Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Pete Olson Votes “No” On Democracy

In last week’s vote on HR 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010, my congressman, Pete Olson, cast another No vote.

Pete Olson voted against the people of Puerto Rico voting in a democratic election. One wonders how he feels about Iraqis and Afghanis voting in democratic elections. Is democracy a bad, bad thing? Is it only for white people?

What’s the deal?

HR 2499 is a bill, passed in the House (223-169) and now in the Senate, that would allow Puerto Rico to conduct a free and democratic election, a referendum actually, asking only this question: Which do you prefer, 1) the status quo in Puerto Rico’s association with the United States, or 2) a different political status?

No, nothing on what that change is. If the Change option wins, then they go to step two in conducting plebiscites every eight years to vote on what sort of change they want: 1) Statehood, 2) form an alliance with the United States that falls outside of the Territorial Clause of the constitution, 3) full independence as a sovereign nation, or 4) status quo – also known as choice one in the first election.

Now what the H-E-Double-Hockey Sticks is wrong with giving Puerto Ricans, already American citizens, the same right to self-determination that we enabled in Iraq and Afghanistan?

It’s not money, is it? Puerto Rico, despite its name, is not very rico.

So it has to be political. Olson is, if anything, predictable. If money is not the issue it has to be all about winning elections.

It has to be about the theoretical millions of poor and middle class people on that island who just might vote Democratic (with a capital D) if they gained statehood and could vote for their own US Senators as well as, perish the thought, the President.

Do you think?

Did Olson vote No because he thinks that Obama is pulling another fast one and stacking the Democratic deck, as it were?

I’m pretty sure that’s why, but I really don’t believe in this magical pool of Democratic voters in Puerto Rico. There is no metric.

This is because the political parties in Puerto Rico are divided along completely different lines than they are here. Basically it is a three-way between the PIP, who want complete independence (with a base that makes Libertarians look like a third party rather than a joke), the PPD a party whose sole issue is to maintain Puerto Rico’s status quo as a commonwealth, and the PNP who want statehood. At 30% the PPD is very probably the most likely to vote Democratic in American elections. The PNP, at 35%, is more problematic as it consists of conservatives and liberals who are united in wanting statehood for their respective reasons.

And 27% who fail to declare a party alliance. Independents, if you will.

So I don’t see it as clearly as Olson does. Puerto Rico is an island full of deeply religious people of conservative values. Frankly, maintaining the status quo has been the result of similar elections going back years and years.

They don’t much like change.

So I think Olson was clearly wrong to vote against a democratic election in Puerto Rico. And I think it was based on unreasoned fear of an enhanced Democratic majority in America.

Where do I stand on statehood for Puerto Rico? As a non-islander I really have no opinion. I just think that they should be free to express theirs in a free democratic election.

OK, yeah, I do have one problem with statehood. It is more aesthetic than political or economic though. Since 1776 the stars and stripes had a star field with some symmetry. Sometimes compromises were made, but on the overall, the arrangements of stars on the American flag has been pleasing to the eye.

But adding one star is going to assault my sense of symmetry. You’re going to have to lose three rows and have 6 alternate rows of 9 and 8 stars each. Ruins the symmetry. It looks squished.

51 is not a prime number, it’s divisible by 3 but I’d hate to see a star field of three rows of 17. That would be really squished.

Alternately we could go back to basics and arrange the stars in a circle.

Hate that, although the 5-sided symmetry appeals, it just looks too much like a sanddollar.

Problems, problems, problems.

So if we are going to add a state, let’s add two. 52 is a good number. That’s 4 rows of 7 stars and 4 rows of 6. And no, let’s not make the 52nd state American Samoa or the Marianas Islands (although they could well-use our child labor laws), let’s split a big populous state.

You choose, Vermont or Massachusetts.

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