• Elle

    I love this so much.

  • I love John Oliver’s show, but his tendency to emphasize negative exceptionalism is getting a bit old. Sometimes being the only democracy in the world to do / be something is what makes us unique for the better. They love to pick a stat and focus so heavily on it, ignoring all of the other corollaries (the maternity leave statistic for example) that run counter to it. I am glad that he puts a spotlight on many issues that otherwise get little national media coverage, and does them in a humorous way, so that younger people will actually pay attention.

    • Accountering

      Disenfranchising 650,000 people is not something that makes us unique for the better. Full stop.

      • Full stop? Is that how conversations work for you? No possibility of thought beyond your own? For the record, I am in favor of DC statehood. I just don’t see the relevance in the fact that no other country uses our particular system of specificity in governance.

        • anonymous

          It’s something British people say that American steal when they want to sound more enlightened. It’s a great indicator of arrogance and / or self-righteousness.

        • Anon

          That’s how conversations work for a lot of people around here. Everyone thinks they’re an expert and smarter than everybody else.

          • wdc

            And THAT’s how conversations work around here: dismissing someone because “everything thinks they’re an expert.” But in DC, you are quite likely to be talking to the expert who is smarter than everyone else. The person who literally wrote the book.
            Rather than assuming everyone is a blowhard, why not listen a bit and see if you’ve got a bona fide expert on your hands? Hollywood for Smart People, you know.

          • anonymous

            It’s fairly safe to assume that Accounting did not write the book on governance. You know who did? The Founders of this nation. I’m more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt for why DC was constructed in the way that it was than someone who “full stops” their talking points.

          • Accountering

            I certainly don’t think I am an expert in governance, I am just quite certain that “disenfranchising 650,000 people is not something that makes us unique for the better.”
            Do you actually disagree, or just take issue with my use of “Full stop.”

          • anon

            To anon at 12:21:

            The constitution does not require the current treatment of DC. It gives the legislature the power to define a federal district. It also give the legislature the power to admit new states. So, congress could simply re-designate the federal district the Constitution speaks of to the capital building, the mall, the monumental core etc., places where no one actually lives. At the same time it could admit a new state into the union, the city where people actually live. The tired argument that constitution mandates DC being different, rely on the sad reality that people have not really read the document. There is nothing in it that says there must be an entire city that is disenfranchised. The only reason congress has not made this move is because the people who are disfranchised would vote for democrats so the republicans won’t do it, and the democrats, as Bill Maher once said, usually fold faster than superman on laundry day.

          • Duponter

            +1 to anon @12:36.

            The Founding Fathers likely never imagined a federal district with 650K free residents (they only imagined one full of slaves helping build their capital). Luckily for us, as anon points out, they did anticipate that they might not always be so right about everything and gave us a process to change it. I think that was John Oliver’s point. No one can defend disenfranchising and then taxing 650,000 U.S. citizens (and rising).

            One sure fire positive thing (though truly sad at the same time) about the ever changing racial demographics in DC is that white people tend to get their opinions heard a lot faster.

            The solution is simple, carve out a real federal district that only includes land on which the federal government sits/operates and the rest of the district becomes either a tax free territory without representation, or a state with two senators and a House rep. Anything less than that is slavery.

          • “Anything less than that is slavery.”
            Hyperbole is not the way to get this solved.

          • Duponter

            That isn’t hyperbole.

          • And you think those who lived through the historically accepted definition of slavery in the U.S. would agree favorably with your characterization?

          • Anon

            + 1 million

        • CHGal

          If that was his only argument in favor of statehood, I’d agree with you. But it was just one of many. And, I’m afraid to ask, what are all the arguments against giving women maternity leave?

          • “And, I’m afraid to ask, what are all the arguments against giving women maternity leave?”
            You would have to ask Congress that one, but you’re missing the point. That particular episode focused heavily on the fact that the USA, along with Malaysia and some other country were the only ones who didn’t offer it mandatory. That ignores the fact that conditions for women in this country are markedly better than almost everywhere else around the world and that in many of those countries where it technically might be offered in practice it’s not actually an option because the women there are so repressed. There are a litany of reasons why it’s a good thing to offer, but the fact that other countries do it should not be one of them. (and the same applies to just about anything else the show wants to act all-knowing about, such as capital structure)

          • textdoc

            I don’t think women in the UK and Europe would qualify as “oppressed.” IIRC, the only countries that don’t offer paid maternity leave are the U.S. and Namibia.

          • textdoc, I never once said they would. Many does not equal all, however it does include such wonderful places as Saudi Arabia and China.

