By Ralph Nader
Dear President Obama:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reflected your sentiments when she commented on the Egyptian uprising with the words “We want to see free and fair elections.”
But in the District of Columbia, where you and Secretary Clinton reside, there are no “free and fair elections” for electing representatives with full voting rights to Congress. There is only the continual disenfranchisement –unique to all other national capital cities in purported democracies—for the hundreds of thousands of voting age citizens in the District of Columbia.
You stated that the United States “will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people.” Presumably that includes the right to have members of Parliament, with full voting rights, elected by the Egyptian voters.
Although you declared in the 2008 election that you supported voting rights for the District –at the least one voting member of the House of Representatives if not two voting Senators—but you used little if any of your political capital or the bully pulpit and muscle to get even the most modest measure through Congress.
Will you now stand up for the voting rights in Congress for District voters, especially since the Republicans in the House have just taken away what Committee-level voting rights Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has had?
Here is a suggestion to get started and one that will enhance a spirit of solidarity. Why not invite 100 of the exuberant, bi-lingual, peaceful Egyptian demonstrators to come to Washington, D.C. and help rally District residents in a massive gathering for their democratic rights in front of the White House at Lafayette Park?
Before you address them, you can look out the window of the White House and see the colonials’ signs, and banners and hear their chants.
They might even announce a staggered General Strike whereby at the beginning of each month they come to work 30 minutes later in the morning so that in six months, they go to work at noon. Some employers, especially non-profits and commercial concerns with a sense of self-respect and human rights, may actually encourage such commitment and join with them.
During this elevating protest, people can discuss what it means to the District of Columbia when Congress can over-rule the City Council’s decisions, vanquish referenda results, distort its budget, and decline to adequately reimburse the District government for incurring many federal governmental expenses, as precisely outlined recently by Colbert King in the January 29th Washington Post. Conversely, they can ponder with you what is not even contemplated by District residents because of their thralldom to the Congressional veto.
So, come home with your rhetoric, Mr. President, come home to liberate your District of Columbia. What is your response?
(Anyone interested in helping voting rights for Congress in D.C. can call the White House switchboard number at 202-456-1414 and express your opinion.)