Democratic Debates Ignore Puerto Rico Again

When the first set of Democratic Debates for the 2020 presidential campaign ignored Puerto Rico, several news outlets took them to task. With Puerto Rico in the headlines, the second set of debates again failed to include any questions about Puerto Rico. Social media saw lots of complaints.

Puerto Rico may not have featured in any of the questions asked the candidates, but there were a couple of mentions of the territory.

First, Tom Perez included Puerto Rico in a rundown of Democratic Party accomplishments in his opening remarks before the debate.

Then Julian Castro, the same candidate who mentioned Puerto Rico in the first set of debates, started his opening statement with, “You know, just a few days ago we were reminded and inspired by our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, that public service is not fundamentally about any of us. It’s about you and your family.”

The topics discussed during the debate — healthcare, climate change, criminal justice, and more — are relevant to Puerto Rico, as they are to the 50 states. Only half a dozen of those states were mentioned in the two nights of debates.

But Puerto Rico has just pushed their governor out of office. They’re still working to recover from the most severe hurricane to hit the United States in recorded history. They continue to strive for statehood — the first territory in the 21st century to do so. Those are newsworthy events.

Castro clearly assumed that his listeners would know what was happening in Puerto Rico, where two weeks of mostly peaceful protests have made the political rulers take notice of the will of the people. Public service, he said, is about the people being served, not about the politicians.

If that reference was enough to bring the events in Puerto Rico to mind, surely the territory’s current situation is important enough to warrant a question.

Puerto Rico doesn’t have a vote in the presidential election, but the voters of Puerto Rico do take part in the primaries. The Democrats have another chance in September. They should make sure that candidates are asked about their positions on statehood and their plans for Puerto Rico.

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