To say that last night's seventy-plus minute State of the Union address covered a lot of topics is an understatement. President Obama's speech ranged from education to foreign policy, health care to gays in the military. He rebuked the Supreme Court's Citizen's United campaign finance decision (to their face) and welcomed in a new era of civil rights enforcement by his Department of Justice. However, one issue missing from the speech was one that is very important to me, since I live in our nation's capital--DC Voting Rights.
FairVote ally, DC Vote mounted a strong campaign for the past weeks and months to urge the president to educate the nation about the issue of DC Voting Rights in his prime time address. President Obama has long been a strong supporter of giving DC a vote in the House, but he has not used his bully pulpit to bring this issue to the fore. It goes without saying that the president's domestic policy priorities of health care, financial regulation and climate change legislation are important, but increasing the country's awareness of the DC Voting Rights issue would go a long way. Most people outside the beltway would be shocked to learn that there are more than a half million tax-paying citizens with no vote in their federal legislature.
DC Vote held a competition and advocacy campaign before the State of the Union where more than 1,000 people voted on what language the president should use to promote the issue in his speech. I've copied the winning language below as a reminder of what could have been said last night and with the hope that someday these words, or some variation of them, will be spoken by our president.
"Our country fights for democracy and freedom around the globe, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the nation's capital, literally within feet of where we sit tonight, 600,000 of our fellow citizens who pay taxes and fight in wars are denied a most fundamental right of democracy. I call upon the Congress to enact long-stalled legislation immediately in order to grant to the citizens of DC full voting rights in the House of Representatives." - Jerry Levine, via e-mail