The First Lady and the Vice President both visited Puerto Rico in the past week. Both said that Puerto Rico is important to the president and to the federal government. A commenter responded, “During election year, it’s important.” This idea has been picked up by many observers online: Puerto Rico is important right now because the votes of Puerto Ricans living in the states are important for the presidential election. At other times, Puerto Rico is not that important to the federal government.

We have another way to look at this.

Voters are important

Politicians care about the opinions of the people who vote for them — and even the people who might vote for them. Congressional representatives care about and work for the benefit of the people they represent.

This is not intrinsically a bad thing. It’s their job, in fact. The problem is tha tPuerto Rico doesn’t get to vote. Residents of the Island can’t vote in presidential elections, don’t have senators to vote for, and have one non-voting representative in Congress, when there should be four voting representatives. As a territory, Puerto Rico has very little voice in American democracy.

Without votes, Puerto Rico has very little power. That’s not a flaw in Puerto Rico. it’s not even a flaw in the politicians. The solution is not that Congressmen from Oregon should care more about Puerto Rico. The solution is that Puerto Rico should become a state, and have all those politicians whose job it will be to care about Puerto Rico!

Seize the moment

So during election years, when Puerto Ricans who live in states and hav the votes might pay attention to how the candidates talk about Puerto Rico, the candidates care about Puerto Rico more than usual. We could see this as sleazy, self-serving fakery. But again, we have another way to look at it.

This is the time when we need to seize the opportunity. This is the time we should all ask our representatives — as well as candidates and representatives of the federal government who come to visit — to support the Puerto Rico Status Act.

For the first time, we have status bills in both the House and the Senate. While we have the ear of some people in the federal government, let’s seize the moment to demand that they end the colonial status of Puerto Rico, insist that they take action on the bill, and ask for admission as a state. We’ve waited long enough. Let’s not wait for the next presidential election year. Let’s grab this opportunity.



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