July 22, 2014

Horse 1718 - It's Full Of Stars

“I think I’ve long believed that D.C. pays — folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else. They contribute to the overall well-being of the country like everybody else. They should be represented [in Congress] like everybody else,” Obama said. “And it’s not as if Washington, D.C., is not big enough compared to other states. There has been a long movement to get D.C. statehood, and I’ve been for it for quite some time.”
- US President, Barack Obama, via Politico, 21st Jul 2014

Thanks to the signatures of more than 807,000 concerned Californians, an ambitious idea has moved that much closer to becoming a reality. The “Six Californias” Initiative, sponsored by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, seeks to create areas that are more governable, more productive, and more successful.
- Forbes, 17th Jul 2014

Only in 2012 did statehood advocates finally come out on top: in a ballot with two separate questions, a majority voted both in favour of changing the island’s status and for becoming a state if a change did occur. Critics argued that the referendum’s design was rigged to produce a pro-statehood outcome, since even people who voted against a change in status were still asked to select a preferred arrangement other than the current one.
- The Economist, 21st Oct 2013

Put plainly, Texas agreed to join the union in 1845 on the condition that it be allowed to split itself into as many as five separate states whenever it wanted to, and contingent only on the approval of its own state legislature. For more than 150 years, this right to divide—unilaterally, which is to say without the approval of the U.S. Congress—has been packed away in the state's legislative attic, like a forgotten family heirloom that only gets dusted off every now and then by some politician who has mistaken it for a beautiful beacon of hope.
- Slate, 14th Nov 2012

Okay, let's just run through the summary.

minus: California (-1)
plus: Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, Central California, West California, South California (+6)
minus: Texas (-1)
plus: New Texas, Trinity, Gulfland, Plainland, El Norte (+5)
plus: District of Columbia (+1)
plus: Puerto Rico (+1)

All up: 50 - 2 + 13 = 61

It's fun to imagine new flags for the United States. Ever since 1818 when the flag was changed to have 20 stars for the then 20 states (and 13 stripes for the original 13 colonies), every time a new state was added to the union, another star was added on the next 4th of July.

"Old Glory" changed pretty regularly until 1912 when for 47 years following the admission of Arizona and New Mexico, the flag stayed at 48 stars. Alaska was added in 1959 and the flag had 49 stars for one year until 1960 when the 50th and as yet final star was added for Hawaii.

I like the American flag. In the United States its presence is ubiquitous and can be seen on not only official state buildings but on a whole host of private buildings, people's houses and draped over all sorts of things.
The American Flag is as easily as powerful at marking "Brand America" as the Union Flag is for Great Britain or l'Tricolore is for France.

But what is the likelihood of ever seeing a 61 star state flag? I'd say pretty minimal. The admission of extra states to the union is contingent on two things.
Firstly, convincing everyone in the territory which is to become a state that statehood is a good idea.
Secondly, convincing everyone in the rest of the United States that granting said territory statehood is a good idea.

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.
- Article Four, Section 3, Clause 1, US Constitution.

Now I know that this is going to sound very wibbly-wobbly and like a tangled ball of nonsense but how a nation of people feels about itself, depends on how that nation of people feels about itself.
Most obviously that sense of itself is when a nation compares itself to another one (usually in the context of asserting independence), however if you look at the concept of statehood within a bigger thing called a nation, there's often far less of a distinction. No doubt the people of Sacremento, San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego are probably nominally fine with calling themselves Californians.

If you look at the admission of the last two states into the union, Alaska and Hawaii, they were set against the backdrop of the Cold War. Alaska and Hawaii were both physically within the realm of the reach of firepower of what was then the USSR and so it made perfect sense that they wanted "to form a more perfect Union" with the United States. I don't know how statehood would necessarily protect you against an all-out nuclear war but at least you'd have a say in congress, whilst you were being blown to pieces. It's one thing to have annihilation, you don't also need anarchy.
I just don't know if in 2014, whether the same sort of impetus exists for a potential 13 extra states to join.

For extra states to join the United States, I suspect that the biggest requirement is that it has to "feel right" and I'm not sure that that is the case.

Weird Aside:
A shop in Dallas, Texas sold a 61-star flag:
"I kind of let them know there are 50 states in the United States, and they need to correct this — or at least get the Chinese supplier to correct this," 
- WFAA-TV Channel 8, 27th Jun 2010.

Naturally, Americans are very very very protective of their flag. Maybe, that the Chinese flag supplier has access to time travel... and that their 61-star flag is from the future!
(Who honestly didn't see this coming?)

No comments: