How Bob Barr Became the Tinhorn Dictator of DC

Bob Barr holds his hands out, as if to say...

Whoa there, democracy!

(The Hon. Rep. Bob Barr)

District of Columbia citizens have long had to face the frustrations of being deprived of home rule and micromanaged by the federal Congress, which maintains ultimate control over the government of D.C., while having no members at all who are elected by D.C. residents. In 1998, the antidemocratic nature of D.C. government was made clear to the point of ridiculousness, as Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) banned D.C. elections officials from releasing the results of a referendum on allowing the use of medical marijuana, fearing that the majority of D.C. voters would approve. Barr thus managed to effectively mimic Third World tinhorn dictators such as Nigeria’s Sani Abacha, who seized ballot boxes and refused to announce results of elections he feared he had lost.

Since the Barr amendment banned the counting of the results of a referendum solely on the basis of the content of the referendum (that it was to legalize a certain use of marijuana), the ACLU filed and won a First Amendment challenge to the Barr amendment, thus allowing the votes to be counted. As expected, the initiative to legalize medical marijuana in D.C. passed by an overwhelming margin of 69%-31%. However, Rep. Barr quickly went back to work in suppressing the will of the D.C. voters, eventually managing to push through a bill overriding the initiative and banning D.C. from enacting or carrying out the bill that they had overwhelmingly voted to pass.

When the Founders created the District of Columbia as a special area set aside from all the several states, the idea was to create a space for the federal capital which would not be beholden to the sectional interests of any of the several states. However, since the 18th century, D.C. has exploded far beyond merely being a city for the top branches of federal government. Within the borders of D.C. lies one of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation. It is long past time that the federal area of D.C. be reduced into a much smaller area for the federal office buildings, monuments, and possibly residential space for federal office holders; the rest of D.C. should be granted the full rights and responsibilities of statehood under the U.S. Constitution, thus restoring democratic rights to home rule and representation in Congress to the hundreds of thousands of people within its borders.

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