cults of personality;

He has not comported himself with any dignity, and he has demeaned the office of the President;

He has displayed gross incompetence in the actual practice of governance, he has been indifferent to the suffering of his fellow citizens in natural disasters, and he has recklessly endangered the health of the nation throughout the course of the plague that presently engulfs it;

He has repeatedly shown himself to be cruel and callous in his treatment of his fellow men, and of women especially, and even of small children;

He is, in sum, one of those base demagogues who embrace the dark contradiction of ‘illiberal democracy’ and see election to high public office not as a summons to serve, but as an invitation to rule. As Edmund Burke said of them: “Their liberty is not liberal. Their science is presumptuous ignorance. Their humanity is savage and brutal.”

And as such,

He does not deserve reelection. Indeed, to reward such an attempt at the chaotic establishment of personal rule would be to set our Republic, so dearly won and kept from 1776 until the present day, firmly if not irretrievably on the dim, dusty road to despotism.

Should the people of the several States, in accordance with the method prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, nonetheless choose to reelect Mr. Trump to the Presidency, then so be it. It would be a foolish choice, and I venture to say that all Americans would come to realize that before many years have passed. But a choice it is, and lawful.

If, however, the incumbent President refuses to yield upon defeat, or if he attempts to intervene in the conduct of the election, then his challenger shall be, or of right ought to be, the lawful President of the United States; and unlawful orders given by the incumbent ought rightly to be ignored by all of the officers of government.

Nonetheless,

The preceding argument ought not to be taken as an unqualified endorsement of the opposition party. Contained within its fold are some whose embrace of illiberal democracy is as fulsome as Mr. Trump’s. In the words of Burke:

“They have no respect for the wisdom of others; but they pay it off by a very full measure of confidence in their own. With them it is a sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of things, because it is an old one. As to the new, they are in no sort of fear with regard to the duration of a building run up in haste; because duration is no object to those who think little or nothing has been done before their time, and who place all their hopes in discovery. They conceive, very systematically, that all things which give perpetuity are mischievous, and therefore they are at inexpiable war with all establishments. They think that government may vary like modes of dress, and with as little ill effect. That there needs no principle of attachment, except a sense of present conveniency, to any constitution of the state. …Their attachment to their country itself, is only so far as it agrees with some of their fleeting projects; it begins and ends with that scheme of polity which falls in with their momentary opinion.”

In due course, as these self-proclaimed revolutionaries, these purveyors of ‘cancel culture’ and ‘critical theory’ who seek to silence all voices but their own, aspire to power, it shall become the duty of all who wish to preserve our Republic to oppose them with the same steadfastness with which we now oppose Mr. Trump.

However,

Mr. Biden is no such menace. He is a decent man, moderate and conciliatory in his instincts, and committed to the perpetuation of our Union’s Constitutional order. Earlier this year, he took on the peddlers of illiberal democracy in his own party, and routed them. Should he go on to rout Mr. Trump in turn, as the best interest of the country demands, we as citizens may place our trust in him as President. He has shown his willingness to approach the task, as Abraham Lincoln once did, with malice toward none and charity for all; and he shall at least attempt, in good faith, to bind up our nation’s wounds.

Therefore,

I intend to vote for Mr. Biden, satisfied in my mind that his accession to the Presidency, though it would likely result in policies which I think are imprudent, is unequivocally the outcome most favorable to the preservation of the Constitution of the United States; and it is my first duty, and that of all citizens, to uphold that Constitution through the exercise of our civic rights. Mr. Biden’s election shall not in itself be enough to ensure our Republic’s future as a free and vigorous Union, but it makes such a bright future possible.

Some will disagree. So, let us, as a nation, bring this contest to decision. It is time to vote; to accept the result once all votes have been counted; and then to turn our attention to whatever events next year brings.

No. 1 – On Fundamental Liberties

No. 2 – On Federalism

Postscript – The Past, The Present, and The Future

A Well-Regulated Militia

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” —Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The Congress shall have Power… To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” —Article 1, Section 8.

