Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling (right). Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Phil: It seems to me your side is obsessed with expanding voting rights for the people of Washington, D.C., so Democrats can add two seats in the Senate and one in the House.

Ethan: Indeed we are obsessed with expanding voting rights. You know, “no taxation without representation” and all that.

Phil: The reason DC is not a state goes back to 1783 when our Founders had to move the capital from Philadelphia to Princeton, because Pennsylvania would not clear away demonstrators who were seeking to intimidate Congress. This confirmed for the American Founders that the capital should not be at the mercy of any state.

Ethan: Are you really pulling out the 1783 playbook to justify excluding people from voting in 2021? If so, there are a few other voting exclusions from that era I would love to see you justify (see Blacks, women, Native Americans and white dudes with no property).

Phil: The difference, in this case, is that our Founders actually had a good reason. Our federal government has to be on neutral land. Can you imagine the leverage a state would have if the White House was actually controlled by them?

Ethan: I am pretty sure our federal government can still march into any area it wants should some state be doing something they don’t like (see the Civil War and Trump clearing Lafayette Square).

Phil: If your cause is truly about voting rights, why not simply allow the fine people of Washington, D.C. to vote in Maryland? That is a state they used to be part of before Washington annexed 10 miles for the federal government.

Ethan: Had you been a Mainer in 1820, would you have been OK if Maine had simply been told, “You are already part of Massachusetts, so no need for you to become your own state”?

Phil: Thank you for honoring that I am not old enough to have been here 200 years ago, but Maine becoming its own state was a compromise that offset bringing in a slave state. There is no tradeoff here.

Ethan: How about if we also bring in Puerto Rico?

Phil: I rest my case. This is simply about gaining more Democratic votes in the 50/50 Senate.

Ethan: Most of us have supported DC statehood long before the Senate was split 50/50. However, party affiliation should never be taken into account when talking about the sovereignty of a people.

Phil: Agreed. So, why didn’t Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid make this happen when they had sizable majorities? Be honest with our readers, Strim, if DC wasn’t a Democratic stronghold, this debate would not be happening. Democratic party registration in D.C. is 76 percent, they have voted for the Democratic ticket for president every year since D.C. got the right to vote in 1961. Seventy-eight percent even voted for Sen. George McGovern for heaven’s sake!

Ethan: McGovern would have made a great president.

Phil: You are so predictable.

Ethan: Look, as much as you charge my side with being partisan, if DC was a Republican stronghold, Mitch McConnell would not be opposing it. But since Republicans have done virtually nothing for the residents of the District, can you blame them for voting for Democrats?

Phil: OK, putting aside what both of us see as partisanship from the other, how are you going to get past our Constitution, which says Congress has exclusive control: “… over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may…become the Seat of the Government of the United States”?

Ethan: As you cite, the Constitution says federal land cannot be bigger than 10×10 miles. As the House passed, you simply cut down the federal piece to encompass the White House, the Mall, The Capitol, and the Supreme Court, etc. Leaves the vast majority of the territory as the state.

Phil: That sounds like a jurisdictional nightmare, especially since you’d be giving whoever lives at the White House the three electoral votes constitutionally guaranteed by the 23rd Amendment.

Ethan: Well, there’s your political tradeoff! Donald Trump could have given himself three more electoral votes to offset whatever DC did!

Phil: How about we just leave it the way it is? Sheesh.