Loose Lips

Sarah Palin Endorses D.C. Voting Rights! (Okay, Not Really)

Sarah Palin Endorses D.C. Voting Rights! (Not Really)

Reality television star Sarah Palin is on a book tour around the country, promoting her latest tome, America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag. The former Alaska governor, who quit that job for much more influential gigs on TLC, Fox News, and as a Dancing With the Stars stage mom, doesn't have any stops scheduled here in the District.

But the book does include, probably unintentionally, a good argument for giving D.C. voting rights in Congress. On page 72, Palin musters up some outrage over how her frozen homeland was once ruled by meddlers in Washington, without representation to argue on their behalf:

In practice, I've always interpreted the Tenth Amendment to mean that the best government is government that is closest to the people. We Alaskans have good reason to believe in this principle. Much of the motivation for the drive for statehood back in the late 1950s was because of the way the feds ran the territory from Washington, D.C. Without representation in Congress, and all the things that statehood affords, there were laws made by the other states that hindered Alaska's development. For instance, when Alaska was just a territory, a law was passed called the Jones Act, which requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried in U.S. vessels. This restriction has greatly increased the cost of goods from the Lower 48 for Alaskans.

This experience of being ruled by elites in a distant capital—in violation of both the spirit of the Tenth Amendment and Tocqueville's observation that our preference for local self-government is a crucial part of our exceptionalism—has had a lasting impact on my career in public service. There's an excellent speech by Ernest Greuning, a Democrat who was a territorial governor of Alaska and a U.S. senator, gave at the Alaska Constitutional Convention in 1955 that is relevant for the whole country today. Gruening laid a foundation that many public servants, myself included, could build upon in our quest for a maximum self-determination. His speech compared Alaska's fight for statehood to America's fight for independence. Gruening made the case that Alaska's rule (and taxation!) by Washington without representation was akin to "colonialism" and that it had to end.

Rule by an interfering federal government without representation, in a situation that's akin to colonialism? That sounds strangely familiar. If only we had polar bears and oil here, D.C. would be all set.

Photo by sskennel via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license

  • hungrypug


    The Jones Act is a federal law regulating interstate commerce. It applies to ports in the Alaska Territory just the same as to those in the State of Alaska. The federal government has the power to regulate interstate commerce because experience showed that states cannot be trusted to act in the national interest. (See The Federalist, Nos. 7 & 11, if you care to know what the Framers were thinking.)

    Subsequent history has validated the wisdom of the commerce clause and the Jones Act. For example, if foreign-controlled ships and cheap foreign labor had ferried goods among American states (as Palin clearly prefers), then there would be no domestic shipping industry. During World War II, when the US clearly needed ships to transport supplies across the Pacific, Palin would have found no Liberty Ships, because they all would have sailed away to their distant home ports.

    So the point has nothing to do with Alaska statehood. Palin's example most directly supports the belief that the Articles of Confederation were better than the Constitution.

  • Typical DC BS

    Sorry, this argument as applying to DC is bogus. The District of Columbia was set up so that Congress would control it's own territory and not have to worry about a state providing security or services for the federal government. It was not set up for the benefit of the residents.

    The best thing for Congress to do would be to cede most of DC back to Maryland and just keep a core area under it's jurisdiction.

    DC is no more of a state than New York City or Boston.