Four times in the past, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has voted on whether its people would rather become the 51st state, or an independent republic. And four times, nothing has been done.
So to prove the definition of insanity as “doing the same thing and hoping for different results,” the island territory is set to vote again on another non-binding referendum on whether its people wish to move toward statehood or independence. The most recent referendum allowed voters to choose between a “change in status” versus no change: 54 percent voted for change.
Now they get to decide which change they’d like. But it’s non-binding, so it really doesn’t matter what they vote to do. The U.S. Congress has to act on their wishes.
“It doesn’t leave room for any other options, which I think is a strong portion of the electorate,” said Edwin Melendez, director for the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at New York’s Hunter College. “It’s not evident that statehood is the clear majority right now…If something like 2012 is repeated, it’s not going to have any legitimacy to move forward.”
It would seem that President Trump has bigger fish to fry than the political status of the island, that has seen its population decline from just under 4 million to 3.5 million in the last 15 years, and its finances have been equally dismal. But one trick not yet tried by the territory’s legislature is what Tennessee did to win admission–in 1796.
Puerto Rico could vote to draft a state constitution and elect two senators and five representatives to Congress, send them to Washington, D.C. and demand they be seated. That happened when future President Andrew Jackson was just 29 years old. He founded the city of Memphis 23 years later, and was elected president 10 years after that.
Trump admires Jackson, and has his portrait hanging in the Oval Office. A bold move like that may just stroke the president’s ego just enough to work this through Congress. There’s nothing Trump could ever have more than another star on the flag to call his own. No president since Eisenhower has enjoyed that privilege.
It’s total insanity, but it might just work this time.