Logically, there exist three legitimate purposes, broadly defined, for ordinary citizens to keep and bear arms. These ends are, as follows:

1. The use of arms for recreational pursuits, which include but are not limited to hunting, sport, outdoorsmanship, and collecting. These may be considered general liberties, which, like any other ordinary freedom, ought not to be prohibited except when their exercise would do harm to others, and which may be regulated so as to avert conditions that would cause such harm.[1]

2. Self-defense and, under certain circumstances, defense of property. This is a natural right, which every person possesses inherently.[2]

And,

3. Providing for the security of a free state as part of a well-regulated militia. This is the purpose stated in and forming the basis for the Second Amendment. It is, under the laws of the United States, and in certain conditions specified therein, a duty.

From this third purpose, it follows that—

In order to provide for the security of a free state, which is ruled by the consent of the governed and is respectful of individual liberty, a militia must:

1. Be well regulated; i.e., be properly trained, disciplined, and equipped for the tasks it is to fulfill, and have clear standards defining what its members may and may not do.

2. Be accountable to the people.

Only an elected government can act on behalf of the people. As John Locke, whose thought guided our Republic’s Founders, wrote in his Second Treatise of Government:

“The constitution of the legislative is the first and fundamental act of society, whereby provision is made for the continuance of their union, under the direction of persons, and bonds of laws, made by persons authorized thereunto, by the consent and appointment of the people, without which no one man, or number of men, amongst them, can have authority of making laws that shall be binding to the rest.”

In the United States, the legislative power is vested in Congress and in state and local legislatures.

Furthermore, it does no good for a militia to be accountable to the elected government of one city or State, if it goes to operate in a different one without having been invited there by the elected government of that community. To do so would be tantamount to invasion, unless—and only unless—it is sent there by a higher government that is representative of the people of both places.

Thus, according to the Constitution, Congress prescribes regulations for the militia, and the state governments implement those regulations by training the militia and appointing its officers. State governments may call forth the militia and control its operations within their State, unless the militia is called into the service of the United States (federal service), wherein it is temporarily directed by the federal government and may be ordered anywhere in the Union.[2]

State legislatures, as they possess the general powers of government, may choose to delegate some authority to local governments to recruit, train, and direct a part of the militia. In the past, towns and cities would raise units which were then integrated into the state militia upon their acceptance by the state government.

However,

The militia has evolved over time.[4] The Militia Act of 1903 divided it into two bodies, which remain in existence today: the National Guard, known also as the organized militia and comprised of volunteers, and the Reserve Militia, known also as the unorganized militia and comprising all able-bodied male citizens between 17 and 45 years of age.

The National Guard fulfills most of the old militia’s former roles: namely, to augment the regular forces of the United States in times of war, to defend each State against internal violence, and to assist the civil authorities in the case of natural disaster.

Moreover, regular state and local police forces—which did not exist as such in the early days of our Republic—now hold primary responsibility for protecting their localities from internal violence, in addition to their ordinary duties of law enforcement.

As a result, there are few circumstances that would warrant calling forth the unorganized militia today. It is therefore unlikely that ordinary citizens shall be called on to provide for the security of their State.

Nonetheless,

That fact does not imply that the right to keep and bear arms is obsolete, nor that the concept of a militia is entirely archaic; it only means that there is not presently a great need for it. The logic of the Second Amendment, that there is value to a free state in having an armed populace from which to draw a broad-based militia, has dormant force. Under exceptionally dire circumstances, such as a foreign invasion or a prolonged breakdown of central authority, it may indeed become necessary to raise a militia that is accountable to the elected government of a State, or even a municipality.

Yet,

The preceding logic does mean, unequivocally, that Americans ought under no circumstances to form ‘militias’ that are not directly accountable to the elected legislature of a municipality, a State, or the Union. Self-proclaimed militias which answer only to themselves, even if they claim to represent some imagined idea of the popular will, are mere militant groups, not the militia defined by American tradition and the Constitution of the United States. Their multiplication today endangers the security of a free state. It is thus in direct violation of the Second Amendment.

This danger has been made clear by recent events. A young man crossed a state line to travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, armed, at the behest of such a self-styled militia, and killed two people there. He may yet be acquitted of the narrow charge of murder, if reason can be given to show that his immediate act of killing was done in self-defense.

