Statehood and Nationhood Gimmickry

Posted: Nov 01, 2007 11:54 AM
Statehood and Nationhood Gimmickry

Much has been written, in these columns and elsewhere, about the effort, almost assuredly unconstitutional had Congress enacted it, to accord the District of Columbia a voting House of Representatives seat, the first step toward creating two D. C. United States Senate seats - all attributes of statehood. The D. C. politicians and liberals in general, of course, are less interested in the nomenclature and formality of statehood than in the equivalency of function.

Much also has been written, although not in these columns, about the effort to create some kind of nationhood for those relatively few Hawaiians who are, or claim to be, of Hawaiian ancestry. H.R. 505, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 261-153 on October 24 and is currently on the Senate Legislative Calendar. Many tribes of Indians, now politically correctly called Native Americans, are making untold millions of dollars in promoting gambling - euphemistically called gaming - on their tribal lands.

Guess what’s next in the statehood and nationhood creation game?

Scarcely anybody has heard of H.R. 900, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act, recently introduced into the House of Representatives by Representative José Serrano (D-NY) and Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, a Republican.

In a rather complicated and clever fashion H.R. 900 if enacted into law would lead the way toward statehood for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. There was an effort somewhat to sneak the Bill through the House Natural Resources Committee - not exactly the committee one would expect to exercise jurisdiction. That effort succeeded in that the Committee, by voice vote, ordered the Bill reported to the House.

The Governor of Puerto Rico is opposed to statehood. For half a century the Puerto Rican electorate has supported a continuation of commonwealth status for Puerto Rico. There is no evidence that a majority of the electorate presently feels otherwise. Among other advantages and perceived advantages, commonwealth status has accorded Puerto Rico a fair measure of independence from the United States Government, unique tax advantages and the immeasurable value of United States military protection

The proponents of H.R. 900 apparently have endeavored to figure out a way to get around the electorate’s view. The process would begin with a two-stage referendum. It would combine statehood, independence and some other possibilities for future status. The scheme appears to be that by lumping together every imaginable alternative the referendum might produce a slim majority for the combination of everything but commonwealth.

Assuming the combination of all kinds of distinct possible alternatives grabbed a slight majority, the second referendum would offer only two choices - statehood or independence. How very clever, bearing in mind that most Puerto Ricans are proud of their United States citizenship and comfortable with the advantages of the relationship! So the majority, having no third choice, would vote for statehood.

Of course, such a vote would not be binding, inasmuch as no entity, Puerto Rico or otherwise, could vote itself into statehood. However, agitation and the “popular will” would ensue. Doubtless those pushing Puerto Rican statehood would combine with the liberals who want two Democratic United States Senators and one Democratic Representative in Congress from the District of Columbia. (The District has a far higher percentage of Democratic Presidential votes than any State - and it’s consistently Democratic.) Those advocating Puerto Rican statehood probably also would combine with the “Native Hawaiian” quasi-nationhood movement.

Will another State or its equivalent and another quasi-nation sneak in?

When the media does not focus upon it, one never knows what strange and unprecedented departures from American history and government lurk amid the almost 3,900 bills introduced in the 110th Congress.