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Washington, D.C., has been the capital of the United States since 1790. In the intervening years, of course, the country has expanded to the Pacific, and the population has spread southward and westward. So isn’t it time to at least think about moving the capital to another region? Perhaps to a red state? Perhaps to a warm area? Perhaps to a city where it’s possible to drive for more than three minutes without becoming hopelessly lost? I’m sorry, Phoenix, Arizona, but I nominate you.
Now, before you Phoenicians get too upset, think about the upside. The capital rains money on those who live and work with, for or near it. According to most estimates, six if the ten richest counties in the country are in the D.C. metro area. Plus, the Feds already own over 74% of the land in Arizona, so you’re used to them, and there’s plenty of room for shiny new edifices. As for the old ones back in D.C., they’ll become museums and such, and the tourists will continue to flock there. They’ll even be able to get near the old White House again (or, as it would likely be renamed, the White House Museum). We’ll have plenty of time to create jokes about what will be exhibited there.
As for the new capital in Phoenix, once the tourists (and their money) start rolling in, they’ll actually be able to find their way around in a city that makes sense. No more octopus-like tentacles radiating from circles that have been known to swallow up entire families for days at a time. As far as can be determined, Pierre Charles L’Enfant never traveled west of the Mississippi. His handiwork in Washington will, at long last, stop interfering with the business of government. And, speaking of interfering with the government, the change in location will also do away with snow days, which, according to some estimates, cost taxpayers over $100 million each.
And there’s more. Isn’t it about time we addressed the two-centuries-plus unfairness to western Senate and House members who have had to travel tremendous distances between the capital and their constituents? Won’t it be easier for elected officials when they don’t have to choose between keeping their promises to voters and trying to get positive coverage in the Washington Post’s Lifestyles section?
Sure, there are downsides for DC West, starting with an influx of journalists and pundits and lobbyists and lawyers and the various categories of hangers-on that have developed around politicians, but they all have to buy or rent housing and eat at restaurants and have suits made and sit at dark bars.
There’s an oft-repeated story about Ronald Reagan looking out over the beautiful Pacific in his beloved California and remarking, “If the Pilgrims had landed in California, the East Coast would still be a wilderness.” Maybe it’s time to correct that accident of discovery and settlement, and go west, young man. The capital’s current slogan, Justia Omnibus (Justice for All) would simply be replaced by Calor est Arida (It’s a Dry Heat.)