On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver asked why Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, lacks many of the basic freedoms afforded to the rest of the Land of the Free. While America’s 50 states are governed by their own laws, the District of Columbia has been beholden to Congressional rule for over 200 years, a situation that even the Dalai Lama noted in a visit to the capital was “very strange, very strange.”
In the segment, Oliver lobbies for the District of Columbia to be granted its own statehood so that Congress can no longer use the city as leverage for other laws. As Oliver notes, President Barack Obama avoided a government shutdown in 2011 by striking a deal with Republicans that would prohibit D.C. from spending its own money on abortions for low-income women.
Washington D.C.’s lack of representation arose again in February, when Congress attempted to block the capital city’s efforts to decriminalize weed by attaching preventative measures in an unrelated $1.1 trillion spending deal. However, the inclusion of the word “enact” provided D.C. officials a loophole in that situation, but it is the fact that Congress meddles with Washington D.C. matters that has Oliver asking why the city with a population bigger than Vermont and Wyoming doesn’t have statehood.
Oliver also tackles the hypocrisy involved when it comes to out-of-state senators meddling with D.C. affairs. In one instance, Georgia representative Bob Barr argued against D.C. using their own tax dollars to fund needle exchange programs, which would have stemmed the rise of HIV in the city. Barr successfully argued against the D.C. measure, even though his own state of Georgia already had a needle exchange program in place. After the needle exchange program was finally passed in D.C. in 2008, HIV diagnosis among drug users dropped by 87 percent.
Oliver also wonders if people’s familiarity with the 50-star flag has citizens reluctant to fight for D.C.’s statehood. However, the host fools his viewers again by proclaiming that for the entire segment, he’s been displaying a 51-star flag and nobody noticed. As for those 50 state songs all children have to memorize in school, Oliver and a group of kids wrap up the segment by showing those songs too could be hilariously altered to include Washington D.C.