In the United States, there are two major political parties: the Democrats and the Republicans. The most recent presidential election brought the Green Party and the Libertarian Party into the news, but the two largest political parties are the ones that come up most often in conversations about political parties and Puerto Rico.
Often, the question is whether Republicans will allow Puerto Rico to become a state. The right question is this: “Will both national political parties be competitive in the state of Puerto Rico?”
Red states and blue states
There are some states in the U.S. which tend to vote one way or the other. California, for example, tends to vote Democractic. It makes sense to call California a blue state. Texas tends to vote Republican. It makes sense to call Texas a red state.
But that’s not all 50 states. In fact, the National Review claims that the red state/ blue state divide is a myth for the nation as a whole. There is no reason to think that Puerto Rico will be a red state or a blue state. The last two territories to enter the Union were Alaska, which was expected to be a blue state, and Hawaii, which was expected to be a red state. In fact, it turned out to be the opposite.
States that don’t have a clear pattern of red or blue voting may be called “swing states’ or “battleground states” when the presidential election comes along. Florida is one of these. Florida, which has a large Puerto Rican community, tends to vote for the winner in presidential elections, not for a Republican or a Democrat. Our polling of Puerto Rican voters in Florida suggests that Puerto Rico will be more like Florida than like California or Texas.
Puerto Rico’s voters
The political parties in Puerto Rico are not the same as the Republican and Democratic parties in Florida. Puerto Rico’s two main political parties are actually aligned with statehood (PNP) and the discredited “commonwealth” option (PPD). These two parties have fielded all the successful candidates for governor since Puerto Rico began electing governors. There is also an Independence Party in Puerto Rico; it is a small party and has never elected a governor or won a status referendum, but it is usually included in the conversation because the three parties are divided by their positions on Puerto Rico’s political status. PPD leadership has recently been flirting with Free Association, a version of independence that maintains a relationship with the United States which either side can change or end at any time.
Puerto Rico also has Democratic and Republican parties and sends delegates to the national party conventions. The Republican Party of Puerto Rico favors statehood. The current Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Jenniffer Gonzalez, is a Republican and favors statehood.
The Democratic Party of Puerto Rico does not appear to have a website or a currently updated Facebook page. (If you know where we can link to them, please share it in the comments!) However, the current Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, is a Democrat and also favors statehood. Statehood for Puerto Rico is, as far as the mainland U.S. political parties go, a bipartisan issue.
Some observers expect that Puerto Rico’s political parties will align with the national parties on the road to statehood. However, it’s not a legal requirement.
The reality of party politics
In every state, both parties have to work to win. The most recent U.S. presidential election was a lively battle to the very last, and many people were surprised by the outcome. Puerto Rico’s allegiance to either party is still just a possibility. In the state of Puerto Rico, both parties will have to make an extra effort to make their message clear to people who may not have paid much attention before. On the other hand, they may also have the advantage of a fresh start.