President Trump wants a Wall. Or steel slats. Or any type of physical barrier, so he can call it a Wall for his base. He has said that if the customary way of asking Congress for funding fails, he will use the extraordinary means of declaring a National Emergency.
President Trump has tipped his hand showing he is a desperate buyer. Democrats are in an advantageous position for negotiation, yet Democrats won’t sell at any price? Unfortunately, this is an amazing waste of bargaining power that could benefit all American Citizens and the Democratic Party.
First, let’s understand what’s on the table. President Trump wants about $6 billion dollars. The annual United States budget is $3.8 trillion dollars. To make this relatable let’s make United States’ spending the size of a household budget of $50,000. Then the Wall funding request is $79 dollars. Essentially, 0.0016% of the annual budget.
Here’s an idea for Democrats that will raise the prestige of the United States, align our democratic principles with our actions, and remove the Second-Class citizenry from the nearly 5 million United States citizens living in the United States Territories and Washington, D.C.: Trade essentially $79 dollars for the enfranchisement of all-American Citizens living under the United States’ flag.
Democrats could negotiate for extending voting rights by statute or by Constitutional amendment. The largest populations, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., could get their rightful share of Congressional Representation in the House and Senate. Further, with smaller populations, American Samoa, Guam, the Marianna Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands could waive Senate representation, but each would have their one non-voting Delegate converted into a true House Representative by providing her or him a voting seat in Congress.
These new Congressional Representatives should be escorted to the United States Capitol by an honor guard of military veterans from the Territories and Washington, D.C., that were wounded in military service. Each veteran would carry picture of a brethren soldier killed in action, who paid the ultimate price fighting for democracy abroad, while their voting rights at home were denied. (The Territories have an extremely high per-capita military enlistment rate, far exceeding the stateside average. Stroll through the Western Cemetery on St. Thomas and nearly every fifth grave has a veteran’s plaque.)
Further, Democrats could negotiate for the end of the Electoral College. The next Presidential Election could change to a popular vote. The Electoral College was originally used because counting everyones’ vote across the country was too difficult, so a handful of Super Delegates from the individual States had super-votes to decide who should be President. In the 21st Century, we have the technology and capacity to count every person’s vote for the Commander and Chief who will govern the nation – and who may send them, or their children, to war.
No citizen should be subject to the draft with selective service to fight for democracy abroad, yet be denied true voting rights at home. It saddens me that the blood of American Citizens has been – and continues to be – shed in foreign wars fighting for freedom and democracy abroad, yet this fundamental American right of elected representation is denied to American Citizens in the United States’ Territories and Washington D.C.
One of America’s most cherished principles of democracy – and indeed what sets us apart from the rest of the World – is an American Citizen’s right to vote for every person that governs you. For the Legislative side, a citizen has a vote for city councilors, county commissioners, state legislators, federal House representatives and Senate representatives. For the Executive side, a citizen has a vote for city mayor, county chair, state governor and U.S. president. Essentially, any person in the United States who either makes laws or enforces laws, should be accountable to the American Citizens he or she was elected by.
For nearly 100 years the denial of voting rights in the U.S. Territories and Washington, D.C., has been a dark blot upon American democracy and freedom. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., pointed out America’s hypocrisy: “We are arrogant in professing to be concerned about the freedom of foreign nations while not setting our own house in order. Many of our Senators and Congressmen vote joyously to appropriate billions of dollars for war [… yet] these same Senators and Congressmen vote loudly against [bill guaranteeing equal rights at home.]
We are all human and have our flaws. But it is the job of every son and daughter – each new generation – to strive to be greater than their mothers and fathers. This is the foundation of the American Dream; the optimistic hope of a better life, and a better world, for us and our children’s children.
The Stars & Stripes fly over Washington, D.C. and every U.S. Territory. Every American citizen, no matter where he or she lives, deserves voting enfranchisement. With this new generation of Democrats and Republicans, now is the time to make a “tremendous” deal that ends the second-class citizenship of a racist past and aligns America’s enduring values and democratic principles with our day-to-day actions.
Submitted on Wednesday by: J. Russell B. Pate, Esq. of The Pate Law Firm