“Americans don’t live here or on cable TV.”

I didn’t hear Jon Stewart’s speech from the Mall, so his quote about where real Americans live didn’t hit me until today. I’m guessing his claim was designed to set up the old, tired prejudice that the 495 Beltway is some kind of line that separates real Americans from the DC punditocracy. Given his various criticisms of the rhetoric of authenticity, I hoped for better from him. But as I’ve said, I never thought Stewart was some kind of visionary leader. He’s a comedian, and he often goes for the easy joke. (UPDATE: As per Annika’s comment below, the context suggests his “here” meant only the Capitol Building, not the US Capital. At best Stewart gives an ambiguous echo of the Beltway/Real America division. I owe him the same charity he reserves for his guests so I retract what I’ve written above. That said, the rest of what I write here still seems appropriate.)

On the other hand, maybe he’s right. In a very real sense, DC residents are not Americans. Today is our nation’s election day, and while everyone else decides the course of our national policy over the next two years, we will vote for a slate of local offices including the much-discussed mayor’s race. However, because DC is a one-party town, few of these elections are seriously contested. Moreover, when District residents return Eleanor Holmes Norton to the House of Representatives, she will have no impact on whether Democrats or Republicans hold the House, because she cannot vote.

The closest analogy is to colonial possessions, and the fact that the majority of the District’s residents are African-American who still don’t have much local isonomy even under so-called Home Rule ought perhaps to drive that point home.  That’s why I support HR 1014, the ‘No Taxation Without Representation Act

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to tax bona fide residents of the District of Columbia in the same manner as bona fide residents of possessions of the United States.

It would treat DC residents like the residents of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Gaum, the Northern Marinara Islands, and American Samoa by exempting them from paying federal income tax on income earned in the District itself.

Of course, I don’t like being without voting representatives in the House and Senate. My preference would still be to rejoin Maryland for taxation and voting purposes (which would entail higher taxes, but supply access to representation in the Senate where the filibuster and anonymous holds supply greater power.)

The Democrats have not served the District well in this regard, since they put off a vote on the DC Voting Rights Act in April. Surprisingly, though the Democrats often voice the rhetoric of Home Rule, it’s House Republicans like Louie Gohmert and Jason Chaffetz that keep advancing full-fledged solutions rather than half-measures like a single Representative in a body of 437 others. Huh.

Here’s President Obama:

On this occasion, we remember the day in 1862 when President Lincoln freed the enslaved people of Washington, D.C. – nine months before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. I am proud that an original copy of that document now hangs in the Oval Office, and we remain forever grateful as a nation for the struggles and sacrifices of those Americans who made that emancipation possible.

Americans from all walks of life are gathering in Washington today to remind members of Congress that although D.C. residents pay federal taxes and serve honorably in our armed services, they do not have a vote in Congress or full autonomy over local issues. And so I urge Congress to finally pass legislation that provides D.C. residents with voting representation and to take steps to improve the Home Rule Charter.

The man is the President of the United State of America. Why doesn’t anybody ever listen to him? (Could it be because he lives in DC?)





2 responses to ““Americans don’t live here or on cable TV.””

  1. Annika Avatar

    Did you check out the context? Here's more of the speech: "So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

    The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it–impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make."

    (taken from here: http://www.examiner.com/celebrity-in-national/ral

    The basic idea is that we make compromises every day (he had this long merging-on-the-freeway analogy) but politicians and the news media do not. And yes, maybe there's some insult to be read into the fact that he said "here" when he really meant "in the U.S. Capitol building" (which was very close by). But I don't think he's saying that real Americans don't live in DC.

    1. Joshua Avatar

      I agree that the context suggests that he probably meant to gesture at the Capitol building behind him. So the fairest reading is that he never intended to include other DC residents.

      On the other hand, he isn't the first person to metonymize the Capitol and the Capital.

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