Senator Rubio’s points about prevailing political winds in Congress are well stated. He remains a friendly voice expressing commitment to the cause of self-determination on statehood for Puerto Rico.
His warning that a preemptive push for statehood could produce opposition is well taken as political forecasting. He is correct that a statehood bill might well be defeated in Congress.
Historically, however, for most territories that became states, introducing enabling and admission acts that were defeated was an important step toward admission.
The denial of equality can not be understood until it is manifested.
The democratically elected Governor and duly constituted Legislature of Puerto Rico have exercised powers granted to the local government by the U.S. Congress to petition Congress for admission to the union. Statehood was approved by a majority in plebiscites held in 2012 and 2017, a more conclusive record of democratic majority support for statehood than most of 32 territories that became state. Each plebiscite was a more conclusive vote for statehood than most of the 32 territories that became states.
Defeat of a petition for statehood makes the denial of equality an inconvenient truth that becomes a matter of record before Congress. Without forcing Congress to defeat statehood on the record, indefinite denial of equality remains a convenient truth.
The status quote is an informal and thus subliminally benign form of paternalistic and seemingly petite tyranny. The defeat of a statehood bill formalizes the denial of equality, creating the baseline from which the inequality can be contested.
For 65 years the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Balzac v. Puerto Rico has been relied on to enable Congress to practice institutionalized denial that citizenship outside the umbrella of the Constitution pursuant to the doctrine of non-incorporation is anti-democratic and repugnant to the Declaration of Independence. The pathology of Balzac is that it institutionalized citizenship separated from the Constitution and made denial of equality appear normative.
“Commonwealth” was a logical response to institutionalized juridical rationalization that “autonomy” made indefinite denial of equality tolerable. That accommodation necessarily was as pathological as the institutionalized inequality of citizenship to which the autonomy cult adapted itself. “Commonwealth” was simply a doomed attempt to make less than equal citizenship without the rights of statehood appear consistent with self determination, human rights and dignity.
Congress has been all too willing to preside over the perpetual denial of equality as long as it remains convenient. Balzac gave Congress license to do so as long as Puerto Rico’s body politic lacks the will to make the institutionalized passive aggressive denial of equality a matter of record.
Yes, Rubio is correct, it may be hard to change votes against equality, but it is impossible to attain equality if Congress is spared the inconvenience of deciding how to vote. Defeat of a statehood bill would be a moral moment of truth from which the struggle for equality will commence.
If defeat can be averted, a bill extending the Constitution or otherwise institutionalizing a policy leading to statehood would be preferable. But holding out the possibility of defeat as a reason to retreat is capitulation to passive aggressive suppression of self determination.
If Congress is institutionally opposed to equality and prefers for Americans in Puerto Rico to remain citizens without a state, the sooner that condition and predisposition of aggression against equality becomes overt the better. Only then can the moral millstone of the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence begin to grind the rationalizations for denial of equality into dust.
Only then can the presupposition that government without consent and equal rights of citizenship is unjust be brought to bear. Only the stark reality of disenfranchisement for millions of Americans can become for Puerto Rico the moral force for statehood it has for every other similarly situated territory. That is the historical narrative of freedom embodied in the Constitution.
It is exclusively through the work of making the union a more perfectly ordered scheme of liberty, according to the precision of disciplines and rights existing only within statehood, that the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico can be governed justly. That is undeniably imperative if Puerto Rico is to remain with the American system of constitutional federalism.
Otherwise we remain codependent enablers for the perpetual denial of equality. We remain addicted to the poisonous opiate of the Balzac doctrine, treating citizens in Puerto Rico as permanently subject to the same subordinated status as non citizens in the Philippines during the transition to independence.
Once citizenship was conferred and Puerto Rico became more incorporated into the union than 32 territories that became states, the Congress had a duty to declare future statehood as national policy. Only when Congress ends it’s silence and must go on record formalizing denial of equality can that century long abdication of duty be corrected.
Only then can the public discourse begin on whether citizenship and the Constitution can remain separated indefinitely.