It’s poised to be a colossal event: over 100 parade horses, miles of electric cable, at least 50,000 volunteers, hundreds of thousands of free tickets — and at least one limo bearing the slogan “taxation without representation.”
That limo will carry President Barack Obama from the Capitol along a 1.5-mile route on Pennsylvania Avenue as part of inauguration ceremonies next Monday, Jan. 21. On its license plates: the phrase used by frustrated colonists in the years leading up to the American Revolution.
No, it’s not some seditious prank planned by Obama’s political foes, it’s actually a symbolic decision endorsed by the President himself. In fact the phrase will soon appear on all of the presidential vehicles for the remainder of Obama’s four-year term, says the White House.
“President Obama has lived in the District now for four years, and has seen first-hand how patently unfair it is for working families in D.C. to work hard, raise children and pay taxes, without having a vote in Congress,” said the White House in a statement. “Attaching these plates to the presidential vehicles demonstrates the president’s commitment to the principle of full representation for the people of the District of Columbia and his willingness to fight for voting rights, home rule and budget autonomy for the District.”
The District of Columbia was founded when George Washington signed the Resident Act on July 16, 1790; in 1801, D.C. was placed under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress. Since the capital district isn’t formally beholden to a U.S. state, it lacks a voting member in Congress. And yet D.C. residents still must pay Federal taxes: a sore subject for many of the city’s residents, who number over 630,000 — more than the entire population of Vermont or Wyoming.
Something you might not recall: President Bill Clinton put the phrase on the presidential limo during his last days in office, but President George W. Bush chose to remove it in 2000.
D.C.’s prospects for representation going forward? Not good. As Salon notes, the District’s best chance came during Obama’s first two years in office, when Democrats had control of Congress. The Senate actually passed a bill in 2009 that would have given D.C. a vote in the House, but Republican senators deep-sixed it by tacking on a divisive amendment that would have stripped or eliminated many of the city’s stringent gun control laws.