But his larger action, and that of the group he associated himself with, brazenly defied the spirit of the Constitution. He was not defending his own home, which as a private citizen he might claim a right to do. Indeed, he could not claim to have been defending his own city, or even his own state: for he was a resident of Illinois, not of Wisconsin. The ‘militia’ whose call he answered is in no way accountable to the elected governments of Wisconsin or Kenosha; indeed, the city authorities had expressly turned it away. Neither it nor he had any business pretending to provide ‘security’ there. In doing so, they defied the popular will.

The act that occurred soon thereafter in Portland, Oregon was similar in nature. An individual  traveled from his home in Washington state to Portland, where he fancied himself to be providing ‘security’ for protests, and there killed a man. He had no more business there than his counterpart did in Kenosha; nor is the group he associated with, the self-styled ‘antifa,’ any more accountable to the elected governments of Oregon or Portland than the ‘Kenosha Guard’ is to the elected government of that city.

That ‘antifa’ is more diffuse than the self-proclaimed militias of the extreme right does not make it fundamentally different in character. It is a militant group, unaccountable to the people, whose affiliates seek to ape the roles of a militia while assuming none of the obligations of one. Such groups, whether they profess political alignment with the left or the right, ought to be equally unwelcome in our Republic.

Furthermore, the argument that militants were justified in coming to Kenosha and Portland because they had to protect the people there who were, at that moment, in danger, is wholly unconvincing. That violent unrest was occurring, or had occurred, in both cities is undeniable. But if the people of those cities needed outside aid, their elected government—and only their elected government—had the authority to request it on their behalf.

Indeed, in Kenosha, an accountable response to the rioting soon unfolded. The city government requested that the State of Wisconsin send in the National Guard. The state government responded: the Wisconsin National Guard deployed, followed by National Guard units from other States, which the government of Wisconsin had itself requested. Within a week, they restored the peace.

Therefore,

Responsibility for securing a free state begins and ends with a freely elected government, and a well-regulated militia is only the latent force of that government, mobilized at its call and no other’s. Those Americans who aspire to militia service as a civic calling ought thus to consider joining the National Guard. Others ought merely to be ready to answer their government’s call, should it come, and be content with the fact that it may not come in their lifetime. None ought to associate with unaccountable militants.

In regard to the present situation in these United States, it is with local and state governments that responsibility for dealing with domestic unrest primarily lies, and those authorities ought now to concentrate their minds on securing their citizens’ lives and property. Riotous behavior, and the militancy that it attracts, has gone on long enough. Although the task at hand may be made more difficult by federal intervention, which, though broadly lawful, is at present largely unconstructive, the time for excuses has passed. The outcome of the general election this November, and the faith of the people in elected government generally, may hinge in large part on whether the streets are soon calmed. Discipline and perseverance are needed; the future of the Republic is at stake.


[1] When hunting is done for subsistence, it assumes the station of a natural right and carries greater moral weight.

[2] Locke articulates it well in his Second Treatise of Government:

“…it being reasonable and just, I should have right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred: and one may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion… that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.”

In regards to defense of property, lethal means may be morally justified if the property concerned is necessary for the sustenance of life, such as food in a time of famine, or a vital medicine; and also if the attack on property is indistinguishable from an assault on one’s life, such as a mugging, or a burglary if the homeowner or his/her family is inside.

In the words of Locke:

“This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in his power, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right, to get me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away everything else.”

It must be noted here that Locke, and I, speak only of moral right; the actual laws of the United States and the several States differ on the particular circumstances in which lethal self-defense is permissible.

[3] As occurred, for instance, when National Guard units from several States were deployed to New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina.

[4] For a more detailed accounting of this history, I recommend the excellent short piece at the following link:

No. 1 – On Fundamental Liberties

No. 2 – On Federalism

No. 3 – On Representative Government

September 11th, 2001

All who were old enough know where they were on 9/11.

I was in history class, in middle school. My teacher stepped into the hallway. When he came back, he turned on the TV, and we saw the Twin Towers billowing smoke. He did not tell us what it was, and the school’s televisions were old and grainy. Could it have been part of our lesson?

In my next class, the principal made an announcement on the intercom. She told us that the World Trade Center had been attacked. Shortly afterward, I was summoned to the main office by name. I did not understand why. They had not told us about the Pentagon.

