The Tea Party movement claims the mantle of Revolutionary forefathers to fight for liberty against the despotism of a distant ruler. They take their name from the Boston Tea Partiers who protested Britain’s taxation of Americans without representation in Parliament; a Parliament whose members nevertheless asserted power over the colonies “…in all cases whatsoever”.
If this is the mantle they wish to claim, I have a fight worthy of these modern-day Samuel Adamses: revolt against the despotism that subjects women in Washington, D.C. to laws created by an Arizonian.
This week, Rep. Trent Franks, the Republican chair of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, held a hearing on legislation he introduced that would bar women from receiving a late-term abortion. Abominable in its own right, but made worse by the fact that law would only apply to women in Washington, D.C. and no where else. No other city, county, or state, not even the voters of Arizona’s Second Congressional District who elected Rep. Franks into office, would be affected by the law.
Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution allows such despotism. This section enumerates Congress’s enumerated powers and among them is the power
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States… (emphasis added)
He didn’t even allow D.C.’s elected Representative (D.C. elects a non-voting Representative to the House), Eleanor Holmes Norton, to speak on the matter affecting the citizens affected by the law.
By virtue of the District of Columbia being a federal district, a legislator of Arizona can interfere with a woman’s medical decisions, a different Arizonian legislator working with one from Montana can gut gun laws, and legislators representing residents from every American state can prevent the Washington’s city government from approving its own budget.
This week, District residents went to Franks’s office to register complaints about other local issues: problems with Metro, broken steps at an elementary school, unlit streetlights. If Franks wants to rule over the District, then they wanted him to commit to providing the constituent services that lawmakers provide.
I doubt the current Tea Party will heed a call to arms over this modern despotism. The social conservatives who aligned themselves with the movement certainly don’t mind the tyranny. A spokesperson for the National Right to Life Committee told a Washington Post reporter, “the U.S. Constitution makes it crystal clear that the District of Columbia belongs to all of the American people, and is to be governed by the Congress and the president.” Despotism it is!
There are several ways to end this tyranny, though all require herculean efforts including action by Congress. If you live in one of the United States and feel compelled to end this colonialism perpetrated in your name, I encourage you to call your Representative and Senator to demand their action. And ask the next Tea Partier you see to call theirs, too.