22 Comments

I have to wonder if we'll even be around 19 months from now. The Climate Crisis is getting exponentially worse. And Nero, et al. just continue to fiddle. Best defense is an offense; all this B.S. about abortion, LGBTQ+ rights (or lack thereof) is just one universal smoke screen that hides their real agenda; destroy the planet. I just watched the Frontline documentary on Ginni and Clarence; he is a totally messed up, child-abused mess and she is probably similar (her parents were chillingly strict and weird). We are out of time.

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Lincoln also added West Virginia. YES by all means add DC, PR and the Virgin Islands.

! !!!

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It's great to be a student of history, but let's not kid ourselves for a second that the MAGA GOP will be moved by historical references and precedent-shaming. They have no shame, as we've seen. So then, the Democrats -- to whom this plea is directed: There are a lots of ifs along the road to this reform but I agree with you that IF the Democrats ever manage to regain control at the federal level, this move to add DC and PR is a no-brainer, a MUST. That said, notice how sclerotic American "democracy" has become? We can't even amend the Constitution or ditch the Electoral College or filibuster! So I'm not holding my breath that the Democrats will get religion or take as seriously as they should the demographic writing on the wall to which you point.

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It would be just fine to add states, but:

1. Not sure about some of the analysis, because states like ny are losing people while red states like Fla and Texas have been gaining.

2. Texas has 30 million people and republican presidential candidates like trump win easily with less than 6 million votes. That's as much of a problem as any other.

3. The Supreme Court is captured for decades unless the democrats actually do something about that, which they easily could have last year.

4. The voting rights act addressed states with a history of discrimination, and this needs to continue to be addressed. It's pretty sad if the Virgin Islands is the only strategy to help rectify discrimination in Alabama. Adding stares might help but doesn't necessarily address the tend away from democracy.

5. Democratic Party is corrupt and horribly ineffective. Massive failure in my district (ny-17) - 3 of the most powerful republicans today are from the bluest states.

Yes, everything said here about Republicans is true, and we are dealing with fascism, and we are dealing with some really dangerous and horrible politics. But I continue to believe that much of this, and certainly much more than is typically accounted for in the media is due to the complete failure of the democratic party to represent democratic interests, and to align itself with ordinary / working class people. It's great to read about Henry Wallace here and we should continue to extol and inform people about what real Democrats look like and what can be expected from them.

Many of the most influential politicians have come from a background of very sophisticated legal work, and having a legal or prosecutorial background of taking action against powerful interests through the law I put not just Lincoln and Roosevelt in this category, but Rudy Giuliani and others have come to prominence this way. Yet we look at the current leaders and we see someone like Biden, who has a legal background, but has never acted in any capacity to assert claims against powerful interests. The last prominent democrat of this description was Eliot Spitzer, who, unfortunately burned out due to a scandal, but we have to understand that someone like Elliot Spitzer was very willing to use legal strategies in an effort to reveal and attack corrupt powerful interests. We need more of THIS. People like Robbie Kaplan and lititia James are some of our greatest heros right now.

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May 10, 2023·edited May 10, 2023

As a professional geographer I found this a very interesting discussion. You are quite right, though the historical nuances are somewhat more complicated. Nevada in part became a state because it had large silver supplies which the North wanted to have stronger control over during the Civil War. A local pro-Union government was very helpful here. Similarly, in 1863 making pro-Union western Virginia into a state gave Washington better control of the strategic roads in that area. Politics certainly has always been an issue in creating or defining the boundaries of states. A good example was during the first half of the 19th century when slave and free states were equally admitted to the Union, thus keeping a balance in the Senate.

That was sort of the case with our last two admissions. I well remember discussions about Alaska and Hawaii, and it was determined that since one was Republican, the other Democratic, they would balance each other politically. There were other issues too, the main one was having “forward bases” that were firmly part of the U.S. during the Cold War. But citizens were learning more about these areas since the Pacific Northwest was starting to really develop economically and many people had visited Hawaii either in service during the war or for recreation with the improved air travel after it. Thus they were more in the public mind than they had been earlier, and their public acceptance was high.

