Voters in Takoma Park last week narrowly approved a referendum calling for the extension of municipal voting rights to non-citizens. Sometimes derided as "Berkeley East," Takoma Park has a history of trendy gestures. It has proclaimed itself a nuclear-free zone and a sanctuary for Central American refugees. Now it has declared that aliens, legal or not, shouldn't be discriminated against just for not being American.
That sounds noble, and furthermore appears at first sight to rest upon a principle as old as the Republic -- no taxation without representation. An alien who rents or owns property and pays taxes in Takoma Park has as great a stake as any citizen in its governance.
The subtext, however, is that citizenship is an irrelevant triviality like hair color or dietary habits that ought to have no civic consequences. Nonsense! Citizenship is allegiance. Citizenship is commitment. Citizenship is an undertaking to bear society's burdens, as well as receive its benefits.