My father worked in the Pentagon then. He had been on the other side of the building; he was unhurt. I learned that from the school secretary, even though she, too, was reluctant to tell me much more until my mother arrived to bring me home. It was understandable. Confusion reigned, and ours was a school in Montgomery County, Maryland—20 miles from Washington, D.C. Who else might have had a family member in the Pentagon that day?

My family was fortunate. Too many others were not.

Let us remember them. Let us remember 9/11. And let us remember that, then, these United States of America were united. United before our enemies; united before our friends; and, as the fallen may attest, united before our Creator.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Governance by Executive Order

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” —Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution.

“He [the President] shall take Care that the laws be faithfully executed.” —Article 2, Section 3.

That the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted severe harm in these United States is an unavoidable fact. Equally unavoidable is that this crisis shall require vast public expenditure before it subsides; and because the several States now stand at or beyond the limit of their fiscal capacity, it is inevitable that those funds shall have to be provided by the federal government. Congress has made one such provision already, but has thus far faltered on the second attempt. A large section of our Union’s citizens and residents await a resolution.

Yet,

Governance by decree is contrary to the preservation of our Republic. No republic may long survive without adhering to the separation of powers, and only Congress is vested by the Constitution with the power to make appropriations of public funds. The executive may not withdraw funds from the Treasury, nor deprive the Treasury of tax revenue, unless authorized by law. To attempt otherwise would be an unlawful assertion of absolute and thus tyrannical power.

However,

The series of executive actions taken on August 8th, purportedly with the aim of alleviating the personal economic injury caused by COVID-19, is not necessarily unlawful, for it makes use of authorities delegated by existing law to the executive branch.

Of these, the executive order supposedly extending a moratorium on residential evictions is an empty document, which merely directs the executive bureaucracy to “consider,” “identify,” and “review” various objects and is devoid of concrete measures.

The presidential memorandum ordering the deferment of student loan repayments invokes a discretionary authority that seems, with reasonable clarity, to have been delegated by Congress to the Secretary of Education for a purpose applicable to the present situation: “A borrower of a loan made under this part shall be eligible for a deferment during any period not in excess of 3 years during which the Secretary determines… that the borrower has experienced or will experience an economic hardship.”

The memorandum ordering a deferment in the collection of the federal payroll tax makes use of an authority delegated by law to the Secretary of the Treasury to disregard tax liability for up to a year “in the case of a taxpayer determined by the Secretary to be affected by a federally declared disaster.” The final action, involving the extension of special unemployment benefits, attempts to draw money from a fund previously appropriated by Congress to provide for disaster relief.

Whether the two latter actions are lawful depends on whether the laws governing federally declared disasters were intended to be used in such a way. That question shall sooner or later be settled by the courts.

Nonetheless,

The motive of the incumbent President in regard to these actions may justly be called into question. As often before, his use of executive orders appears to be primarily for the purpose of staging political theater. He could well have taken vigorous measures more clearly consistent with the lawful powers of his office earlier in the course of the virus’ spread, so as to mitigate the severity of the present crisis;[1] but he did not act earnestly then. Half-measures today, done with doubtful authority, shall bring less benefit to the people in comparison.

Furthermore, this President has attempted before to draw money from the Treasury in open defiance of the separation of powers. In 2019, he ordered the expenditure of additional public funds for the construction of barriers on our Union’s southern border after Congress had unambiguously declined to appropriate the sum he had requested for that purpose. This action, illustrative of his Presidency as a whole, showed a contemptuous disregard for the spirit of the Constitution, if not yet—for we still await the Supreme Court’s judgment—the letter of the law.

Therefore,

Rather than simply decry each new order, it is time for Congress to reexamine the authority that it has, over the past century, delegated by law to the executive branch. Such allowance has perhaps been made too generously in the expectation, hitherto mostly well-founded, that the President would take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Presented as we now are with a pattern of bad faith, itself the logical progression of an era in which successive Presidents reached too readily for the executive pen, the preservation of our Republic may best be ensured by the legislature again reserving to itself a greater part of its constitutional authority.

It may well be that the laws governing national disasters—which by their very nature require a flexible and timely response—are not those which most warrant such revision. But if their misuse awakens the public to the broader delegation of legislative authority that permeates myriad aspects of life, then it shall have done a public good. In the meantime, Congress, too, ought to do a public good: by reaching agreement and reinvigorating the federal response to COVID-19.