An issue against Hawaii joining the Union was sheer racism, and unfortunately that would apply to the other islands and D.C. Today nobody in power will say this outright, but still…also, a lot of Americans don’t seem to understand that P.R. and the U.S.V.I. are really parts of the country with their inhabitants being full citizens. The same is true of Guam and the Northern Marianas—which were only separated by a historical accident and should be recombined—but don’t expect one in a hundred Americans to find them on a map even though they have 220,000 citizens. There it makes particular sense if the U.S. wants a Western Pacific state to face a rising China, but that’s a different political matter.

Economically there are some issues. The Northern Marianas has been used for sweatshop labor to produce clothing with “made in U.S.” labels, and there is the 1920 Jones Act, makes shipping to all the islands, including Hawaii, terribly expensive. Such concerns should be addressed at the same time as statehood and that does make things more complicated. (American Samoa is a flat out colony, with its residents having national, but not citizenship, rights.)

So there are good reasons why we could add four states. Call them Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Marianas, and Columbia. (The Constitutionally mandated “District” could still exist, but only for major federal buildings, monuments, public spaces like the Ellipse and the like.) But don’t expect any of these places to join the Union until a really open minded Democratic majority is in both houses of Congress, and there is a president willing to convince the country that it is a good idea. May that day come soon.

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It takes a majority vote in the House and Senate to add a state, and Republicans control the House

The 110th congress was majority Democrat in 2009

Barack Obama was president in 2009.

Barack could have made D.C. a state, and even Puerto Rica, if he had tried, but he did nothing.

I realize Barry is a liberal saint, but there are no saints in my book, and this is just another failing on the part of Democratic presidents and Democrats, since FDR.

I fully expect Biden to waffle and give in to Republican demands, especially about privatizing social security which will happen if the House budget is approved, and Biden has the Article II and 14th amendment authority to raise he debt without the approval of the Republicans, but he won't, conciliation and bipartisanship is his name (why? Because that is how he was raised in the senate).

Also Congress had a narrow window, in which they could have passed a national women's right to choice legislation, but didn't (it would have really alienate and mobilized the right), they did pass a Respect for Marriage act, protecting same sex marriage, which was no longer a hot button issue.

I would like to assume good faith, but with all the failures, heel dragging, and pigeon holeing, I really can't.

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Please, let us all publicize the errors of this being a 50-50 country, and keep describing exactly what our numbers actually are. The facts of our imbalanced Senate representation lays the groundwork for any addition of "representative" states.

Your final statement: "Democrats need to keep this alive to prepare the ground to act in 19 months if they can hold the Senate and take back the House in the upcoming election." So, how are we going to keep this alive? I believe in communicating with the Republicans who state that this is a 50-50 country. [was it David Brooks?] Of course, Manchin and Sinema are not true Democrats but they should be confronted in public with these facts. [Manchin frequently said, don't blame me--win more Democrat seats.]

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Hi Thom, I would like to note two possible improvements to the structure of Congress that could help make it become more representative of the people.

1. Increasing the total number of House Representatives.

There are a couple of bills in the House, one by Rep Blumenauer, that are intended to increase the total number of seats in the house. Danielle Allen has written at least 3 essays in The Washington Post on many such proposals. Here's one of the essays, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/02/28/danielle-allen-democracy-reform-congress-house-expansion/

In addition to all she discusses, I would prefer to choose the change that adds the largest number of seats to the House. Because the great benefit would be to impact the Electoral College by having more EC votes coming from House seats vs 100-106 Senate seats.

...So if Congress is going to make the effort, then as I now like to say,

"Make the juice worth the squeeze". I would meanwhile continue to also work to pass the National Popular Vote agreement between states.

(Note, this alone does not address another gorilla in the House - partisan gerrymandering.)

2.. Democratize the Filibuster.

This WaPo essay from 2021 outlines the idea, benefits, and why it does not clash with Constitutional provisions for 1 senator 1 vote on 'final votes', which do not govern procedural votes.

This is the key element, "...require the support of a majority of senators who collectively represent a majority of the U.S. population..." to bring all Legislation and Judicial appointments to the floor for a vote.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/04/06/dont-eliminate-filibuster-democratize-it/

...And the Senate should make it unalterable unless those wishing to change it follow the rules of the Senate's democratic filibuster.

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I do love this Thom, writing about Democrats adding three more states when the powerbrokers of the party do everything they can to assure their own political gain at the expense of the party and the rest of us. Jim Clyburn, one of so many Democrats who you praise but who are working against the American people just as much as Republicans, has made victory for Democrats far more difficult with his corrupt redistricting efforts. He also has worked against Medicare for All and pharmaceutical price controls, and made certain to crush Bernie Sanders prospects in 2020 with his "we know Joe" establishment nonsense. https://www.propublica.org/article/how-rep-james-clyburn-protected-his-district-at-a-cost-to-black-democrats

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Excellent. Add to the 2 or 3 additional states, term limits for SCOTUS, Senate, and House and we will be in a much better position.

Read this post suggested by Jessica Craven for ways we might garner enough in Senate and House to make this happen.

https://www.mikeluxmedia.com/single-post/memo-democrats-could-win-a-trifecta-in-2024

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I respectfully disagree with the abuse part. I work with people, including African American men (not directly tho) who are in recovery. Clarence had (translation: has) a drinking problem. All of the men I work with or who's stories I have heard have been abused physically, emotionally and most, if not all, sexually, as children. If you read between the lines on the Frontline special and in his book, Clarence's Grandfather was an abuser and may very well have sexually assaulted Clarence. A whipping with a belt, across the buttocks by an enraged adult is abuse and for a child, that is also sexual abuse. Been there; I know. The utter feeling of terror and powerlessness would turn anyone to anger and substance abuse. As We say in recovery, 'If you'd been through what I'd been through, you'd drink too.' But also in recovery, we learn how to cope with trauma, PTSD without using substances, anger, rage. Clarence uses all three.

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Always appreciate your thorough, well-written artlcles. I'm all for more states; the three obvious ones of Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and The Virgin Islands. American Samoa, Guam, and Northern Mariana Islands sound good, too. Any more possibilities you can think of? The Senate has long been misused by politicians. Back in A. Lincoln's time the Repubs and the Dems were very different than they are today. The gop/repubs are now gop/fascists and the stakes are much higher. Thanks to McConnell and his gops and traitorous Manchin and Sinema, the Voting Rights Bills were tanked. Of course, Man/Sin seem to worship the fillibuster. Voting is becoming a tangled mess with the tricks the fascists are using everywhere they possibly can. IF the 2024 elections occur.... the fascists will do away with them if they can grab power any other way. We know what T-rump (as on CNN), the psycho waster and destroyer will do -- ANYTHING to grab "forever" power. God have mercy! I hope we will have time to make some positive headway. Keep writing and talking Mr. Hartmann. You are needed. Ruthie B

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This could be a great platform discussion. I still hope we end-up with a younger candidate, and adding new states would be a great thing for them to present. We need a fresh face and a new start. I can hear the right scream before it's even out there, but if we run on adding new states, it will show we are honest brokers when we put it before the Congress.

I say we should go for it! Good Report Thom.

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I am not really a great fan of Alexander Hamilton, but I think he had one thing really right at the constitutional constitution when he stood up and said we needed to abolish states. Jay, in one of the earliest (3rd I believe) supreme court decisions said states were "artificial entities". Of course that prompted the 11th amendment almost immediately. Every crisis this country has faced in its history has been centered on the battle between states and the federal government. Lincoln's "house divided" was not just divided over slavery, but has been divided over the concept of state supremacy v. federal supremacy. Are we a hodgepodge of 50 mini-countries, or one company. Mr. Hartman you know as well as I do that the design of two senators per state was really contentious and was done for the very reason that larger population centers could be countered by minor population centers having an "equal Voice". Even then, at the time of the convention, three states had over half of the population---so as long as state governments feel they are equally important, or to put it better, as long as state governments are able to maintain parity despite population, the country will remain a government impotent in the face of the conflict---and that is the whole reason we have two senators per state---

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