Puerto Rican Statehood: A Path to Disunion

by Patrick J. Buchanan – February 26, 1998

Why are Republicans pushing it? The politics of pander aside, there is money involved. Transnational corporations want another large pool of low-wage labor near the United States, so they can unload more of their high-paid American workers. So they have rented out the services of “conservative” lobbyists…

Well, our giant panderers are at it again.
Anticipating an outpouring of enthusiasm from 25 million Hispanics, our poll-whipped Republican Party is about to push Puerto Rico onto the path to statehood. Prediction: If Puerto Rico becomes a state, the GOP reward will be six new Democrats in the House and two in the Senate. Justice for the GOP, but a tragedy for America. We would be on the same road to national crack-up as Britain, Canada, Italy and India.

Are Republicans blind? Do they not see the war going on for the soul of America? Hispanic separatists and irredentists are fiercely resisting any assimilation into an “Anglo” nation and culture they see as racist. Their number and influence are growing.

If Puerto Rico, where but 20 percent of the people speak English and only 16 percent identify themselves as Americans, becomes a state, the United States will become two nations. Carlos Romero-Barcelo, current congressional delegate from Puerto Rico, has said that if Puerto Rico comes in, its legislature will declare the island bilingual or make Spanish its official language. The drive will then be on to make California, Arizona, Texas and Florida bilingual as well.

If you would know our future, look to Quebec.

Unlike Alaskans and Hawaiians, who voted 90 percent for statehood, Puerto Ricans three times have voted to keep their commonwealth status — because they know in their hearts they are a distinct people, an embryonic nation whose roots are in Spanish history and whose culture, language, faith and traditions look back across the sea to Madrid, not to London.

Unlike the Louisiana and Oregon territories, California and the Southwest, largely empty tracts when acquired, Puerto Rico was a populous island in 1898 when we took it as war booty. It boasts its own constitution, flag and Olympic team; its writers, poets and artists are proud to call themselves Puerto Rican. Why take away the age-old dream of all people — to be one day independent and free, to have a place in the sun among the nations of the Earth?

This century has seen the death of many empires. The German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires did not survive Versailles in 1919. Gen. MacArthur presided over the funeral of imperial Japan. The Dutch, British, French, Portuguese and Belgian empires had expired by 1962. The Soviet empire collapsed 10 years ago. All the multiethnic nations that emerged from World War I — U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia — fell to pieces this decade, giving birth to 23 nations.

For us to incorporate Puerto Rico would be an act of imperialism that would tie us both to the railroad tracks of history.

Is our cultural war over ethnicity, race, morality, history and heroes not hot enough? Do we need more conflict? Statehood would make seditionists of Puerto Rican patriots. Do we want U.S. Marines — like British paratroops running down the Irish Republican Army — scouring the hills of the island for “secessionists” and “terrorists” whose only crime is that they share the dreams of John and Sam Adams?

The least just war in our history was crushing the Philippine insurrection of 1899. At a cost of thousands of American and tens of thousands of Filipino lives, this republic born of a revolution put down an uprising for liberty — by behaving like the empire from which we had broken away. As we let the Philippines go free in 1946, let us start Puerto Rico on the road to nationhood in this centennial year of its annexation.

What is the GOP game plan for maneuvering Puerto Rico into statehood? It is to force the island to vote on its status but to stack the vote in favor of statehood by telling Puerto Ricans that if they vote commonwealth again, they lose U.S. citizenship.

What would statehood mean? Since the island has a per-capita income one-half of Mississippi’s, its unemployment is three times the U.S. level, and half its people qualify for welfare, statehood means a mammoth new unfunded liability.

Why are Republicans pushing it? The politics of pander aside, there is money involved. Transnational corporations want another large pool of low-wage labor near the United States, so they can unload more of their high-paid American workers. So they have rented out the services of “conservative” lobbyists. But what is being bought here, and sold here, is the idea of a nation.

With the Soviet Union on the “ash heap of history,” as Ronald Reagan predicted, the great question is: Will the world’s last multiethnic, multiracial nation join it there? Even a blind man can see that Balkanization — globalization, multiculturalism, ethnic chauvinism, bilingualism and racial separatism — is gaining ground.

Once the GOP was the party of union. Now, apparently, it cannot see beyond the next election or the next corporate retainer.