09 November 2012

Estado nuevo?

One result of Tuesday's election should perhaps be getting more attention than it is:  for the first time, Puerto Rico has voted for statehood, 54%-to-46%.

That doesn't mean it's a done deal.  House Republicans will likely obstruct the admission of a new solidly-blue state.  Puerto Rico's population is 3,700,000, slightly bigger than my own state of Oregon, so it would have seven or eight electoral votes and five or six House seats, along with two Senators.  The effect on the national party balance of power would be small but real, and that's all that the Republican establishment seems to care about these days.

I'm personally somewhat hesitant about the idea.  We haven't admitted a new state since 1959 -- the age of expansion is long past and the country's borders are now, in most people's minds, pretty much fixed.  And we've never admitted a state in which the majority native language was not English.  But this is not so out-of-left-field as, say, annexing Cuba or British Columbia.  Puerto Rico has been under American rule since 1898 and its people have been US citizens since 1917.  Its territorial status is something of an anomaly -- not foreign soil but not quite fully a normal part of the US either.  Now that the people have voted to regularize their status, the issue deserves sober consideration.


Blogger Tommykey said...

I was in Old San Juan a few years ago on vacation and found it oddly amusing to wander the streets of Spanish colonial era city and see a US Postal carrier delivering the mail.

IIRC, a few years ago the Republican majority in Congress made noises about admitting Puerto Rico as a state as part of some strategy to appeal to Latinos. Of course, now they would probably be against it. I also understand Puerto Rico's current governor is something of a right winger.

09 November, 2012 04:26  
Blogger Ahab said...

I too am surprised that Puerto Rico hasn't been receiving more U.S. news attention -- I found out about the vote from BBC News, for crying out loud!

I don't know if it will be a reality, but the possibility of a 51st state is intriguing. I'm eager to see what impact it would have on U.S. policy and politics.

09 November, 2012 05:01  
Blogger S.W. Anderson said...

If most Puerto Ricans want to join the union, I'm all for it.

I fully expect the radical right to fight it with everything they've got. They'll do that for the same reason they've fought statehood for the District of Columbia. Puerto Rico and D.C. both have too many people who are "other" -- too dark of skin, speak too differently and, worst of all, are much too unclined to vote Democratic.

I recall so well how a couple of Republicans persisted in mispronouncing Justice Sotomayor's name during her confirmation hearing, even though others all around them had been saying it correctly. They were aping Limbaugh and doing it deliberately, playing to their bigoted crowd watching on C-SPAN.

Now, if oil or large natural gas deposits were found in Puerto Rico, it might be another matter.

09 November, 2012 17:05  
Blogger LadyAtheist said...

That would be one way of decreasing the deficit. I think they don't pay taxes because they have no representation (unlike D.C. residents who have a non-voting representative and pay taxes like anybody else)

09 November, 2012 17:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

TK: The current governor is a Republican, but he lost re-election this week.

Ahab: It's odd that it hasn't been mentioned much. I suspect the actual impact on the country wouldn't be very large, aside from giving the Republicans one more thing to bitch about.

SWA: Let 'em fight it. They'll just hand us the Hispanic vote again in 2014 and 2016, and in the long run Puerto Rico will become a state anyway.

LA: Good point. Right now Puerto Rico is exempt from federal income tax, which debunks another right-wing talking point.

10 November, 2012 10:18  

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