UC Law Constitutional Quarterly


Bradley Raboin


The United States is widely considered the most prominent example of the modem democratic state. Yet, America's most prolific historical document remains imbued with a seemingly impossible contradiction. The District of Columbia, the Constitutionally mandated territory housing the federal government and serving as the literal epicenter of American democracy, does not actually provide representation to citizens living in that district. Incredibly, the very place created to house a government "for the people, of the people, and by the people," does not even allow the people residing therein to partake in that government.

This Article examines this Constitutional conflict within American democracy by first looking at the historical creation of the Federal district. By investigating the competing political ideologies responsible for the creation of the Constitution, this Article uncovers a delicate subtext of compromise and opportunity at the true heart of America's District Clause. Then, this Article considers the resulting disenfranchisement in the Federal territory and questions how, and why, such an overt inconsistency in American democratic ideology could have been permitted to manifest in the nation's capital. Finally, this Article concludes that America's founding principles require a reevaluation of the District of Columbia representation issue and posits that existing Constitutional mechanisms already exist for resolving this most infamous of modem democratic contradictions.