Needed: Two Ingredients

DC State


GORDONVILLE — Bob Dylan, writer of so many amazing overt and covert political/protest songs, was asked to name what he believed to be his most powerful statement.

The answer was not “Masters of War” or “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”

Instead, he was rather nebulous, leaving it blowing in the wind, stating that his most political songs may be his love songs.

He then added that everything is political.

I took that to heart, holding it near and dear as one of my personal 10 commandments.

So whenever the rightful issue of statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., is brought up, which it has been a lot lately, all the logical reasons why — such as that pesky little “taxation without representation” thing (some D.C. residents even have it on their license plates as a form of protest) — it gets real political real fast.

Let’s just say it has Republicans seeing red, as it is an idea of it being tangled up in blue.

A whole lot of it.

Two new states would mean four new senators, with the high probability of them being all Democrats, thus tipping the scales of social justice in what many of us believe is the right direction.

It would also mean more congressional districts, mostly blue, and the slow build toward the end of gerrymandering that has put a stranglehold on swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida.

That seems like a dirty trick to tip the senate, and it will be sold to right-wingers and centrists as such, but actually it is the right thing to do.

And — as in love and war — all is fair in politics.

If the need were to arise, citizens from both territories could not avoid serving in the military (unless they have bone spurs). Those from Washington, D.C., pay the same taxes as we do, and Puerto Rico’s residents pay some taxes depending on if they are a federal employee or a business owner.

The voting scenario, as currently constructed, heavily favors the Republican party and keeps the Senate within a swingable margin every election.

That would fine if only it represented the actual national population, but situations where states like Montana and South Dakota have the same number of senators as California and New York is, as Mr. Spock would say with one eyebrow raised, highly illogical.

How much traction, for example, would even a symbolic common sense gun control law have if smaller and more rural states didn’t have equal votes on issue favored by the majority of Americans?


Residents of D.C. have voted overwhelmingly for statehood, and why wouldn’t they? It would provide residents with full representation in Congress, as opposed to what they have now — paper tigers called congressional delegates (as it stands now, Congress can run interference in D.C.’s local laws that don’t typically fall under congressional jurisdiction for other states).

It is a completely unfair scenario in which its residents pay federal taxes but have a muted voice in the legislative body that sets those tax rates. They point to numerous situations where local laws for marijuana policy, gun control and combating HIV/AIDS were interfered with by Congress.

The arguments against it — having to change textbooks (in an era of computer learning, it’s barely an issue), it’s not what the founding fathers wanted (yawn) — pale in comparison.

In terms of Puerto Rico, the gesture would be the least we could do after the abhorrent response there was in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

It immediately raised questions as to why a territory without true political clout and power would get second-class treatment after a natural disaster, and it put the island’s history as a territory under the microscope.

Unlike D.C. residents, those in Puerto Rico — under U.S. colonial rule since 1898 — are not even able to vote for president.

Residents call it “The Island,” but it is nothing but a colony under the rule of a nation that turned its colonies into states when it broke free from British rule after the Revolutionary War.

With approximately 3.2 million new citizens in Puerto Rico, and close to 700,00 in D.C., we would suddenly see Republicans thinking twice about the arcane and absurd electoral college that left us with two of the poorest excuses for presidents in the modern history.

Puerto Rico would be the 29th most populated state, with four to five representatives in Congress and six or seven electoral votes. D.C., which currently has three electoral votes, would be 50th, ahead of Wyoming and Vermont (and barely behind Alaska and North Dakota).

Putting it in more local terms, to show the disparity, just Philadelphia alone would be the 40th most populated state and have two senators voting for cheese steaks as the national food.

Adding Puerto Rico and D.C. as states would not be some crazy socialist idea – as Mitch McConnell told some non-journalist on Fox News – as we all know, he would be the first in line if the shell were on the other tortoise.

The reality is that this not some revolutionary idea. Every 50-60 years, U.S. territories were accepted into the union as states.

I started elementary school in 1970 – the year “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was on the radio and “Airport” was in drive-in movie theatres – and can remember American flags that still had 48 stars on them (Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states in 1959, 60 years ago).

So, it’s not really time to just think about it.

It’s time to do it.

This column ran in The Times Herald on July 22, 2019.

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