News & Politics

Harvard Law Review Article Advocates Turning DC’s Neighborhoods Into 127 States

This would be a nightmare. But not for the reasons you might think.

Photograph via iStock.

The best way to reform US democracy, according to a “Note” published Friday by Harvard Law Review? “Congress should pass legislation reducing the size of Washington, D.C., to an area encompassing only a few core federal buildings and then admit the rest of the District’s 127 neighborhoods as states.”

Well, it’s intriguing, and the case the unnamed author–“Notes” are traditionally anonymous in this publication—makes regarding the motivations for admitting West Virginia and Nevada is well taken, as is the point that Columbia Heights has more than four times the population Nevada did at the time of its admittance. (Nevada now boasts more than four times the population of the entire District–if this math pattern holds, Columbia Heights will have more than 120,000 residents by 2176; that’s far smaller than Wyoming today but doubtless way bigger than the US state of LeDroit Park.)

The article examines several practical limitations to this idea, but it avoids one of the highest hurdles: The fact that DC neighborhood boundaries and names are an endless source of dispute. The US state of Navy Yard would immediately face violent demonstrations from residents who insist its name is Capitol Riverfront, or maybe South Capitol Hill. Scooter pilot programs would somehow become even more controversial, and ANCs, reborn as state legislatures, would create a crazy quilt of liquor laws that could make acquiring craft beer an all-day affair. The less said about the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, the better.

Plus, all 127 new states would need to incorporate the DC flag into theirs somehow so as not to invalidate anybody’s tattoos. That could push US vexillology to its limit at a time when the world’s best cartographers would all be consumed with figuring out the exact boundaries of Truxton Circle. No thank you, Harvard Law Review. Please divvy up Delaware instead.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.

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