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The District of Columbia gave 90 percent of its nearly 300,000 votes in the presidential race of 2016 to Hillary Clinton.

The state of Wyoming gave 67 percent of its more than 250,000 votes in the presidential race of 2016 to Donald Trump.

So, right away, you can see why U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton says Wyoming is "well-rounded" and deserves to be the state that it is. And you can see as readily why he says the District of Columbia is incompetent and doesn't deserve to be recognized as a state, which a bill passed last week in the Democratic U.S. House would provide.

Dick Cheney came from Wyoming. Marion Barry came from D.C. The old white curmudgeon warmonger gets a state. The memory of the departed African American mayor who smoked crack on a hotel­-room video doesn't. Don't you see?

Cotton made a speech last week decrying the notion of statehood for D.C., meaning the principle of treating as citizens the permanent residents of the district. He has been widely accused of being racist in that speech, labeling as "well-rounded" the 93 percent white population of Wyoming and incompetent or corrupt the 46-46 division of white and black in D.C.

But clumsy appearances of racism do not necessary reflect a racist heart. They might merely reflect clumsiness, as well as a sheltered and skewed cultural view of what "well-rounded" means.

What Cotton said was that Wyoming has workers in logging and mining while D.C. doesn't. He seemed thereby to say a population is well-rounded if it extracts resources--that is, that the timber counties of south Arkansas deserve a U.S. senator but that people in Little Rock don't.

Cotton typically gets big voting majorities in the timber counties of south Arkansas. He doesn't do nearly as well in Little Rock. So, to him, "well-rounded" may mean supportive of him.

Wyoming's few people are spread across vast space and vote Republican. D.C.'s similar number of people live close together and vote Democratic.

States get two senators each, no matter how small or large. Wyoming's spread-out white people get two--as many as all of California with nearly 80 times Wyoming's population--and are reliably Republican. D.C.'s bunched-up people of a 46-46 racial balance get zero senators. They are taxpayers literally without representation. It they were allowed two, they'd as assuredly elect Democrats as the spread-out people in Wyoming elect Republicans.

We cannot have that. Republicans depend for their control on minority rule and on disenfranchising large numbers of Democrats.

The next time you see a Republican talking on television from a position of political control, just know that most of the people in the country preferred a Democrat.

Regnat populus? No. It's regnat second place. It's regnat runner-up. It's regnat loser.

If you let D.C.'s semi-citizens pick two senators, then suddenly the Senate would start looking more like America. And that would be the worst news for the white political privilege of Tom Cotton, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and others from well-rounded places.

I might have mentioned in this space a few times that Donald Trump is the second-place president. That's because he finished second in the popular vote. So did George W. Bush in 2000. In this still-young century, Republicans already have installed two presidents who actually got beat.

A Republican candidate has finished in first place in the popular vote in an American presidential election only once, in 2004, since 1988.

It's the electoral college that protects modern-day Republicans from Americans. It does that by giving states weighted numbers of electors that over-value white Republican miners and loggers in places like Wyoming and under-value racially diverse Democratic service workers in a place like the District of Columbia.

It's bad enough for Republicans that residents of D.C. get to vote for president. But if you let them have two senators ... well, that's going too far.

By giving tiny-populated and overwhelmingly white states like Wyoming--and Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas--the same number of senators as diversely and heavily populated California and New York and Illinois, and giving none to hundreds of thousands in D.C., we end up with a Senate that over-represents white people and under-represents black people.

I'm not inclined to argue to change that--because we're not going to do it and the Senate maintains a kind of venerable status--but merely to lament it.

Yet I am fully inclined to believe the District of Columbia ought to be granted statehood to enfranchise residents there in our legislative governance at least to the limited extent our Constitution currently permits enfranchisement for other non-white people from large population centers.

I also am inclined to continue resisting calling Cotton's seeming racism actual racism. I merely call him highly confused about what "well-rounded" means, as well as utterly undemocratic--by white privilege and Republican imperative.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.



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