Pasquines made an interesting claim recently: statehood for the territories will not upset the balance of Congress.

The balance of Congress

Before the Civil War, Congress had one enormous issue they could not agree on: slavery. It became the custom to add states in pairs, with one allowing slavery and one forbidding it. During and after the Civil War, as the Democratic and Republican parties became the basis of the U.S. political landscape, each party in Congress was determined to maintain power when they had it. The tradition of admitting states in pairs and the desire to keep or gain control over Congress for the party came together when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as a Republican and a Democratic state.

Alaska was supposed to be the blue state and Hawaii the red, but it turned out differently. This shows that trying to manipulate the balance of Congress isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Still, one of the issues that comes up when people talk about statehood for Puerto Rico is the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

Adding a blue state?

If the U.S. adds a blue state like Puerto Rico, the conversation goes, then Republicans will lose their majority in the Senate. However, Puerto Rico is not a blue state. Puerto Rico is a purple state.

As Pasquines puts it, “The political parties, however, don’t closely resemble those of mainland America. National parties do not compete in local elections, and mainly only exist to coordinate the presidential primaries in the territory. That said, the New Progressive Party encompasses officials across a wide ideological spectrum and holds a two-thirds majority of the seats in the legislature now.”

Pasquines calculates that including the other territories as well would still not change the current balance of power in Congress. Since only Puerto Rico has requested statehood, we accept their calculation.

Both U.S. political parties would have the opportunity to campaign for the votes of the new state. Developing a new awareness of the issues facing the U.S. territories would enrich the party platforms. Bringing people from the new state into Congress would bring new perspectives into the government.

Admit Puerto Rico now. The excuse of disrupting the balance of power in Congress has always been a flimsy one, but it also is not true. Tell your legislators to get on the right side of history now.



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