What Will the Midterm Elections Mean for Puerto Rico?

The Plot Thickens

One subplot in story of Puerto Rico’s political status has been the strange alliances in the White House and Congress between far left and far right staff who oppose statehood.  The current political status may not be good for the people of Puerto Rico, but there are benefits for some people and companies. Motivated by their campaign contributions, some on both sides of the aisle claim that any local or federal vote is “rigged” unless it offers voters continuation of the current status.

Of course, the current status has been rejected by a majority of voters on numerous occasions, and in 2012 a majority rejected the status quo and chose statehood.  So those in Puerto Rico and their friends in Washington with anti-statehood agendas also demand that the ballot in any status vote include a non-existent new status with features of both statehood and independence.  Everyone knows Congress has rejected this legally impossible confederacy status for 6 decades and always will, but it is the gimmick used to confuse the issues in Washington and the territory.

So over the last 20 years anti-statehood “liberals” have argued Puerto Rico can do better than statehood.   Anti-statehood “conservatives” argue that a State of Puerto Rico would be liberal, would vote Democratic, and would threaten the Republican majority.  It is the same as those who argued Alaska would be Democrat and Hawaii would be Republican — the opposite of what actually occurred.

Never mind that Puerto Rico voters regularly elect Republican governors, non-voting representatives to Congress, state legislators and mayors.  Never mind that polling shows that  Puerto Rican voters in the territory, like those in Florida, have deeply conservatives values that endure.

Enter the Judicial Branch

Republican staff aligned with anti-statehood lobbyists in Congress and Republican administrations argue that Puerto Rico’s Republicans have no true common cause with conservatism and American traditionalism.  Never mind that pursuant to the local constitution approved by Congress in 1952, the elected Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico upholds traditional social values under local law, including marriage under local law.

Now a decision by Federal District Court Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez upholding Puerto Rico’s same sex marriage ban may finally dispel the anti-statehood myth that Puerto Rico is not socially and politically conservative.  Indeed, the ruling in the may raise fundamental issues about application of the Constitution in Puerto Rico, the constitutional nature of the current status, and perhaps most attention-getting of all may be the most important same sex marriage ban case that makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If so, conservatives who care about restoring the constitutional right of states to regulate and define marriage as union between a man and a woman will be obliged to champion the cause of Puerto Rico’s leadership in defense of American conservatism and tradition.  Once the nation sees Puerto Rico at the front lines in the cultural and spiritual war to uphold our common values it will be hard for anti-statehood “conservatives” to argue that Puerto Rico is not conservative enough for statehood. What is more traditional than self-determination, equal rights of citizenship and government by democratic content of the governed?

It has also been argued that Puerto Rico should not be allowed to vote up or down on statehood because there are too many Spanish speakers there — an argument that liberals will not be willing to accept.  Yet, New Mexico had even fewer English speakers per capita when it was admitted to the union. Puerto Rico, when it becomes a state, will not have the largest number of Spanish speakers. If conservatives will find it hard to continue to argue that Puerto Rico is too liberal, liberals will find it hard to refuse Puerto Rico without turning away from their cherished values.

Those are the issues at stake in Puerto Rico’s political status process.

In that context, the worries that an increase in Republicans in the legislature will spell the end for Puerto Rican statehood are unnecessary.  Having a Republican majority in both Houses of Congress and a Democrat President already on record supporting a federally recognized status vote should instead lead directly to Puerto Rico as the 51st State.

 

This post was originally written in English and may be being auto-translated by Google.

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