When the House Oversight and Reform Committee considered HR 51, the proposal to grant statehood to the District of Columbia, Georgia Republican Jody Hice delivered an antidemocratic diatribe that caused jaws to drop.
“DC would be the only state—the only state—without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city, without a landfill,” the right-wing talk radio host turned congressman announced Monday, during the committee hearing on a measure that proponents have correctly identified as one of the most important civil rights and voting rights initiatives being considered by the current Congress.
Hice’s argument inspired immediate mockery from Americans who had cracked enough history books to know that most states were admitted to the union before the advent of auto sales. The Georgian’s remarks were taken as confirmation that Republicans had no reason to deny D.C. voting representation in the US House and the US Senate, except a concern that the voters of Washington—a majority-minority city that cast 93 percent of its vote for Joe Biden in 2020—might exercise a fully realized franchise to elect Democrats.
In addition to being transparently partisan in his determination to deny more than 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia the same rights as their fellow Americans, Hice failed to do his research on the city he is so determined to disenfranchise.
“It was cited that there’s no car dealership in the District of Columbia. That’s not a constitutional restriction,” noted a bemused Representative Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who is, in fact, a constitutional scholar. “It turns out,” Raskin added, “there is a car dealership in the District of Columbia. At this point, [can] we agree that people in DC should enjoy equal political rights? Of course not, because [Republicans like Hice are] simply trying to gin up whatever arguments they can think of. These are frivolous arguments.”
Instead of acknowledging the obvious—that he had been grasping at straws in an effort to maintain D.C.’s taxation-without-representation status—Hice employed the ignorance dodge. “If there’s a car dealership in D.C., I apologize for being wrong,” he chirped. “I have no idea where it is.”
Apparently, Hice doesn’t get out much in Washington. The Tesla salesroom on H Street, one of a several car dealerships in the city, is located just a short walk from the Capitol.
But getting things spectacularly wrong is obviously not a disqualification for entry into a House Republican Caucus where the majority of members—including Hice—supported schemes to overturn the 2020 election based on a Big Lie about supposedly illicit voting and vote counting.
It turns out that Hice’s ignorance when it comes to voting rights and democracy is an asset in the eyes of defeated former President Donald Trump.
On the same day that the representative was spouting nonsense in hopes of denying representation to the District of Columbia, Trump endorsed Hice to become Georgia’s chief elections officer.
Hice is mounting a Republican primary challenge to incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who earned Trump’s ire when he refused to “find” enough votes to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia.
In Hice, Trump has found an absolute loyalist who will never let facts get in the way of overturning fair elections and disenfranchising voters in what has become this country’s most bitterly contested battleground state.
Few House members have been so ardent as Hice when it comes to amplifying Trump’s false claims about voter fraud and official wrongdoing in the 2020 presidential election. When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Trump zealot, attempted to get the US Supreme Court to invalidate the 4,999,960 ballots cast by Georgians in the presidential race, Hice signed on as a supporter of the effort—despite the fact that Georgia’s Republican Attorney General Chris Carr labeled Paxton’s claims “constitutionally, legally and factually wrong.”
On the day that Trump incited insurrectionists to storm the US Capitol in an attempt to block the review of Electoral College votes that would confirm Biden’s election as president, Hice posted an image of himself inside the Capitol with the message, “This is our 1776 moment.” On the evening of January 6, after an attack that left five dead, including a police officer, Hice returned to the Capitol and continued his effort to reject the results from Georgia and other states that backed Biden.
Now, Hice wants to remove Raffensperger and get his hands on the election machinery of a state that in recent years has seen closely contested races for governor in 2018, president in 2020, and two US Senate seats in 2021 special elections. “His recklessness is matched by his fecklessness as a congressman,” says Raffensperger. Unfortunately, Trump says the joker who can’t find a car lot in D.C. is just the man to deliver the results he hopes to see in Georgia elections.
The Trump imprimatur is very likely to make Hice a front-runner in next year’s Republican primary, which means Democrats had better be prepared for a November showdown. They’ll need a bold supporter of voting rights—perhaps state Representative Bee Nguyen, who has been talked up as a potential contender—as their standard-bearer. If Hice is in the running, it’ll be necessary to have a nominee who recognizes, as Nguyen does, that election officials have a “responsibility to seek the truth and defend our democracy.”