Skip to main content

Time for Puerto Rico to Become the 51st State

In a little-noticed vote last night, after many failed attempts, Puerto Rico voted to officially join the United States as a full state:
The two-part referendum asked whether the island wanted to change its 114-year relationship with the United States. Nearly 54 percent, or 922,374 people, sought to change it, while 46 percent, or 786,749 people, favored the status quo. Ninety-six percent of 1,643 precincts were reporting as of early Wednesday.
The second question asked voters to choose from three options, with statehood by far the favorite, garnering 61 percent. Sovereign free association, which would have allowed for more autonomy, received 33 percent, while independence got 5 percent.
The issue now moves to Congress. President Obama has promised to respect the wishes of such a vote, and both party platforms for this year agree. Gerald Ford, George Bush I, and even Reagan supported statehood. The trouble in Congress could come if some troglodyte adds an amendment forcing Puerto Rico to adopt English as the offial language or some other mischief. Republicans might filibuster the bill in the Senate, eyeing possible Democratic pickups in Congress.

On the other hand, as Kevin Drum points out, there is some real momentum behind filibuster reform for the next Congress. Also, previous bills which failed in the Senate were only about forcing a referendum in Puerto Rico to choose to change their status; with that question disposed of, a simple clean bill granting them statehood ought to be easier to pass. And with President Obama winning more than 70 percent of the Latino vote, Republicans may be finally whipped into finding some issues to win back Latino support.

But fundamentally, all this is beside the point. The United States annexed Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American war in 1898, and Puerto Ricans have been citizens since 1917. They (like residents of Washington, DC and the other territories) must register for the draft and pay taxes [UPDATE: turns out the tax thing is not quite accurate. Some Puerto Rican income is exempt from tax, but they do have to pay others. See here for the gory details], but cannot vote for President and are not represented in Congress.

This state of affairs, like all colonies, is a travesty of justice and an embarrassment for an allegedly democratic state. Now that the Puerto Rican people have chosen statehood freely and fairly, they should be welcomed as full fellow citizens with all speed.


Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

The Basic Instinct of Socialism

This year I finally decided to stop beating around the bush and start calling myself a democratic socialist. I think the reason for the long hesitation is the very long record of horrifying atrocities carried out by self-described socialist countries. Of course, there is no social system that doesn't have a long, bloody rap sheet, capitalism very much included . But I've never described myself as a capitalist either, and the whole point of socialism is that it's supposed to be better than that. So of course I cannot be a tankie — Stalin and Mao were evil, terrible butchers, some of the worst people who ever lived. There are two basic lessons to be learned from the failures of Soviet and Chinese Communism, I think. One is that Marxism-Leninism is not a just or workable system. One cannot simply skip over capitalist development, and any socialist project must be democratic and preserve basic liberal freedoms. The second, perhaps more profound lesson, is that there is no s

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves that