Playing Both Sides

by Mark Krikorian

Deroy Murdock’s piece on the free-market reforms of Puerto Rico’s governor Luis Fortuno is certainly encouraging. As NRO’s resident independentista, I hope that a prosperous Puerto Rico makes statehood less appealing; the cry of “La estadidad es para los pobres!” (“statehood for the poor,” i.e., continued access to U.S. welfare payments) becomes less salient if the economy is doing well there.

But Murdock refers to Fortuno as a Republican, and that’s an interesting point. It’s correct in that he’s a member of the Republican National Committee, but he’s also president of the Partido Nuevo Progresista de Puerto Rico (PNP), the pro-statehood party. Fair enough — apparently that’s what the GOP is called in Puerto Rico, like the DFL in Minnesota, right? Wrong. Two of Fortuno’s three predecessors as governor from that same party called themselves Democrats. Okay, well maybe the alignment changed, and the PNP switched its allegiance to the Republicans. Wrong again. Puerto Rico’s current pseudo-congressman, Pedro Pierluisi, who was Fortuno’s running mate in 2008 and successor as pseudo-congressman in Washington, belongs to the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives, serving as a minority-party member on the Judiciary, Ethics, and Natural Resources committees. He can only vote in committee, but his voting record there has earned him a 100 percent rating from Defenders of Wildlife, the Teamsters, and the National Latino Congreso (joining in that last distinction with John Kerry and Dennis Kucinich), an 80 percent from the pro-homosexual Human Rights Campaign, and an F from Liberty Central (most other conservative groups don’t seem to rank the pseudo-congressmen). Remember, this is “Republican” Fortuno’s running mate.

When Fortuno was the pseudo-congressman, he actually had a reasonably conservative voting record, but that just underlines the cynical nature of such political ambidexterity. Puerto Ricans are right to love their country and take pride in it, but the U.S. Congress is the legislature of a foreign country and participation there by representatives of a different people is bound to be an exercise in opportunism, rather than part of the deliberation of We the (American) People.

This game of “you be the Democrat and I’ll be the Republican” reminds me of the Fanjul brothers, Cuban-born sugar magnates in Florida; Alfonso was state co-chairman for Bill Clinton’s campaign while brother Jose was a member of Bob Dole’s campaign finance committee. Similarly, I always thought that the Manhattan Institute benefited from having both immigration expansionist Tamar Jacoby and immigration skeptic Heather Mac Donald on staff; Tamar and Heather are sincere in their beliefs, but while they were both there (Tamar has since left and started her own lobbying group), their fundraising people could direct potential donors concerned about immigration to whichever writer was suitable to their views.

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