Politics: 51st Statehood?

There is a lot of discussion since before the 2020 election about adding certain territories as new states: Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. being the major ones discussed. I can’t speak for anyone else in the US, but for me when I read about the US having literal colonial territories it’s kind of squick.

I’ve been reading about Puerto Rico’s various votes since the election to see if they even want statehood and… I think so? The 2020 referendum is the best result – 54% of all eligible voters turned out (which isn’t bad, only 62% of eligible voters turned out everywhere else and PR residents can’t vote for president so….) and 52.5% voted they wanted to be a state. I think that’s not an unreasonable referendum result.

Puerto Rico should be a state. The only argument I hear against PR being a state is “it won’t be fair to the GOP, they will be outnumbered in the senate.” That isn’t an argument worth the weight of the ink it takes to write it. I’m sorry, that isn’t how democracy (small-d) works. “It’s not fair” is the argument of a child. And nothing says Puerto Ricans would elect Democrats for sure. I mean, if they like the GOP policies they might elect GOP representatives. I swear I wrote that with a straight face.

D.C. is a tougher case. D.C.’s status as “neutral” is sort of spelled out in the constitution and there is a valid argument for it remaining a neutral location. However, the people who live there deserve representation. The people who are permanent residents should be allowed to elect the president. As long as we have the electoral college instead of a general popular vote – they are unrepresented by the government. They have no voting representation in congress, they can’t vote for president, which also means they have no representation (from either branch) in supreme court nominations. Their “representative” in congress doesn’t get to vote on anything – including measures impacting D.C..

Now, the idea I like is to constrict the area which is actually “D.C.” I think there is a great argument for much of the area being given back to the surrounding states (basically Delaware) and the area remaining (the capital) gets rezoned for no permanent residents. So everyone who works in D.C. lives in a state around it (minus the president and his family, but they always vote in abstention from their home state ANYWAY). Then there doesn’t even need to be a “D.C. state” for the people living and working in the area to have representation.

These are the two most discussed, but there are a total of 5 US territories. The other three are Guam, the US Virginia Islands, and the North Mariana Islands. Annnnnnnnd they are apparently just ignored.

Granted, all of them are smaller. Wikipedia told me about 4 million people live in US territories and just over 3 million live in Puerto Rico. So…. yeah the others just don’t get heard as much. But they are still unrepresented.

Picture from Google Maps

Guam and the North Mariana Islands are right next to each other – like Guam is one of the islands and you don’t even have to squint to see it. They are literally on Google maps as Mariana Islands collective. They could easily be a state. One state for those two territories.

This one is interesting though. Guam is waaaaaaaay west of Hawaii. Like almost in the Philippines. Which is why we like having it as a territory – there is this whole “unsinking air carrier” joke apparently because we have a substantial naval base on Guam. This gives us easy access to places like China, North Korea, and even the Middle East. This does add a tricky wrench into the “make a state” discussion. If they become a state, any of the countries which are nervous about “American Imperialism” might get even more anxious. And since China has nukes. And North Korea might (probably not?) and Iran is working on it…. like Guam could be a tough cookie for America to defend.

I’m definitely not saying that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a state. In a straight “what is the right thing to do” with Guam I think we need to either fish or cut bait. Let them become an independent country. Or make them a state. The people who live there should have full representation (see the representation arguments above). I do understand that the security concern might be a very real reason we don’t have a lot of national cries (from either party) to make Guam a state. There might be a consideration that less a million people being disenfranchised versus nuclear war… it doesn’t make it right, just…. understandable?

Then the US Virgin Islands could join with Puerto Rico (again, look at Google Maps). Bam. 51st and 52nd states. How cool would that be?