          • petworther

            Is Justinbc a Men’s Rights Activist? They are pretty much the only ones who think US maternity leave policy is not completely unreasonable.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Hint: there is a point buried in all of the back and forth up above, and it isn’t about maternity leave laws.

          • Did you read what I wrote at all? I never once said that it was unreasonable. I said specifically that paid maternity leave is a good thing, but that LWT’s tendency to use the “other countries do X” argument is not as justified as the indignant manner in which they present it.

          • *was not, rather

        • Accountering

          In this case yes, there is no other argument that holds weight. Because we are the only country that does it, when it comes to disenfranchising a capital city, is bunk. That is not how all conversations, or even many work, but in this case, yes.

          • Again, I am in favor of DC statehood, but to offer what in my mind is at least a valid arguing point (one which I think is outweighed by the other side, but regardless):
            The 10 square mile limits that Congress was allowed to set the capital in were obviously much less occupied at the time it was established. However, the fact that people have moved into those areas in order to, essentially, support that government is to some degree irrelevant. CPT_Doom’s point of contention below about “you don’t have to live there” is, in my mind, a somewhat fair one. There are 50 other states you can live in if being represented on a particular issue is of importance to you. Not getting that here is a “known rule” that you accept, just like moving into a neighborhood that doesn’t have historical preservation and having to deal with what you might deem unsightly pop-ups. I also agree that if we are not going to receive the vote then we certainly shouldn’t be taxed at the same rate (more than half the states out that do get representation), but we also receive an economic benefit to living in the nation’s capital that few other residents of the country receive (the exception being those immediately surrounding in VA and MD). Is the economic pendulum balanced out? For some (generally the more wealthy) it’s a positive, others a negative. I think it’s far too complex of an issue to be so dismissive, and again, completely inconsequential to what other countries have deemed appropriate.

          • west_egg

            “It’s okay that you’re disenfranchised because you knew what you were getting into!” Baloney. *ALL* Americans deserve representation in their government.
            But this is definitely the first time I’ve heard about the economic pendulum being “balanced out” by our disenfranchisement. I doubt that argument would’ve held much water in the 80’s. People who live in NYC, San Francisco, and other large cities also have an economic advantage–should we disenfranchise those people as well?

          • west_egg, there were no federal jobs in the DC during the 80s…?

          • west_egg

            justinbc, the economy was so good during the crack epidemic that it “balanced out” the fact that DC citizens had no representation in Congress?

          • Not “the economy”, but the economic stimulus that exists as a result of having the federal government be based here. The number of government jobs, contractors who support those government agencies, and industry built to around supporting both of those is enormous, and has been well back into the 80s. The social disorder that occurred here during that time is something entirely different and had very little effect on the number of jobs provided and / or paid for by tax dollars.

          • Duponter

            There are a lot of Americans who live in places that receive economic benefit of an inordinate magnitude by the federal government. But to characterize such benefit as a reason to disenfranchise and tax DC residents is malarkey. It assumes the vast majority of us live here solely because the federal government is here. There are plenty of us who live and work here in jobs that have little involvement with the federal government. And no one is saying we should disenfranchise Northern Virginia or most of Maryland’s residents because those two areas are populous because of the federal government.

            I think the biggest travesty of the entire situation is that we live here. We live literally among the buildings where other states send people to spend our federal tax dollars. I live 8 blocks from the Capitol and yet no one in that building speaks for me. My taxes fund the transportation system. Our residents bag their groceries and serve them meals and drive their taxis, all so they can come here and spend our tax money and none of them speak for us. It’s insanity. By all means, I’m more than happy to give up the argument if they eliminate my federal tax burden.

          • “It assumes the vast majority of us live here solely because the federal government is here.”
            They do. The “plenty” of people you mention who have absolutely zero tie to the government really are not that numerous. Even restaurant workers here can thank the government for employing so many people that now have expendable income to spend in their restaurant. Same for shop owners, dog walkers, etc. The only true independent people might be someone who is an artist, DJ, or a contractor who works on projects remotely and just happens to live here in DC because they like the city. It’s very difficult to untangle the government influence from jobs in this city, if you’re being honest.

          • west_egg

            Given the defense and stability provided by the Federal government, I suppose you could make that argument about any job in any city in the country.
            Disenfranchisement for all!

          • Alan


            You really need to get out more if you think everyone here owes their livelihood to the federal government or moved here because of it. I’ve lived here 20+ years. I didn’t come here looking for a federal job and I’ve never had one. Most of my friends haven’t either.

        • Mike

          Then you’re not thinking about it hard enough.

