Why Republicans should support Puerto Rican statehood

Pres. Obama with 51-star flag favored by many Puerto Ricans
Tomorrow, president Obama goes to Puerto Rico—putting statehood into the national news cycle for the first time in 50 years. Normally, this is seen as an issue favoring Democrats. That's because if Puerto Rico became the 51st state, two new Democrats would enter the US Senate—at least that's the conventional wisdom. But history tells a different story. When Alaska and Hawaii entered the union, everyone assumed Hawaii would elect two Republican senators, and Alaska two Democrats. No, that's not a typo. Back in 1959, Alaska wasn't Palin-friendly (Sarah hadn't been born yet, but you know what I mean)—it voted mostly Democratic.  And Hawaii was considered safe for Republicans. How times have changed.

The point here is that the state of Puerto Rico isn't necessarily going to vote Democratic. Many Latinos are conservative on social issues, and thus vote Republican. The current governor of the island, Luis Fortuño, is a Republican.

One crafty GOP strategy would be to advocate statehood (and grab Latino votes nationwide) by evoking the Lincoln-esque  notion that the US should not have any second-class citizens. The talking points would go like this: Puerto Ricans fight in American wars, but they cannot vote for the commander-in-chief. While Luis Fortuño could run for President of the United States, he cannot, by law, vote for himself. This is the kind of injustice Republicans fought and died for 150 years ago. Alas, today, they seem quite happy to ignore the plight of second-class citizens in Puerto Rico—and prefer to let Democrats take the high road on this issue. Regardless of which party carries the ball, the goal should be statehood OR independence. The middle ground—of second-class citizenship—isn't the American way.

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