Today, the New York Times ran an article on a renewed push to make Puerto Rico a state. Puerto Ricans will soon hold a referendum on whether to support joining the union as the 51st state.
The reasons for the renewed push have mostly to do with Puerto Rico's near bankruptcy, years in the making, and the near absence of legal alternatives normally available to states to renegotiate debt. some of this $123 billion in debt and pension obligations is a sham, pumped up by phony accounting that makes future obligations look like present ones, but there is no denying the economic picture for Puerto Rico is bad and getting worse as bank-beholden Republican and Democratic parties demand non-forgiveness of loans.
Puerto Rico has the worst of both worlds: non-representation in the government except for one lone non-voting Congressional Representative, corporations that don't pay income taxes, and grinding poverty that has only gotten worse. Yet they are American citizens who can migrate freely to the mainland, and are doing so in record numbers lately, as there are few employment opportunities in Puerto Rico since businesses fled to even cheaper locales. The territory has a 60% poverty rate and even pro-state proponents admit:
"Neither Republicans nor Democrats want us," (said) Roberto Reyes Villegas, 50, a carpenter who works for San Juan's municipal government,....as he drank a Medalla Light beer.
But this may be short-sighted - something very familiar to political observers of the Democratic Party.
Puerto Rico's 3.4 million citizens could be counted on to vote Democratic, no matter what hypothetical campaigning Trump and Pence attempt to undertake among its brown-skinned citizenry. Trumpian racial profiling would certainly be a factor in the average Puerto Rican's analysis of who to vote for, and not in any wat that benefits the Republicans.
By population Puerto Rico ranks 30th, just between 29th Connecticut and current 30th, Iowa. It's 1.6% of the U.S. population, but might have a disproportionate influence on America's fast-rising Hispanic population, a thought which ought to send shivers down the Republican party's spine, where campaign season polls showed Trump winning about 1/3 of the Hispanic vote. Hispanics represent 12% of the vote.
While it would be an exaggeration to say Puerto Rico's potential 7 electoral college votes would have allowed Hillary Clinton to take the White House with 245 electoral votes instead of 232, to Trump's 304 votes, and given the higher vote total that would be required in an expanded Republic, the next election is about Congress.
Electoral votes are a combination of Senators (2) and Congressional Representatives (5 in the case of Puerto Rico). According to a recent New Yorker article:
"Since 1946, whenever a President has had an approval rating above fifty per cent, his party has lost an average of fourteen seats in the midterms, according to Gallup; whenever the rating has been below fifty per cent, the average loss soars to thirty-six seats.
Trump's ratings are in the upper 30s to low 40s and it's hard to see how that will change given his polarizing nature and his propensity to undermine even his semi-competent staff and Cabinet (I'm being generous here).
In the House, the margin for Republicans is greater: 234 Representatives to 201 for Democrats. But Puerto Rico's expected 5 Representatives would almost certainly be Democrats, assuming the Republicans don't get a chance to completely thwart the will of the island state by gerrymandering (I never put it past the Democrats their ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory). If, say, 30 of those flipped seats come from the House, and we add 5 Puerto Rican Representatives to that, that's 35, a 2-person comfortable majority margin. Even if we assume less than that, just having Puerto Rican interests as a shiny new policy toy for the media to salivate over would put anti-minority Trumpian politics in an unfavorable light during mid-terms. That could have repercussions beyond just the island's vote totals, even exposing the predatory nature of pro-Republican bankers, in case those with short memories of the 2008-09 crisis have forgotten - and that's assuming the current vaporware stock market bubble continues through the rest of the next two years.
So, expand the country, for Puerto Rico, for the good of America.