[1] Chief among these would have been coordinating the acquisition and distribution between the States, on a massive scale, of protective and testing equipment.

No. 4 – On Bureaucracy

Recent Events in Portland, Oregon

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” —Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

On May 31st, I closed my observations with the hope that, in places where rioting persisted, lawful authorities would stop it only with proportionate means, without vindictiveness, and without harm to peaceable protesters. In cities throughout our Union, most violence soon subsided, due largely to the discipline of the many who came to demonstrate peacefully.

Yet in Portland, Oregon, hazards to liberty have arisen from the federal response to the few who persist with violence. That response, in the whole, has been marked by excess, vindictiveness, and harm to peaceable protesters. Grave principles are in play; but a shallow show is also being made of them, which works insidiously to erode all sense of principle. It ought not to be followed blindly.

The details of the events in Portland are complex, conflicted, and best understood by those who are well-acquainted with that city; I shall not attempt to establish them all. A few, however, do not appear to be seriously disputed by the parties involved:

1. That crowds have regularly formed around a federal courthouse, and at various times, some individuals have shot fireworks at it, set fires around it, and attempted to break into it.

2. That federal agents from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and perhaps other agencies, have been deployed to Portland and have been operating from the courthouse.

3. That those federal agents have not been readily identifiable from their uniforms or vehicles.

4. That those federal agents apprehended at least one person beyond the courthouse grounds by forcing him into an unmarked vehicle, and then held him at another location without charge.

5. That the State of Oregon and the City of Portland opposed the abovementioned actions of those federal agents, and the State of Oregon filed a federal lawsuit to restrain them. The Mayor of Portland urged the federal agents to depart the city.

6. That the President of the United States has encouraged the actions of those federal agents and threatened publicly to deploy them to other cities across the Union. He subsequently ordered such a deployment, over the objections of some of those city governments.

With these facts in mind, I have a few new observations to make.

First,

The act of unidentifiable agents apprehending a man on a street at some distance from the scene of unrest, taking him to another location in an unmarked vehicle, and holding him without charge, appears in every way to be violation of the right of the people to be secure in their persons against unreasonable searches and seizures. Whether it is in violation of current law, the court will decide; but if it is found not to be, then Congress ought to consider whether that law is in keeping with the Constitution’s spirit, and modify it. Abductions do not befit a free government.

Furthermore,

In considering the rights of the federal government to deploy agents in a State or city without the consent of its government, two portions of the Constitution come to mind:

“The Congress shall have Power… To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;” —Article 1, Section 8.

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.” —Article 4, Section 4.

Here the founding intent is less clear. My layman’s view is that Article 1, Section 8 grants the federal government full rights to send its forces, without state or local consent, to enforce federal law and to suppress rebellion. This view was established in the Insurrection Act, which was passed in 1807, within living memory of our Republic’s founding. Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution describes the Union’s obligations to the States; it therefore renders the federal government duty-bound to respond to unrest in a State if the state government requests aid, but does not expressly prohibit the federal government from doing so if the state government does not request such aid.

The legal questions in relation to the events in Portland are more numerous and complex. I desire only to make the point that federalism in these United States does not entirely preclude the exercise of federal authority when State and local governments do not wish it. Indeed, in the past, that authority has been used for good: federal agents, including Border Patrol officers, were deployed to suppress riots against James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi in 1962.

Today, that same power is being exercised with a more capricious intent. Yet the misuse of it can be checked without challenging the power itself. The Constitution may vest the federal government the power to deploy forces into the States to execute the laws of the Union, but the States may hold the Union to its laws: by bringing suit, as Oregon has done, against the agencies involved, and so ensuring that their actions are scrutinized in court.

Nonetheless,

That federal agents have, and ought to have, the legal authority to protect a federal courthouse from attempts at looting and arson is beyond reasonable dispute. The Constitution, as is clear from the passages quoted above, grants no indulgence to lawless violence. If the City of Portland desires federal agents to depart, the best way it may now achieve that end is to show that it will not allow the courthouse to be damaged by those individuals who still reject the dignity of peaceful protest.

This conclusion may seem unfair. The deployment of federal agents provoked more unrest, the city authorities might say, after a period when violence was seemingly declining; why, then, must the city once again take on the unenviable task of defusing it?

