Every year at least one twentieth-century Betsy Ross adds a couple of stars to the flag to welcome Hawaii and Alaska into the union. Congressional committees, impressed by Alaska's resources, excellent educational system, and strategic position, and Hawaii's economic strength and population have often recommended both territories for statehood.
But in politics as in warfare, the terrain of the battlefield is crucial. Unfortunately statehood bills must pass a chamber barricaded by a group of Southern Senators prepared to fight the admission of states which might send proponents of civil rights to Congress. In earlier years these Southerners have been able to win minority party support to combine the two statehood proposals into a single bill, and then use this twin measure as a target for filibustering.
In past sessions of Congress the statehood bill has come to the Senate floor so late that the Southern bloc has succeeded in talking it to death. But this year the twin statehood proposal is ready for discussion early enough for Congress to sit out the vigorous filibuster promised. With judicious scheduling the bill could come to vote this year for the first time since the war.
Regrettably many Republicans in the Senate, disregarding 1952 platform promises, threaten to vote against the measure because "Democratic" Alaska is included. And at present it seems likely that the Southern Democrats, with the help of that group of Republicans who want statehood only for Hawall, will be able to defeat the double-barreled bill. Opposition to the joint admission of two territories on the basis of their party voting habits in politicking tof the worst sort. "Republican" Hawaii and "Democratic" Alaska should come into the union together.
If the Dixiecrat-Republican coalition is strong enough to defeat the twin statehood bill, as it now seems, a proposal for Hawaiian statehood alone probably could gain the support necessary for Congressional approval. This is what many Republicans hope, and though such tactics are deplorable, they must be faced for what they are. Statehood for Hawaii should not be held up for partisan reasons, even if it means that Alaska will have to wait for a more hospitable Democratic Congress. A climate favorable for joint admission may not come for a decade.
Meanwhile Hawaiians and Alaskans, who for years have been prepared for statehood, are dismayed at events in the Senate. Living in territories, they must pay taxes, but have no vote in Congress. Highway and school benefits that are automatically awarded to all states are given to them only through special legislation. Understandably they resent Presidential appointment of governor, judges, and other officials whom the citizens of the forty-eight states elect. Political bickering should not keep from them the rights they deserve as mature citizens.