There have been six referendums on Puerto Rico’s status. Three of those referendums happened in the last ten years.
In the 2020 referendum, 52% of Puerto Ricans voted to become a state and 47% voted against.
Democrats and their media, obsessed with rigging the senate by adding two senators, hailed this narrow victory as a clear mandate for statehood.
It’s actually a near split with a mere difference of 60,000 votes.
Compare that to the Alaska statehood referendum which passed by 83% or the Hawaii referendum which cleared by a somewhat more modest 68% but still hit the 2 to 1 mark.
House Democrats, with the complicity of a few of the worse Republicans, managed to pass the Puerto Rico Status Act. The bill only states that it must pass with a “majority of the valid votes.”
That’s not a reference to voter fraud, but to the 2017 referendum in which statehood won by 97%, but only because everyone who didn’t support statehood boycotted the referendum, and the 2012 referendum in which there were 500,000 blank ballots submitted as a protest.
(Puerto Rico’s statehood referendums are as dysfunctional as the territory itself.)
A serious statehood referendum for Puerto Rico would at least ask for a 2 to 1 majority. Democrats will however be perfectly happy if they win a referendum by the population of a square mile of Manhattan, even if it’s against the will of nearly half of Puerto Ricans.
And they call this “decolonization”.
Plenty of Hawaiians resent the United States, but they still want to be part of it. Puerto Ricans would like the benefits of citizenship while maintaining political independence from America.
That’s the so-called ‘commonwealth’ option.
The Puerto Rico Status Act lists three options on the referendum, ‘Independence’, ‘Sovereignty in Free Association with the United States’ and ‘Statehood’. Sovereignty or Commonwealth would allow Puerto Rico to make treaties with foreign nations and still retain our citizenship.
The model for this is the British Commonwealth and its former colonies in the region.
But America isn’t a monarchy. We don’t have a king who is going to formally be Puerto Rico’s monarch even as it signs treaties with Communist China. Nor do we have some obsessive need to prop up an outdated empire by having a bunch of third world countries acknowledge Charles III or Biden I. A commonwealth status for Puerto Rico has no constitutional basis at all.
That hasn’t stopped Pelosi and House Democrats from passing such a bill anyway. And 16 Republicans, who probably barely even read it or understood it, from voting for it anyway.
Putting both the commonwealth and independence on the ballot is supposed to split the nationalist vote and allow statehood proponents to get their bare majority. But as clever as Pelosi and House Democrats think they are, Puerto Rican politics has been based in no small part over debating this issue for generations and suspecting every referendum of being rigged.
The nationalists will accept nothing short of independence. And their terrorists remain heroes to many. Especially New York City’s Puerto Rican politicians. Commonwealth supporters keep arguing about what their imaginary ideal of an impossible relationship looks like. And statehood proponents can only hope to carve out a narrow referendum victory that, if past history is any guide, will be preemptively sabotaged by everyone else who disagrees with them.
Puerto Rico is much too dysfunctional to manage statehood or much of anything else. Anyone who has watched the aftermath of natural disasters play out has seen a little of how broken and corrupt its governmental structures are. And the only real argument statehood proponents have is that with two senators they’ll be able to wrangle a lot more money to go to Puerto Rico.
That much is undeniably true. Puerto Rico has the example of multiple broken cities across America whose citizens don’t work for a living, they vote for a living, and whose politicians exist to trade support for cash. But most Puerto Ricans also know that all that money will, like the massive amounts of aid after every hurricane, find their way into the pockets of politicians.
There will be little left over to improve life for ordinary people.
But Puerto Rico is also so broken that there may be no choice. It exited bankruptcy this summer after its debt was cut by 80% without fixing any of the issues. It has a 44% poverty rate and 60% are on Medicare or Medicaid. Crime is high. The murder rate is four times that of America.
There are more Puerto Ricans living in the United States than there are back home.
Statehood has no purpose except to give Democrats two senate seats and inject even more money into what is already the most corrupt place around. “9th mayor in Puerto Rico this year accused of corruption” is how a typical AP headline sums up the state of affairs.
Responsible officials and activists in Puerto Rico are trying to clean up some of the mess. They have little interest in yet another referendum that isn’t going to do anything about the real problems. They would rather maintain the status quo as a territory without another bout of infighting over proposals that serve no one except fanatics and the politically corrupt.
Democrats are obsessed with statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., not because they care about either place, but because they have a road map for rigging the senate. And while there’s no doubt that D.C. statehood would lead to two Democrat bloc votes that would be as corrupt as they would be loyal, Puerto Rico’s politics are a whole lot more complicated.
Puerto Ricans were supposed to help turn Florida blue, but Gov. DeSantis won 56% of the Puerto Rican vote. And back home, Puerto Rico is more conservative than the Puerto Ricans living in the United States. Puerto Rico’s legislature has been moving on abortion bans Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez, a Carter appointee, kept on fighting the Supreme Court’s gay marriage position in two decisions, longer than most other federal judges. On a variety of social issues, Puerto Rico is more socially conservative than almost all Democrat areas in the United States.
But, despite the attempts to align the country’s parties with Democrats and Republicans in America, or our political movements, Puerto Rico is not America. Its politics and worldview fit within the culture of the region. Puerto Ricans have their distinct identity and want to be who they are. The current status quo is the best of a bad bargain that would either try to merge a foreign failed state into America or give it the independence to fail on its own.
Puerto Ricans have failed to provide any kind of enthusiastic support for statehood across six disastrous referendums. The two most legitimate referendums in the 90s, which had the highest turnout, stalemated when voters chose the status quo or commonwealth over statehood.
Much like the EU, Democrats want to keep Puerto Ricans voting until they vote their way.
Democrats are attempting to force a narrow victory that they can use to drag Puerto Rico into the United States, even if 48% of the population is opposed, for their own political power. Whatever the outcome, much of Puerto Rico will view it as an illegitimate conspiracy. And they will react accordingly. Puerto Rico can only ever become an unwilling and hostile state.
After the history of Puerto Rican political terrorism, which included an assassination attempt on President Truman, there’s little doubt that Democrats know this and don’t care. All they can see is the possibility of two free senate seats. But most Americans and Puerto Ricans should care.
Democrats claim that they want to ‘decolonize’ Puerto Rico, but what they actually want to do is colonize it. And that’s why plenty of Puerto Ricans remain hostile to their proposal.
Puerto Rico doesn’t want to be America, it wants to be Puerto Rico.
The latest referendum push is a bad idea that America and Puerto Rico are better off without.