        • Accountering

          I can agree with you in principal, but simply feel you chose the wrong point to make your case. You could make a strong argument that not giving maternity leave for example DOES make us unique for the better (stronger economy, more economic activity etc) but THIS example is simply not one where we are “unique for the better.” It is a stupid, antiquated system that was set up in a time when they were worried that the federal government should not have to rely on any state to provide security for the capital. We are not given autonomy/right to vote because one political party knows that they would lose two senators and a representative for the distant future if they gave us that right.

        • HouseguyDC.com

          Not every idea is worth a debate.

          Not every issue has two sides.

          The world is round. That’s a fact.

          Disenfranchising 600,000 people in the world’s most prosperous democracy due to a technicality is not good for democracy. That is also a fact.

          • Professional Geographer

            It’s more of an ellipsoid than a round sphere, but I hear what you’re saying.

          • You’re entirely right. Sometimes there are three sides.

        • Glover Guy

          I think many conservatives open themselves up to such “only country in the world” comparisons as a result of their blind patriotism and we’re-number-one-ism. These same conservatives that boast that we are the freeist, most democratic country in the world have no problem disenfranchising voters in the district. So I do think it is relevant for Oliver to highlight areas where we lag other countries in the interest of questioning our “greatest country in the world” status espoused by so many politicians.

    • Taylor st

      We have democratic institutions that exist within a federal system, so in fact we are not really a democracy. Also, there are 24 countries out there that would say, um excuse me, but USA, you’re not the only democratic state on the planet. In fact, every Scandinavian country scores higher on the “democracy index.”

    • all y’all

      DC’s culture of violence, corruption, and cronyism does not augur well for statehood.

      • Accountering

        Well, Chicago just lost statehood. Sorry Illinois – you just lost Chicago, and its 2.7 million people. Also, 20% of your electoral votes. Other cities that we should disenfranchise immediately (Detroit 700K, New Orleans 400k, Newark 300K, St Louis 300k, Baltimore 625k, Birmingham 200k, Cincinnati 300k, Oakland 400k, Baton Rouge 230k, Kansas City 470k)
        Lets just dump all these cities, because crime.
        On a side note, I would guess if you put this on the generic republican primary ticket (to disenfranchise these cities) it would get 25% support, which again, well very sad, speaks to how political this whole thing is, and why (DC Statehood) will likely never happen.

        • Don’t forget basically all of NJ and NY.

        • Q

          Don’t stop at Chicago; get rid of all of Illinois! Blagojevich is just the latest in a long line of the state’s indicted governors.

        • anon

          Really, though, the converse of removing those cities from those states would be retroceding DC to Maryland. Not a new idea, but also one that seems even more remote than DC Statehood. Mostly because people would rather hold out for statehood than accept retrocession. Also because people think being Maryland residents would magically make them worse drivers. Or something.

          • Alan

            And because DC has its own unique culture and Maryland has its own distinct culture (Ward 9, notwithstanding). And people from DC and Baltimore have a low key rivalry.

      • Emily

        B/c violence, corruption, and cronyism don’t exist in any states? We should take away congressional representation from any state that has these things!

        • Duponter

          Actually some would argue that crime, cronyism and corruption abound precisely because we are not given the autonomy to deal with our own issues.

      • Colhi

        Let’s also not forget our certain former Governor friend from across the river. If we taking about statehood, let’s take back Virginia too!


    John Oliver is awesome. that’s really all I gotta say about that :-D

  • CPT_Doom

    What really ticks me off is when my friends who live in MD or VA dismiss the disenfranchisement of all DC citizens by saying “you don’t have to live there.” Because having a national Capitol City without any residents makes so much sense.

    There was one scheme floating a while back that made sense to me. It would still require a Constitutional Amendment, but would likely be more palatable – give DC a unique status: allowing our Delegate to become a full-fledged Representative and DC voters to vote for MD Senators. which would provide the same representation as all the states but without full statehood.

    If they don’t want to do that, they should cut our federal taxes to what Puerto Rico and the other territories pay (about 48% of what the states pay).

    • CHGal

      If “you don’t have to live there” is their argument, just point out they’ve just invalidated the entire founding of our country. Unless they think the Boston Tea Party was a bunch of hoodlums who should have shut up and moved back to England.

    • Anon X

      I moved to DC from Virginia. I moved here with the full knowledge that I would lose the right to vote for members of congress. I weighed that as a con against all of the pros. I still moved here. Sure, it sucks – but its really not a big deal – and most of us consciously chose to move here and stay here. I think its wrong, but I think the breathless yammering about how its this huge injustice gets a bit over the top. If I thought Congress was messing it up for us more than the comically inept amateur league city council and DC government, I’d maybe ratchet up my concern.

