Republicans, media flip out over Democrats’ stance on Israeli capital, ignore own capital

Anyone paying even passing attention to the Democratic National Convention this week no doubt heard about the Republican Party losing its collective mind over the Democrats’ failure to mention Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in its party platform. The omission was seen as a departure from the Democrats’ traditional stance, as the party since 1992 had included language recognition of Jerusalem in its platform. Officially, the US government still recognizes Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, where the US Embassy is located.

The outcry, amplified by the national media, was so great that the party buckled and at President Obama’s urging amended the platform to include language on Jerusalem. Before this could be done, however, cable news viewers were treated to some delegate drama reminiscent of the days when conventions were less predictable than the heavily scripted affairs they are today.

Meanwhile, the news media made nary a mention of both party’s collective yawn when it came to addressing the antiquated status of their own country’s capital, the District of Columbia. As noted on this blog, the Republicans defeated an attempt by the DC GOP to include language in the party platform advocating home rule and Congressional voting rights for the city, while the Democrats for the third time since 2000 left support for DC statehood out of the platform. DC news outlets covered the issue pretty well, but the national media mostly ignored it.

The obscene amount of attention devoted to this faux controversy must have been disheartening to the DC Democrats, who had descended on Charlotte intent on making the country (and even their own party) care about the District’s plight as a city beholden to the whims of Congress.

DC Mayor Vince Gray, who earlier in the week had to miss speaking at a DC budget autonomy rally due to a police cordon in downtown Charlotte, finally had a chance to speak directly to the country about DC when he cast District’s votes for President Obama during the DNC roll call vote, decrying taxation without representation as he did so. But by the time Gray made his appeal, it was midnight on the east coast, the networks had tuned out, and most people who hadn’t already been watching Honey Boo Boo on TLC earlier in the evening probably were by that time catching it on their DVR’s or had already gone to bed.

The lack of attention given to DC during the conventions is even more surprising given the fact that the issues DC leaders habitually rail against–unfair taxation, unencumbered federal control over local affairs–are issues that have had national resonance ever since the Republicans decided to begin disliking debt and federal spending.

Well, now that the conventions are over, at least the country can rest assured that both major political parties are on the record as supporting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Unfortunately, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem willing to invest half as much effort in ensuring that the capital of their own country is afforded the status it deserves.

Fortunately for them, the rest of the country doesn’t seem to care.

Non-States Roll Call, part II – the Democratic National Convention

In a follow up to our post on how the non-states branded themselves at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week, we take a look at how Democratic delegates from the non-states introduced themselves during the Roll Call vote in Charlotte.

American Samoa: Geography was front and center for Democrats and Republicans from America’s southernmost territory, as Democratic delegates last night echoed their Republican peers by branding themselves as “the only part of the United States south of the equator” In a bit of progressive flair, the American Samoan Democrats pointed out that the territory is “the land of our nation’s cleanest air.”

District of Columbia: DC Mayor Vincent Gray’s impassioned speech harkened back to the nation’s founding in resistance to taxation without representation, and could have been lifted right out of a Republican speechwriter’s notebook. Before casting the District’s votes for President Obama, Mayor Gray asked all Americans to help “bring justice and equality to the District of Columbia.” Gray’s appeal for DC voting rights stood in stark contrast to the DC Republicans’ roll call speech in Tampa. After their suggested amendment to the GOP platform calling for DC voting rights and home rule were roundly rejected by the Republican platform committee, the DC GOP meekly stated they were excited to cast their votes for candidate Mitt Romney.

Guam: Guam voiced support for President Obama’s plans for a military buildup in Guam that is “done right.” The military’s increased presence in Guam is part of the larger US strategy to rebalance military forces to the Asia-Pacific region. After lauding Obama’s support for medicare and working families, the Guam delegation voiced support for Obama’s belief in the territory’s “right to self-determination.”

Northern Mariana Islands: No delegation present, as the territory did not hold a Democratic Party primary or caucus.

Puerto Rico: Unlike the Republican Puerto Rican delegates, the Democrats made no reference to statehood. Instead, the territory’s Democrats gave a shout out to the Supreme Court’s first Latina justice, Sonia Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent and is an Obama appointee. The Delegation called Obama a “good amigo” of the people of Puerto Rico.

US Virgin Islands: In front of a nearly-empty convention hall at 12:48 AM Eastern Time, US Virgin Islands Democratic Party Chair Emmett Hansen, on behalf of the “proud Caribbean Americans” of the US Virgin Islands (USVI), called on the country to support the territory’s aspirations to one day cast votes for president in the general election. Currenly, the District of Columbia is the only non-state to have this distinction. Hansen wrapped up his short speech with a bit of a tourist pitch, casting the territory’s 12 votes from “the hills and windmills of St. Croix, the wonderful shopping in St. Thomas, and the beautiful jewel St. John.”

Mayor Gray, Norton barred from addressing pro-DC budget autonomy rally

Well, for DC self-government advocates looking to make a splash at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, this week, today’s budget autonomy rally was a wash.

DC Mayor Vincent Gray and US House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton were barred from attending the rally after police shut down a section of downtown Charlotte in response to an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.

From the Washington City Paper:

A massive police shutdown outside the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., meant that Mayor Vince Gray and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton were unable to speak at a pro-D.C. budget autonomy rally today, according to D.C. Vote spokesman James Jones.

Gray and Norton were supposed to be the headlining speakers at today’s rally, which Jones says was held at a designated “free speech zone” near the convention. But those plans went awry after a small army of police responded to a couple dozen Occupy protestors who occupied an intersection nearby.

“It was locked down, totally locked down,” Jones says of the area around where the pro-D.C. rally took place. He says the police presence prevented would-be rallygoers, including the mayor and Norton, from getting to the rally in time. The mayor eventually showed up, Jones says, but apparently not in time to give a speech.

The budget autonomy rally that wasn’t was the second setback of the day for DC rights advocates. The Democratic Party rolled out its 2012 platform on Monday morning, and, as expected, it included no reference to DC statehood.

Mayor Gray will press on with the District’s case the rest of this week, but, if Monday was any indication, he has a tough slog ahead of him in Charlotte.

Unsurprisingly, DC rates low on both parties’ agendas

Barring some unlikely showdown on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, this week, it looks like the Democratic Platform for the third time since 2000 will make no mention of supporting statehood for the District of Columbia.

Instead, Democrats are likely to endorse a blander option short of statehood, similar to the party’s position in 2008, which called for self-government and representation in Congress. Continue reading

And now, the Commuter Tax! (again)

A consequence of DC’s unique status as the federal district is our inability to raise taxes ourselves without Congressional approval.

A 2003 Government Accountability Office study found that DC loses between $470 million to $1.1 billion annually in potential tax revenue because of the federal government’s presence in DC. Not only is the city unable to collect property taxes from federal buildings and embassies, some estimates say that only 28% of the federal employees whose offices are located within the District actually live in the city, depriving government coffers of much-needed tax revenue.

DC leaders have long argued that a commuter tax could help make up lost revenue. Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee that has legislative jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, said recently that after the election Congress should “start to think about how…how to deal with the only place that doesn’t have the ability to tax people who earn their income in that place.” Continue reading