Should progressive Dems really get on the Puerto Rico statehood train?
The following is adapted from a speech given by Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) on the floor of the House of Representatives on June 22. The Congressman, who was born in Chicago to parents who were migrants from Puerto Rico, has lived, worked and gone to school in Puerto Rico at various times in his life. He is in his 13th term representing the Fourth District of Illinois. He is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
So the ruling party in Puerto Rico staged an election and they are very proud of the results.
They say that 97 percent of Puerto Ricans support statehood and that the United States should grant statehood right away because of it.
That’s pretty impressive. The kind of numbers that would make Vladimir Putin jealous and Saddam Hussein green with envy if he were not so dead.
And the reason why the statehooders got 97 percent of the vote was pretty much the same reason as those guys too: Only one political party participated.
All the other parties thought the election was so rigged and so pre-determined for the outcome the sponsors wanted that it was not even worth taking part.
And the vast majority of Puerto Ricans agreed.
Only 23 percent of the people voted.
77 percent thought it was not worth their time to participate in what was basically an elaborate publicity stunt for the ruling party.
And they were absolutely right.
I think it is important to warn my fellow Democrats that they should no more get in bed with the statehooders than with any other group of right-wing conservatives with an agenda. — Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez
But I guess in the era of alternative facts and made-up statistics about how many people attended your inauguration, you can try to make a one-party vote of 23 percent of the people look like a mandate for statehood.
But I am here to warn my fellow Democrats not to believe the hype for one second.
Those who are peddling the fantasy of statehood sometimes call themselves Democrats, but we should beware an elephant in donkey clothing.
Let’s look at the leaders of the Statehood Party here in Washington. Our colleague, the Resident Commissioner who represents Puerto Rico in Congress, ran on the Statehood ticket and is a Republican who caucuses with the Republicans here in the House.
She is a proud supporter of Donald Trump and pals around with other Republican Members like Steve King of Iowa, among many others who are, shall we say, not the most friendly when it comes to Latinos — including Puerto Ricans — and tend not to vote the Democratic Party line, to say the least.
The Puerto Rican Governor’s office here in Washington is headed by Republican Carlos Mercader, who was appointed to the position by Governor Rosselló after serving as executive director of the right-wing organization called “Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles”, infamous for its constant bashing of President Obama.
That is who is pushing statehood in DC. Which makes me wonder — and should make any Democrat wonder — why Tom Perez, the new Chairman of the DNC, is embracing this bunch, unless it is, as the press are reporting, simply payback for DNC Chairmanship votes.
From an ideological standpoint, the statehooders are anything but friends of the Democratic Party or a progressive agenda.
And as for Governor Ricardo Rosselló, leader of the Statehood Party and a “Democrat” — his conservative record speaks for itself, even though he has only been in office for less than a year.
As a candidate, he sided with the bondholders and vulture capital funds and opposed any debt restructuring for Puerto Rico, saying that Puerto Rico should pay its debt in full to Wall Street speculators, in spite of the massive cuts that would entail for police, fire, health care, pensions, roads and schools.
He hosted GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson and the Governor opposes LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, and opposes the teaching of gender equality in the schools.
Townhall, the über-conservative website sees a kindred spirit in Governor Rosselló, praising him for his conservative approach to helping bondholders before school children.
And the Governor has withheld his criticism of President Trump, which few Democrats are able to resist and for Latino Democrats, it is darn near impossible unless they are just playing the role of a Democrat to get ahead.
When confronted with the obvious, that Trump has denigrated Mexicans as “rapists and murderers,” promised to build a wall to keep Latinos out and sneered at Puerto Rico’s desire for a “bailout,” Rosselló responded, saying of the President: “My view is, I don’t know that he is anti-Latino…Obviously I’ve heard some derogatory remarks but I don’t know him personally, and it doesn’t deter me.”
So instead of spending money to help children whose schools are closing, or fix roads that are falling apart, or pay doctors enough to prevent them from moving to Florida, it seems the entire Puerto Rican Government is now dedicated to pursuing the unlikely chance of statehood.
It is certainly useful as a distraction from what the Governor and his DC operatives are actually doing.
Mr. Speaker, as I have said before and will say again, I plan to be buried on the beautiful Island of to Puerto Rico some day and I hope that when that happens, I will be in a free and sovereign nation that has thrown off the yoke of colonialism and dependence on an overseas master — just as this country — the country of my birth — has done.
In the meantime, I think it is important to warn my fellow Democrats that they should no more get in bed with the statehooders than with any other group of right-wing conservatives with an agenda.