      • David G.

        Many, many people did not choose to live here. Rather, they were born here and often could not afford to move even if they wanted to. Do they also deserve to be disenfranchised?

        • Duponter

          Including many ancestors of the slaves who by no means chose to live here.

          But that aside, because it doesn’t particularly bother you doesn’t make it any more or less of an injustice. It bothers the hell out of me that I pay more in federal taxes than most of the people who live in any of the states in this country and have no one literally 8 blocks from my house in that big white building advocating for how that money should be spent on my behalf. It’s theft at best and slavery at worst.

      • Colhi

        Almost 40% of DC residents were born here. Also, just because you find lack of democracy to be a joke doesn’t mean that everyone else to agree.

      • Anon X

        This really is way more of an issue psychologically or philosophically than it is practically. What is the practical difference between living in DC and living in a congressional district that will always be represented with a mouth breathing pro-gun nut job that believes in creationism and not global warming? Not a whole lot. my interests still aren’t represented in congress… I just get to vote against the idiot… Which will never matter. There are several CDs in the country that have probably never had the representation that anyone actually deserves.

        • David G.

          Except that even practically speaking, I would go from having no voting representation at all to having one or more representatives who would likely represent my interests quite well. So in this case it is a philosophical, psychological, and practical matter.

    • caphill324

      The “don’t live there” argument is bs. If I move out, someone else will move in and 650,000 people will still be disenfranchised. And not everyone makes a choice to move here. It might seem like everyone is from somewhere else but it’s not actually the truth. And there are those of us who did move here with full knowledge but not full acceptance. Just because I knew that this would be my circumstance as a DC resident, doesn’t mean that I like it or accept it or have no basis to argue for it’s change. It’s a stupid argument that people make because they have not substantive argument that makes sense.

  • timmyp

    This just made my day. So, so good.

  • anonymous

    agree with the message but I just find his shtick hard to take more than 5 minutes.
    Gets old very quickly.

    • T

      That’s what she said.

  • Positive Pamela

    Just wish he would have also talked about what happens to us during a government shut down.

    • Positive Pamela

      Also, let’s all be honest with each other, republicans don’t want DC to be a state because we would vote blue every election. Can’t have that.

      • Duponter

        Why would they honestly care at this point? They’ve gerrymandered congressional districts to the point that the Republicans will easily control the House for the next decade or more. What is one more blue House rep for them to ignore at this point?

        They would oppose statehood because of the two senate seats we would presumably obtain. Which is why any plan that has ever been offered up by Republicans, like the one recently by Tom Davis – (R) VA, which would give us one house seat in exchange for adding one for Utah, keeping the balance. Which is an insult truthfully. We shouldn’t need to barter for representation. If they had been smart they’d have followed through, given Eleanor a real vote in Congress, and the issue would have been sidelined for a long time. As DC continues to grow and prosper, it is going to become more and more difficult for them to disenfranchise us.

        • Alan

          The issue is the two additional Dem Senators who would invariably be elected if DC was a state (or, rather, if the non-federal part of DC was admitted as New Columbia).

          I feel like it’s inevitable. As long as the population here keeps growing and the median income keeps rising, eventually there’s going to be enough clout here for the issue to be addressed (I imagine having more Repubs in town would help too).

  • anonymouse_dianne

    I have to wonder who among the commenters actually watched the entire piece. Its long, but I am at home today and Joe Shapiro posted it on facebook so I watched it earlier this morning. Some of your arguments were argued in the piece quite effectively. And I found the stats on needle exchange appalling. So go watch it all the way through to the last State Song.

  • anon

    I watched the whole thing and thought it was great!

    On the needle exchange/HIV issue, I wanted to hear him say something about how DC’s HIV rate is epidemic, among the highest rates of infection of cities in the country, as high as many African countries where it is epidemic. Maybe he didn’t because it is still very high, even after needle exchange reduced the rate of infection by needle, thinking this potentially weakened his argument. But I think it would have been stronger to let people out there watching know just how bad a problem HIV was for DC while Congress was preventing needle exchanges.

    On the issue that we have to stick with what the founders set up for the district – this is obviously false, as we are no longer 10 miles square, the part contributed by Virginia having been given back to Virginia back before the Civil War – so the power to change the boundaries of the district is clearly there. It is so clearly a political problem, as we would vote democratic, but to deny us a vote on that basis is really low.

    • It said not to exceed 10 miles square, not that it had to BE 10 miles square.

  • Anon. No. 5

    How Andy Harris stayed out of this report is a mystery.


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