Tomorrow, Puerto Ricans will go to the polls to vote on whether Puerto Rico should continue with an undemocratic status quo regarding Puerto Rico’s political status, become a sovereign country independent from the United States, or become a U.S. state. While statehood is likely to get the most votes by far, Puerto Rican statehood would cause the U.S. more trouble than anything, and it has absolutely nothing to do with race or language.
Long story short, the Puerto Rican independence movement isn’t going to go away, even if Puerto Ricans choose statehood in a landslide. I worry that Puerto Rico, if it were to become a state, would become the U.S.’s version of Quebec politically. Quebec is a Canadian province with a significant independence movement, with a pro-Quebec independence party, often playing a potential spoiler role in Canadian parliamentary elections (and, for a period in the mid-1990’s, was the official opposition party in the Canadian House of Commons). If Puerto Rico were to become a U.S. state, it would be apportioned, if I’m not mistaken, 5 U.S. House seats (and, because Puerto Rico were to be able to vote in U.S. presidential elections if it were to become a state, 7 electoral college votes), although I’m not sure of the actual apportionment math. However, the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico would likely run their own candidate in the first U.S. presidential election following statehood, with the pro-independence candidate receiving enough votes that would otherwise go to the Democratic presidential candidate to potentially allow President Donald Trump, whose approval rating in Puerto Rico is probably extremely low, to win Puerto Rico’s electoral votes with a small plurality of the Puerto Rican popular vote, and, in a close election, Puerto Rico’s electoral votes could decide the entire presidential election. It would be an embarrassment to America for a separatist movement to potentially wield the balance of power in a U.S. presidential election.
While Puerto Ricans will vote on their political future tomorrow, the U.S. Congress will have the final say on any actual measure to grant Puerto Rico either statehood or independence. While the current status quo in Puerto Rico is completely unacceptable, Puerto Rican statehood is not worth the risk of a second Trump term in the White House. It would be best if Congress passed a Puerto Rican independence bill and granted Puerto Rico full independence from the United States, regardless of the outcome of the Puerto Rican referendum tomorrow, and I support all non-violent efforts with the ultimate goal of full independence for the Puerto Rican people.