Because caprice, like lawlessness and injustice, cannot be overcome with more of the same. It must be countered by responsibility, steadfastness, and duty. The government of Portland is faced with a new opportunity to show that, unlike the present federal administration, it can calm its streets without excess, vindictiveness, or harm to peaceable protesters. It ought to seize that chance, and the city’s residents ought to support their elected government in doing so — thereby showing that they, in demanding justice, are determined to uphold principle.

Finally,

All citizens of these United States ought to recognize that these events, as with so much else today, are being used in an act of showmanship, and it is in following that act that the greatest danger lies. Though the would-be arsonists in Portland may fancy themselves revolutionaries, they on their own present no formidable rebellion; though Mr. Trump may be a despot at heart, he does not yet — even now — possess the unrestrained power to be one in practice. Lacking the ability to impose their will alone, these actors’ scripts are meant to push Americans to extremism, and thus to their support. Mr. Trump, in particular, has a nervous eye on the coming election.

Their common wish is to make citizens lose faith in the very idea of free and dignified government, and that is where tyranny begins. We must stand firm.

No. 1 – On Fundamental Liberties

No. 2 – On Federalism

Oklahoma and the Five Tribes

“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of fed­eral criminal law. Because Congress has not said other­wise, we hold the government to its word.” —Opinion of the Supreme Court, delivered by Justice Gorsuch.

This ruling (linked below), somewhat overshadowed by the Court’s pronouncements on Mr. Trump’s tax returns the same day, significantly affects the relationship between the State of Oklahoma and the Five Tribes that have resided there since traversing the Trail of Tears in the 1830s: the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole.

The case began with a jurisdictional challenge by Jimcy McGirt, a Seminole man convicted in state court of raping a four-year-old child; it ended with the Supreme Court determining that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation, where the crime took place, had never been disestablished by law and thus remains in existence today. The same logic is likely to apply to the other four tribes, whose combined reservation lands would cover most of eastern Oklahoma, including the city of Tulsa. That area’s population today is about 10-15% American Indian.

The ruling will compel Oklahoma, the federal government, and the Five Tribes to think through the complex federalism that exists where federal, state, local, and tribal authority overlap on the same territory. Its immediate legal effect seems to be that Indians charged with crimes in Eastern Oklahoma will be tried in either tribal or federal courts, rather than state courts, and that all Indians residing on that reservation land may be exempted from some state tax. The State would continue to perform its normal functions otherwise.

There is a feeling of justice fulfilled, in that the ruling affirmed the lasting duty of the United States to uphold its laws and treaty obligations, even where those obligations have been ignored or subverted in the past. Yet there are also issues regarding local governance, particularly in zoning and land use, that could arise from it. Important principles are at play: the right of the Indian Nations to exercise their due amount of sovereignty over those lands, and the right of the area’s (now mostly non-Indian) inhabitants to have a say in their local government.

The parties involved seem to be off to a productive start: federal attorneys, the State, and the Five Tribes have announced that they are all working together on a new legal framework for the area concerned, which they will present to federal authorities in Washington. They have a chance to show our Republic and the world a new model for how the several States and the American Indian Nations can coexist as partly-sovereign entities within our common Union. And the first step may be to show that they can still hold Mr. McGirt accountable for his crimes.

No. 2 – On Federalism

No. 9 – On Citizenship

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/18-9526_9okb.pdf

On the 4th of July, 2020

“WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES… And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” —The Declaration of Independence, signed July 4th, 1776.

George Washington read the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Army in New York City on July 9th, 1776, leaving those words in his soldiers’ ears. A week before, a formidable British force had begun to land on Staten Island. Two months later, the Continental Army was driven out of New York and across New Jersey. Small victories at Trenton and Princeton brought short-lived respite; defeat followed until Philadelphia was captured and the Revolutionary soldiers were on the brink of starvation. Only after they emerged from the ordeal of Valley Forge in 1778 did the tide begin to turn. Triumph at Yorktown came in 1781, more than five years after the Declaration’s signing.

The Declaration of Independence was not a pronouncement of victory; it was a statement of intent. Its signing on July 4th, 1776, was not a moment of triumph, but the beginning of an arduous trial. Americans then had to work to achieve the independence asserted by the Declaration; Americans ever since have had to work to fulfill the self-evident truths expressed within it. On the 4th of July, we, as citizens, rightly celebrate our Republic’s independence. In this year of trial, we should also resolve ourselves to carry out the hard work that is necessary to preserve and perfect it.

