Last week bills were introduced in both house of Congress to facilitate statehood for the 3,194,000 American citizens of Puerto Rico. There are local steps to follow along the way, including a binding vote, but last November voters approved a statehood referendum question.
There are more people in Puerto Rico than in 20 states and yet they have little say in the national politics that determine their destiny. They have no votes in the House or Senate, no political clout.
The deleterious effect of such helplessness was exposed when the pathetically egotistical previous president put a hold on $1.3 billion in hurricane relief aid for the island because its leaders were not obsequious sycophants.
Hurricane Maria hit in 2017. The aid was released by President Biden in January.
Powerless? On the morning he left office, the spiteful ex-president put limits on another $4.9 billion in hurricane relief funds, limits not included for GOPQ states such as Florida and Texas, according to Denise Oliver Velez, writing for Daily Kos.
With empowered representation, Puerto Rico could lend a hand to protect itself from the such high-handed, low-moral shenanigans – whether or not a president realizes it is an island.
And, of course, with its own star on the flag, another dunderhead might not try to trade Puerto Rico for Greenland.
Puerto Rican Americans deserve representation in the nation’s capital.
Similarly, the good Americans in the District of Columbia deserve more than an honorary seat on Capitol Hill.
A smaller area than Puerto Rico, the District’s 714,200 residents still outnumber those in Vermont or Wyoming.
Not only does DC lack national representation, but when GOPQ murderers stormed the Capitol, there was no governor to call out the National Guard to protect the building and those inside it. No, that authority rested with the appointees of the president who orchestrated the failed coup d’état.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser asked for expanded responsibilities while the Capitol was under attack, but her request was denied – and people died.
The next day she told a press conference, “We must get statehood on the president’s desk within the first 100 days of the 117th Congress….Congress must immediately transfer command of the District of Columbia National Guard from the president of the United States and put it squarely under the command and control of the District of Columbia.”
Local control was once a Republican keystone – back when the party stood for more than the whims of a tyrant. But, fearing that Puerto Rico and DC represent four possible Democratic senators, expect all kinds of spurious arguments against their fellow Americans enjoying the same rights as themselves.
The same bunch of corporate socialists who decry deficit spending only when Democrats are president, will be sure to claim that Puerto Rico and DC are not prosperous enough, and would provide a drain on the economy. They will ignore the howmuch.net findings that 40 of the current 50 states, Oklahoma included, receive more money back from the federal government than they contribute.
The U.S. added Alaska and Hawaii to the Union in 1959. At that time, Alaska had a population of 220,000 people, representing just over one percent of the country’s total population. Joining three months later, Hawaii had 622,000 people, representing three percent of the total.
Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million people comprise 9.6 percent of the population. The District represents right at two percent. The citizens of both territories deserve the same rights as the rest of us. Simple fairness.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)