Tuesday 20 December 2022

Puerto Rico Statehood Might Not Be A GOP Disaster Waiting To Happen

 The island of Puerto Rico becoming a state might not lead to Democrats obtaining two additional senate seats, despite the party’s high hopes.

The U.S. House passed a bipartisan bill to put Puerto Rico’s territorial status up for a vote with three potential options: statehood, full independence, or sovereignty will full U.S. association. In a symbolic 2012 referendum, statehood received over 60% of the vote with the other two options included.

New York Democratic Reps. Nydia Velazquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have led the push for Puerto Rican self determination, which was included in the party’s 2020 election platform. Democratic proposals for Puerto Rico include large economic, education and climate plans for the island funded by the federal government.

In contrast, South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said Puerto Rican statehood “dilutes our power,” referring to a Republican senate majority. Graham’s statement came during a Nov. 7 rally for GOP candidate Herschel Walker before the 2022 midterm elections.

“We assume that Puerto Ricans are democrats given the historical relationship between Puerto Ricans living in different States and the Democratic Party. But this is not necessarily true for Puerto Ricans on the Island. There’s never been a high-quality survey that measures Puerto Ricans’ ideology or their position on different issues so we can gauge what ideology they will lean toward once a state,” Mayra Velez Sarrano, a political scientist at the University of Puerto Rico told the Daily Caller.

“We suspect Puerto Ricans are socially conservative, and some even are fiscally conservative. This population may become republican if Puerto Rico ever becomes a State. I suspect Puerto Rico may become a purple state, unfortunately we don’t have data to sustain this suspi[c]ion,” Velez Sarrano added.

Charles Venator Santiago, a political scientist at the University of Connecticut, told the Daily Caller “based on local electoral data, would be apportioned 2 Senators and probably 4 reps (maybe 5), which would mostly align with the Democratic Party (a no go for Republicans),” echoing Republican fears.

Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member of Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, is a lifelong Republican activist and a member of the island’s conservative leaning New Progressive Party (NPP), her bio says. Puerto Rico’s Governor is an NPP member and a Democrat, and the island’s legislative chambers are controlled by liberal leaning Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

Statehood would impose income taxes on Puerto Ricans, whose median income is $21,967 according to Census Data. It would lead to a tax increase on most companies and higher income individuals, but not working class residents, Velez Sarrano told the Daily Caller.

The island passed legislation in June banning abortion after 22 weeks, and bills have been proposed to further restrict abortion following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Separate action was taken in 2020 to give rights to unborn children and restrict legal expressions of gender identity.

Additionally, Puerto Rican women were unknowingly used as guinea pigs in birth control pill trials conducted in the late 1950s, PBS documented. A study led by biologist Gregory Pincus told women they were being given a pill to prevent pregnancy, without indicating they were part of a human trial, PBS found. His team was later accused of deceit and colonialism according to PBS.

The majority of Puerto Rico’s island residents identify as Catholic and 33% identify as protestants, with half of the protestants identifying as Born Again Christians, Pew Research observed in 2017.

Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S. have similar religiosity and more liberal social views, Pew Research found. A plurality of mainland Puerto Ricans are not committed to either party, according to a 2019 Politico poll of the Florida diaspora.

An exit poll on election night 2022 showed 55% of Puerto Ricans voted for Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who narrowly won the heavily Puerto Rican Osceola County.

Abortion access played a central role in Democratic messaging during the 2022 midterms, where the party performed better than expected and added a seat to their senate majority.

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