Thus, for the support of that Declaration, we could well-use this occasion to again mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Representation for Washington, D.C.

“The Congress shall have Power… To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings.” —Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

The bill recently passed by the House of Representatives to confer statehood upon Washington, D.C. proposes a solution to an old problem: that, in the District of Columbia, a great number of U.S. citizens — now more than 700,000 — do not possess a vote in Congress.

It is clear, as a matter of republican principle, that the inhabitants of Washington, D.C. ought to be represented in the government of the Union. Just governance obtains the consent of the governed, and in a republic that consent is obtained through the election of representatives who vote on their constituents’ behalf in the legislature. This logic applies as much to the federal capital as it does to the rest of the country. A city must have permanent residents in order to function; those residents are citizens of the United States; and citizens of the United States ought to be represented in Congress.

Some form of representation for the residents of Washington, D.C., furthermore, appeared to be the Founders’ intent. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 43, two years prior to the District’s establishment in 1790:

“And as [the District] is to be appropriated to this use with the consent of the State ceding it; as the State will no doubt provide in the compact for the rights and the consent of the citizens inhabiting it; as the inhabitants will find sufficient inducements of interest to become willing parties to the cession; as they will have had their voice in the election of the government which is to exercise authority over them; as a municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them…every imaginable objection seems to be obviated.”

More than two centuries later, that intention remains partially unfulfilled. The parts of it that have been realized came but slowly: Washington, D.C. received Electoral College representation with the ratification of the 23rd Amendment in 1961, and was allowed an elected local government with the passage of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act in 1973. Congressional representation, the last remaining part, is long overdue to the permanent residents of Washington, D.C.; and it ought to be provided, in some form, without further delay.

However,

The Founders did not intend the federal capital to be a State. Their reasoning rested on sound logic: that no State ought to have undue influence over the Union by having jurisdiction over the grounds on which the government of that Union convenes. As Mr. Madison also wrote:

“The indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of government, carries its own evidence with it. …Without it, not only the public authority might be insulted and its proceedings interrupted with impunity; but a dependence of the members of the general government on the State comprehending the seat of the government, for protection in the exercise of their duty, might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the [Union].”

The present bill proposes to address this imperative by creating a new State out of the residential and commercial areas of the city, while maintaining the present federal District in a reduced area comprising the principal federal buildings: the Capitol, White House, and Supreme Court, as well as the Department of State and certain other federal agency headquarters, and the National Mall and its monuments. It would thus in theory ensure Congressional authority over the effectual seat of the federal government, defined as the buildings most essential to that government’s operation.

This solution, to the layman’s eye (such as my own), appears constitutional: Article 1, Section 8 requires only that Congress exercise exclusive legislation over the seat of government of the United States, and that the maximum size of this seat be ten miles square; it does not specify a minimum size, and does not prohibit the reduction of this area, so long as Congress gives its assent.

Yet a practical question arises as to whether a new State of Washington, D.C. that controls most of the existing capital city might nonetheless have undue influence over the federal government, even if its territory does not include the main federal buildings. For instance, federal officials would have no option but to live and pay tax either in that State, or in Maryland or Virginia; the principal federal buildings would likely rely on public services, such as garbage collection, that are provided by the new State; and, as Union Station is outside the reserved enclave, the federal government would not be guaranteed uninterrupted access to a transportation hub.

Or, as Mr. Madison put it:

“This consideration has the more weight, as the gradual accumulation of public improvements at the stationary residence of the government would be both too great a public pledge to be left in the hands of a single State, and would create so many obstacles to a removal of the government, as still further to abridge its necessary independence.”

The inverse of this issue, that a State of Washington, D.C. might itself be unduly dependent on the federal government, and thus unable to exercise the partial sovereignty that statehood entails, also warrants examination. The present District’s water supply, for instance, is controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. Its economy, moreover, is singularly reliant on the federal bureaucracy — even more so than those of Virginia or Maryland.

The present bill does not fully address those considerations, but instead leaves them to an appointed commission that would be convened only after the bill becomes law.

