For the first two years of his presidency, Joe Biden positioned himself as a champion of statehood and home rule in the District of Columbia. The president urged Congress to make D.C. the 51st state—even as the Senate filibuster stood in the way—and vowed to defend District residents’ right to govern themselves through their limited local democracy. Any “denial of self-governance” in D.C., he proclaimed, is “an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded.”
Then, on Thursday, he stabbed D.C. in the back. In a single tweet, the president reversed more than two years of staunch support for home rule—abandoning his principles the moment they became politically inexpedient. Biden announced that he would sign legislation nullifying the modernization of D.C.’s criminal code. His action will, perversely, make the District less safe, preserving an outdated 122-year-old criminal code whose ambiguities actually make it harder for prosecutors to charge violent crimes.
Just as importantly, Biden’s decision will empower congressional Republicans to continue overriding D.C.’s democratically enacted legislation, including progressive laws expanding the rights of immigrants, abortion providers, LGBTQ people, and other vulnerable groups. The president has, in effect, declared open season on the District’s democracy. [Continue reading…]