June 17, 2021

A pause in the news for a little bragging

Sam Smith - One of the problems with progressive journalism is that many of the great ideas and projects you report don't make it, despite their logic and virtue. So it comes as a rare surprise when two movements I helped start long ago are actually making some headway.

It was fifty-one years ago when I first wrote about how DC could become a state without a constitutional amendment. The total initial reaction I got was from one reader who sent a five dollar check to be used if anything happened to the idea.  Several months later, however, we were in a church basement plotting for local civil rights activists Julius Hobson his campaign for non-voting delegate, the colonial city's only spot in Congress. At one point Hobson said, "So what am I going to run on" and someone in the back of the room said, "Well, Sam wrote this interesting article about how DC could become a state." We didn't discuss it more than fifteen minutes when Julius said, "That's it. That's what I'm running on."

It's been a half century since that meeting, but the House has now passed a pro statehood bill, even if the evenly divided Senate couldn't. Come a comprehensive control of both Congress and the White House by the Democrats, DC statehood would move to the start of the list.

The other better than normal case is the ranked choice voting movement which got its start in Cincinnati in 1992 but later that year held its first Washington meeting at our house including the GOP politician John Anderson as well as progressives like myself. The organizer was Rob Richie, one of the finest activists I've ever known and who, to this day runs the key organization for the cause, Fair Vote. As Wikipedia reports, ranked-choice voting is used for state primary, congressional, and presidential elections in Alaska and Maine and for local elections in more than 20 US cities. Most exciting it is being used in New York City this month for the first time. With eight mayoral candidates, ranked choice is clearly the best way to find a consensus. 

The DC statehood and the ranked choice voting issues taught me not to predict a movement's chances in its early stages. These two took 30-50 years to get rolling but I'm glad to have been part of the effort.


Rob Richie said...

Sam! So nice to read this, and thank you for all you've done over the years and in general and for helping to hold that beacon alight for ideas like ranked choice voting, DC statehood and proportional representation.

Greg Gerritt said...

I have a similar story. . 7 years ago I started a campaign to end the building of any new fossil fuel facilities. Hardly anyone took it seriously, even those who knew it was necessary to stop runaway climate catastrophe. Last Month the International Energy Agency came out and said the exact same thing.

Proncias MacAnEan said...

I don't think DC deserves 2-senators. None of the tiny population states should have the same senatorial representation as Texas, California, NY or Florida. How about giving the 17-lowest population states one senator; the middle 17, two senators; and the largest 17-states get 3-senators. (Obviously I'm including DC here, to get the 3 x 17.)

And while we're at it, not having both senators elected in the same year is a mistake that should also be sorted out. It gives one party with just over 50% of the vote, 100% of the senators. Wouldn't senators from different parties foster more bi-partisanship.