Furthermore,

The claim that the bill would not require a constitutional amendment seems misleading. Admitting a new State, it is true, only requires a majority vote of both houses of Congress. Yet the admission of Washington, D.C. as a State would necessitate repeal of the 23rd Amendment, which established a special formula for the District’s Electoral College representation. If that Amendment were to remain in effect after a new State is formed from the greater part of the city of Washington, it could be construed as to transfer the present District’s three electoral votes to the residents of the federal remnant — which, insofar as the White House is the only residential building in that enclave, would consist mainly of Presidents and their families. The demerits of giving incumbent Presidents such direct influence over their own re-election are self-evident.

The repeal of the 23rd Amendment would itself have to be a constitutional amendment, as the repeal of Prohibition was. It ought to be timed so as to take effect at the same moment that a new State is formed. The current bill makes no such provision, instead arranging only to expedite Congressional consideration of the repeal.

Alternatively,

It is conceivable for the inhabitants of Washington, D.C. to be accorded voting representation in Congress, as is their due, without the District assuming the reserved powers of statehood, which could undermine Congressional jurisdiction over the federal capital. In a federal republic such as ours, we associate representation with the partly-sovereign status of statehood; yet in the centralized governments of Europe, the subordination of administrative districts to the central government does not preclude their inhabitants’ representation in the national legislature. Such a status would appear to be what Mr. Madison had in mind for the District of Columbia.

Accordingly, contained in these essays (No. 9 – On Citizenship) is a proposal that Washington, D.C. — and, separately, the smaller U.S. territories overseas — be granted voting representation in the House of Representatives as a special district, without being made a State. This proposal was founded on the logic that the House is meant to represent the people directly, whereas the Senate is meant to represent the States; and thus representation in the House need not be contingent on statehood. Such an arrangement would require a constitutional amendment to enact, though it would also allow the 23rd Amendment to remain in place.

Other alternatives appear inadequate. A return of most of the present District to Maryland — which originally ceded the territory — would incur the same considerations of undue influence, and it would require the District’s residents to relinquish their separate political existence, maintained for more than two centuries, which they understandably seem reluctant to do. It would furthermore require the assent of the Maryland legislature, which itself might not be forthcoming. Proposals for residents of Washington, D.C. to count as Maryland residents for representation, while leaving the territory outside the jurisdiction of the State of Maryland, would distort Maryland’s politics and muddy the concept of statehood generally. Bestowing both House and Senate representation on the District without conferring statehood, as the unratified District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment of 1978 proposed, would confuse the federal aspect of our Union by altering the Senate’s role of representing co-equal and partly-sovereign States.

Therefore,

Washington, D.C. ought either to be admitted as a State if — and only if — a bill doing so can convincingly address the practicalities of undue influence and make its enactment contingent on repeal of the 23rd Amendment; or else voting representation in the House of Representatives ought to be provided for the residents of Washington, D.C. by constitutional amendment, while retaining Congressional jurisdiction over the whole District.

If there are adequate practical means to ensure that Washington, D.C., as the bill proposes, may be admitted to the Union “on equal footing with the other States in all respects whatever,” without undue influence over the federal government, then those means will arise in the course of scrutiny and debate. In considering such solutions, it would be valuable to draw from the experience of the federal government’s dealings with Virginia, to whose jurisdiction Arlington and Alexandria were returned from the District of Columbia in 1847 with the acquiescence of Congress. The Pentagon is located in Virginia, as are the metropolitan area’s principal airports.

To this end, the Senate ought to consider the present bill on its merits, amend it as necessary, and vote on it; and then propose a new bill or constitutional amendment if the present measure fails to pass. If this Senate refuses to debate this bill out of partisan disdain, then the matter ought instead to be taken up by the next Congress.

Finally,

Whether or not this bill, or a variant of it, becomes law, it is worth noting that its sponsors chose a worthy name for the State which would arise from it. Washington, Douglass Commonwealth preserves the form, “Washington, D.C.,” that the city’s residents and all Americans have long been accustomed to; it continues to honor George Washington, who watched over our Republic in its infancy; and it bestows deserved recognition on another great American, Frederick Douglass, who gave our Union, then in its adolescence, the advice it needs to mature with dignity today.

No. 3 – On Representative Government

No. 9 – On Citizenship