Partisan politics is far less predicated on doing the right thing at the right time than on doing the things that will help garner and (and subsequently hold) political power. It is important to understand this when Republicans and conservatives ask what the pending admission to the Union of the United States’ largest, state-sized territory, Puerto Rico, would “bring to the table”.
What Puerto Rico has already brought over the course of 119 years as an unincorporated territory are significant contributions to the national defense, as well as to our nation’s rich cultural patrimony. Instead of lobbing pro-forma objections to statehood such as Puerto Rico’s massive structural debt (which would necessarily be resolved prior to admission), we on the right should begin to ask ourselves what might happen if Congress were to ignore (or worse, reject) Puerto Rico’s vote in support of statehood.
One objection mindlessly bandied about within conservative circles is the fallacy that admitting Puerto Rico automatically adds five liberals to the House and two liberal senators. The House has been frozen in place at 435 seats since 1929, pursuant to the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929. We didn’t add any new House seats for the respective admissions of Alaska and Hawaii, thus, we wouldn’t add any new seats for Puerto Rico unless that statute were to be repealed.
Such House seats would likely be apportioned over from liberal states with declining populations (such as Illinois or New York), and Puerto Rico has actually shown an ability to elect Republicans to federal office. If you are a House Republican, wouldn’t you rather trade Luis Gutierrez for Luis Fortuño?
If you are a Republican – whether an elected official, a member of the Consultariat, or a member of conservative media – know that what you gain by supporting Puerto Rican statehood is simply this: the continued stability of the Electoral College, of the makeup of Congress, and of the region.