Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Politics

UPDATED: This Will Screw Up Our Flag

UPDATED: Naomi Lopez Bauman provides a strong counter-agrument against Puerto Rican statehood.

 

During my years of foreign domicile, I've been asked several times about the status of Puerto Rico. What is it, why do we have it and what are we doing with it? Sometimes it's proffered as evidence that America is secretly imperialistic, but more often it's an honest question born of confusion. If we are a nation divided into states ... what's with those "territories?" Europe gave (most of) those back years ago. Why do we still have them?

It's a rather profound question that Americans are rather happy to ignore. Puerto Ricans enjoy a strange division of Constitutional rights - they are "natural born citizens," but not residents of the U.S. and only possess only "fundamental rights," not full enfranchisement.

But all that may change soon. From NRO's Corner:

"We shall continue to encourage the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in its political growth and economic development in accordance with the wishes of its people and the fundamental principle of self-determination." So said the Republican party platform in August 20, 1956.

For over 50 years, every Republican president and every GOP platform has supported the right of self-determination for U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico. A bill that would turn that GOP commitment into law is currently moving through the House with 57 Republican co-sponsors. As soon as this Thursday, Congress could decide whether the 4 million citizens of Puerto Rico have the same right as other Americans to determine their own fate.

The short article divulges a few surprising statistics about the Republican-ness of the island, but also raises a very great question about America's conception of self-determination. Left unasked is whether there is a certain outer boundary of American-ness beyond which we are not presently willing to self-identify - and whether the borincano, like so many Italians, Irish, Germans, etc. before them, fall on the wrong side of that line. 

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It seems that liberals treated PR as a kind of laboratory for third world governance and social policies (such as birth control). A clue here is the FDR appointment of New Deal braintruster Rexford Tugwell as its governor. Carl Friedrich thought it would be a model of how a third world nation could resist Communism. Some of this is outlined in the following fascinating article:

The Rise and Fall of Puerto Rico as a Social Laboratory, 1945-1965
Michael Lapp
Social Science History, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Summer, 1995), pp. 169-199
(article consists of 31 pages)
Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of the Social Science History Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1171509

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