Alex Castellanos’ post discussing the Puerto Rico Democracy Act (HR 2499) correctly points out that “the principles of democracy, inclusiveness, and self-determination belong to all U.S. citizens.” What he misses, however, is the Puerto Rican government’s plan to rig their election by eliminating the commonwealth option in their next series of self-determination elections.
Puerto Ricans have rejected statehood in the last three self-determination elections, and independence is extremely unpopular. The strategy to virtually eliminate as an option for voters Puerto Rico’s current status as a commonwealth, leaving only independence and statehood as options, will all but guarantee a statehood landslide. The plan is spelled out in their legislation (pp. 7-8) and can be found here. The New Progressive Party (PNP), which is pro-statehood, controls all branches of government. There is little doubt that this bill would become law soon after the U.S. Congress passes the Puerto Rico Democracy Act.
The plan is this: After statehood wins a landslide majority, Puerto Rico will elect a congressional delegation to send to Washington, D.C., and they will demand to be seated. This is the same strategy Tennessee used to gain admission to the Union in 1796. The PNP party platform can be found here, and it says on p. 179 (translation from Spanish): “After having obtained a majority vote for Statehood, we will implement the most effective strategies to have Congress approve an enabling act admitting Puerto Rico as a State of the Union, by including the strategy known as the Tennessee Plan.”
PNP leader and former governor Carlos Romero Barceló once told local newspapers, “They [congressional leaders] will have to support [statehood] in order to avoid being accused of bigotry against Hispanics.” In other words, they won’t hesitate to denounce anyone who resists their demand as “racists.”
Mr. Castellanos further claims that Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly support conservative values and elect Republicans to office in the commonwealth. But in reality, Puerto Ricans cannot be counted on to support free-market and conservative candidates on the national level.
In the 2008 presidential primaries, more than 388,000 Puerto Ricans turned out to vote for then-senators Obama and Clinton. Fewer than 1,000 voters turned out for the Republican caucus.
Why do pro-statehood leaders use such strong-arm tactics to force their way into the Union? The main reason is that Puerto Rico’s economy is in shambles and it needs a bailout from the U.S. Treasury that it could not hope to get as a commonwealth.
The endgame for Democrats is that they will likely pick up seats (and seats will be eliminated in other areas of the country after the next Census redistricting) — and not just in Puerto Rico. You can bet that D.C. won’t sit idly by if Puerto Rico gains statehood.
Rather than conduct an honest and open debate about the potential costs and benefits of Puerto Rican statehood, congressional leaders — on both sides of the aisle — are preparing to pass this resolution with no opportunity for public debate and amendments. Furthermore, by sanctioning a rigged election process in Puerto Rico, Congress will be running roughshod over Puerto Ricans’ desire — expressed in three previous elections — to remain a U.S. commonwealth.
Republicans need to remember the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Republicans should continue to support the ideals of self-determination for Puerto Rico, but it should be done in the light of day with an opportunity for public debate.
– Naomi Lopez Bauman is a public policy consultant. She lives in Shreveport, La.