How to Make Statehood for D.C. Happen — With Bipartisan Support

It’s actually pretty simple: Add another Red State.

The question, of course, is where.

The answer lies in fixing mistakes made when the borders of the Pacific States — California, Oregon, Washington — were drawn in the wayback.

ArcGIS Online screencap
ArcGIS Online Screncap

These boundaries were established before airplanes, automobiles, and satellites —so it kind of makes sense that they don’t make a lot of sense.

Politics is strongly driven by geography, and the extreme partisanship gripping the United States is worsened in the West by state borders that no longer make any sense. The Red-Blue divide is far from a perfect proxy for how the United States is divided, but it unfortunately does now describe two largely incompatible lifestyles.

2020 Presidential Election Results by county

The shaded map above is color-coded by the strength of the win for each Presidential Candidate. Dark red generally means you’re looking at a 2:1 preference for the Republican, Dark blue means the same for the Democrat, and lighter shaded mean much narrower victories.

In the Klamath Mountains of southern Oregon and northern California and the eastern slopes of the Cascades of Washington and Oregon there exists an almost unbroken sea of red stretching all the way to the Rocky Mountains, with the only light blue patches corresponding exurban cities like Chico, Bend, and Spokane.

The 2020 Presidential Election was about as good a barometer as you can get of people’s political views across the United States. The Pacific States are home to a large, geographically connected and economically related region politically aligned with Idaho and Utah far more than it is San Francisco or Seattle.

House Seats in this region also reflect the strong partisan divides. The Cook Political Report shades a seat red or blue depending on how likely it is to flip in the next election. As you can see, across Oregon, Washington, and Northern California there is only a single truly contested House Seat.

Cook Political Report House Ratings 2020

But in Oregon, Washington, and California the grouping of these less densely populated areas with big cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland means they have effectively zero representation in the Senate and no impact on the Electoral College. In the State legislatures representatives from these districts are almost completely powerless, leading to substantial under-investment in these areas by state government.

Right now political animosity is high across the United States, and each of these states has seen substantial anti-government activity. We have already seen brutal acts of political violence and extremist groups are growing larger.

Something has to give — and there is a solution that can benefit everyone: tie statehood for the District of Columbia to setting up a new conservative state carved from California, Oregon, and Washington: Cascades.

The New State of Cascades (in red)

Given the brutal national political environment, giving the District of Columbia the Statehood its residents desire and deserve will be extremely difficult — unless Senate conservatives gain two new members to offset the two new Democratic Party Senators who would be certain to come the 51st State.

So I propose a 52nd, following the old spirit of American compromise that produced many new states before — including Hawaii and Alaska.

Cascades — named for the major mountain range in the area— would have a combined population of around 2.5 million. Wyoming, by contrast, has only 600,000 yet is a state, while neighborhing Idaho has 1.8 million, so size-wise it makes as much sense as Vermont.

The largest urban area would be Spokane, in eastern Washington. It would probably be ideal to put the capital somewhere a little closer to the center of the region — the Dalles might be a good option.

Not only would this allow the District of Columbia to become a State with bipartisan support, but the residents of California, Oregon, and Washington would also gain from the bargain. Each state government is presently responsible for large areas that are perpetually opposed to the laws and policies the majority of residents in other parts of the state prefer. And because the bit coastal cities dominate the political landscape, republicans are fast becoming a third party with no power in Sacramento, Salem, or Olympia.

This doesn’t help anyone, is anti-democratic, and the difficulties uniting democrats and republicans aren’t going away any time soon. They are now based in completely different visions for how society should function. Any opportunity to ease the tension ought to be taken.

So I say let’s start off an era of badly-overdue reforms (coming whether Americans want them to or not) with a grand compromise:

The District of Columbia becomes the 51st State.

And Cascades becomes the 52nd.

Author of Bringing Ragnarok. Independent Research Consultant.

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