Capitals across the U.S.

Washington DC was chosen as the nation’s capital because of a political compromise between northern and southern states. In 1800, when the US Congress met for the first time at the Capitol, there were 16 states and a resident population of 5.3 million people.

Today, America has 50 states and an estimated 318.8 million people (US Census Bureau, Vintage 2014 Population Estimates). The country sprawls across North America and reaches across the Pacific Ocean.

I think that our country has out-grown Washington DC. The Capitol is no longer centrally located either geographically or by population density. In fact, its location on the East Coast of the US has become a barrier to a representative democracy.

I’d like to suggest a radical idea: rotate the US capital among Washington DC and two additional cities, in each of the four presidential years. Based on population density and climate, we could establish new Capital Districts on the West Coast (near California or Oregon) and Midwest (near Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, or Texas). Interested cities would have to bid to host a permanent US Capital District, similar to bidding on the Olympics. Some considerations: location, land availability (unless there is already available federal land, cities would need to cede land to the federal government), infrastructure (utilities and infrastructure), and defensibility.

3 US Capital Districts

There’s no doubt that creating US Capital Districts would be a costly endeavor. It would be expensive to build and maintain, and could mean bigger government. It would require a realistic strategy during “off-rotation” years – maybe involving historical exhibits and educational activities.

How could this benefit citizens and taxpayers? More people could participate in legislation, by submitting testimony, staging protests, or just visiting. It could reduce barriers to civic participation, such as travel time and expenses – especially for residents in the Western US. It could re-energize voters and give them more access to presidents and presidential nominees. It could revitalize cities with public works projects. It could make the federal government a little more local.

How could this benefit lawmakers? Congress and the president could see first-hand how other parts of the country react to laws and initiatives, rather than being influenced only by their home state and Washington DC. It could give Congressmembers more opportunities for public debate and provide a bigger springboard into national politics. It could make travel more equitable, instead of putting a heavy burden on the states farthest from Washington DC.

How could this affect Hawaii? Hawaii residents and political candidates could be less discouraged by the amount of traveling necessary to visit the Capitol, learn about our country’s history, or represent our state. Our Congressmembers could spend slightly less time and money on travel – and could have more opportunities to promote Hawaii as a place for business, eco-adventure, and tourism.

Have you ever visited Washington DC? Do you think that Washington DC represents you and the nation as a whole? Is this a crazy idea or an idea worth considering?

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