Stars Not Quite Aligned on Pennsylvania Avenue
It’s America’s main street. Pennsylvania Avenue in northwest Washington, D.C. can take you from White House all the way to the Capitol Building, passing the U.S. Constitution along the way. And traditionally, every summer as Independence Day approaches, it’s not uncommon to see this national avenue lined with American flags. But not this year.
It may look familiar, but it’s not what it seems. Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) this week ordered that 51-star flags be displayed along Pennsylvania Avenue. Said Bowser on Monday:
“I directed our team to hang 51-star flags along Pennsylvania Avenue as a reminder to Congress and the nation that the 700,000 tax-paying American citizens living in Washington, D.C. demand to be recognized. On Flag Day, we celebrate American ideals, American history, and American liberty. But the very foundation of those ideals, and the basis for our liberty, is representation.”
Bowser may be focused on celebrating American ideals, history, and liberty — but she’s not doing it with the flag of the United States of America. The United States Code prescribes exactly how a star should be added to the flag: “On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission.”
The bid for Washington, D.C. statehood is nothing new, going all the way back to the Constitutional Convention. In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 51, The Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would seek to admit Washington, D.C. to the Union “on an equal footing with the other states.” The bill has since seen no movement in the Senate, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) associating the move with “full bore socialism.” Conservative scholars have long held that D.C. statehood is unconstitutional without a constitutional amendment.
Sidestepping the legal proceedings of the statehood battle, Bowser’s 51-star flag projects what she and other supporters of the effort hope to achieve. She stated, “D.C.’s disenfranchisement is a stain on American democracy — a 220-year-old wrong that demands to be righted. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, and now the U.S. Senate must do the same.”
Not content to let the additionally-starred flags represent only the statehood effort, Bowser extended the metaphor as symbolic to a smorgasbord of Leftist issues:
“As Americans nationwide brace for a decision on the future of Roe v. Wade, we are also reminded that D.C.’s disenfranchisement impacts not just Americans living in D.C., but Americans nationwide who share our values. While the stakes are even higher for Washingtonians, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the majority of Americans who believe in a woman’s right to choose. We also stand shoulder to shoulder with the majority of Americans demanding common sense gun reforms, and with the majority of Americans who want to build a more inclusive democracy.”
Bowser’s altered flag isn’t the only departure from America’s stars-and-stripes tradition that has emerged from the Left. In recent years, the display of the American flag has increasingly been viewed as a divisive act. In 2021, a New York Times piece covering the subject suggested that the flag was a “symbol of unity that may no longer unite.” And as highlighted by a viral Libs of TikTok post on Twitter, some progressives see the American flag as an item of disgust.
As tourists and commuters walk and drive Pennsylvania Avenue this summer, it’s unlikely they’ll stop to count the extra star in the blue field of the flags. But Americans of all stripes can count on the controversies of the flag and D.C. statehood to continue to wave on.
Jared Bridges is editor-in-chief of The Washington Stand.