The Americas

A conservative case for Puerto Rico statehood

Jorge Bonilla

Partisan politics is far less predicated on doing the right thing at the right time than on doing the things that will help garner (and subsequently hold) political power. It is important to understand this when Republicans and conservatives ask what the pending admission to the Union of the United States’ largest, state-sized territory, Puerto Rico, would “bring to the table”.

What Puerto Rico has already brought over the course of 119 years as an unincorporated territory are significant contributions to the national defense, as well as to our nation’s rich cultural patrimony. Instead of lobbing pro-forma objections to statehood such as Puerto Rico’s massive structural debt (which would necessarily be resolved prior to admission), we on the right should begin to ask ourselves what might happen if Congress were to ignore (or worse, reject) Puerto Rico’s vote in support of statehood.

One objection mindlessly bandied about within conservative circles is the fallacy that admitting Puerto Rico automatically adds five liberals to the House and two liberal senators. The House has been frozen in place at 435 seats since 1929, pursuant to the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929. We didn’t add any new House seats for the respective admissions of Alaska and Hawaii, thus, we wouldn’t add any new seats for Puerto Rico unless that statute were to be repealed.

Such House seats would likely be apportioned over from liberal states with declining populations (such as Illinois or New York), and Puerto Rico has actually shown an ability to elect Republicans to federal office. If you are a House Republican, wouldn’t you rather trade Luis Gutierrez for Luis Fortuño?

If you are a Republican - whether an elected official, a member of the Consultariat, or a member of conservative media - know that what you gain by supporting Puerto Rican statehood is simply this: the continued stability of the Electoral College, of the makeup of Congress, and of the region.

Congressional rejection of the expressed democratic will of Puerto Rican voters would only lead to the island’s political implosion, pushing anywhere from 500,000 to 700,000 residents to the mainland...mostly, mind you, to Florida and Texas. And when they arrive to these warm-weather states, Democrat operatives will be awaiting these fleeing Puerto Ricans with open arms, blank voter registration forms, and grievance propaganda directed at the evil congressional Republicans that forced them off the island- with no ready GOP response.

Pop quiz, hotshots: if you truly believe the nativist spiel about Puerto Ricans and their politics, would you rather contain that potential fallout to five House seats and two out of 102 Senate seats, or do you risk majorities in Congress and in the Electoral College?

Independence, you say? Why not just have Congress rid itself of Puerto Rico with a unilateral grant of independence once the nasty debt stuff is all sorted out? Don’t even think about it, unless you want to push that earlier 700,000 figure to 1.3 million. On its best day at the ballot box, independence has never garnered more than five percent of the vote on the island, and even failed to crack one percent in last month’s status vote.

Besides, given the ideological proclivities of the pro-independence movement, it is highly likely that an independent Puerto Rico would not be free for long, and swiftly fall into the Castro-Maduro axis of influence. If our national security matters to you, then stop and seriously consider the implications of creating another Marxist vassal state with 5 or 6 million of its descendants living on American soil and embedded within all levels of society and government.

Over the course of multiple free and fair elections, the people of Puerto Rico have expressed their desire to join the Union as the 51st state. Although circumstances bar a hasty admission, it is time for Congress to do the right thing. I am hopeful that my Republican friends, moved to recognize and defend the legitimate civil rights of over 3 million Americans, will soon see that the greatest risks lie in continuing to do nothing.

Jorge Bonilla is a conservative political analyst and former Florida Republican candidate for Congress. On Twitter, he is @BonillaJL.