Opinion: District Leaders Are Too Polite to Obama

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The White House

The District of Columbia’s elected officials have front row seats to President Barack Obama’s inauguration parade. Imagine what they could do by getting off their butts.

In 2000, the District began issuing license plates bearing the slogan “Taxation Without Representation,” the purpose of which was to raise awareness of the fact that District residents pay federal taxes but have no vote in Congress.

For a few months, the tag was affixed to the official presidential limousine in which Bill Clinton rode. George W. Bush arrived and the tag disappeared.

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Eight years later, when Barack Obama was sworn in, District officials and voting rights activists had high hopes that Obama would display the tag on his limo. They also hoped he would do something about the disenfranchisement suffered by District residents.

At one point, Obama and his fellow Democrats enjoyed an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives and a filibuster-proof caucus in the Senate. What did the District get during those months? Nothing.

So last week, in advance of Obama’s second inaugural celebration, the D.C. Council passed a resolution calling on the president to adorn his limo with the protest license plate.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Council member Mary Cheh visited the White House to hand-deliver the tags.

They got no guarantees about the limo and received very little positive media attention for their effort.

But they did garner some negative attention when word leaked that Cheh had sought a police escort to the White House. Her council office is two blocks away.

Cheh said she was concerned that protesters might tag along (pardon the pun) and be disruptive at the White House.

Say what?

Cheh is concerned that a president who has done nothing to advance the rights of her constituents might be disrupted.

Heaven forbid we be disruptive about a bunch of dumb ol’ rights.

I sure am glad the colonists didn’t disrupt George III’s plans. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. were always mindful not to disrupt their oppressors. We do not want to disrupt Obama.

No way.

Just put a tag on the limo, Mr. President. That will change everything. Rights will rain down from the sky like pennies from heaven.

Here is a tip for elected officials in the District who are really serious about voting rights activism: During the parade, Obama’s limo will pass directly in front of your offices at City Hall. As the president cruises past the comforts of your VIP viewing stand, hop over the barricades and lay down in front of his motorcade. Maybe bring a sign that reads “Taxation Without Representation.”

You will be arrested. You will eventually be released. Cameras will be lined up outside the jail.

You will have garnered more attention than any license plate will ever attract.

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