Elections: There and Here
(From the Non-Incorporated Territory)
Waking up on Wednesday, November 4 to Trump’s declaration of premature victory and the closeness of the contest launched me into what my Californian partner called an existential crisis, forcing me to seriously reconsider the way I think and I look at politics. My anticipation and preference, after following the trajectory of President Trump and, after considering multiple polls currently shaping the North American journalistic landscape, was one of crushing defeat. I was anticipating the polls to reflect the protest in the streets for racial discrimination, for the right to vote and for the excesses of the chief executive. In the scope of my reverie there was an appalling defeat. This has not been the case.
If anything positive emerges from the electoral evidence, it is that President Trump has shaken American political consciousness and brought millions of people, particularly the young, out of apathy. This is manifested in an unprecedented turnout, with new records in the number of votes for the Democratic candidate (75 million) and the Republicans (70 million). Biden won the popular vote and the vote of the Electoral College.
What surprised me most was that Trump obtained 48% of the votes and 5 million more votes than in the 2016 elections, after 4 years in office. Very close to half of the North American electorate supports a loudmouth, liar, known for shady deals and tax evasions, who seeks his interest in frank conflict with the responsibilities of the position, and who does not respect the elementary forms of decency with a crude and insulting primitive speech. That close to half of the voting people in the United States endorse a candidate like this one is cause for pause.
I do not believe that in American political history there has been a president who has devoted so much effort to discredit the electoral process and throw doubt on the fundamental right that democracy provides. The allegations of fraud and rigged elections have been part of his speech since he came to power, increasing in recent months.
A Democratic Party vote-by-mail strategy injected the gnawing uncertainty of waiting. At the end of the campaign, Trump dedicated himself to inflame his followers to vote on the day of the event, with claims of fraud in the vote by mail. Biden embraced the vote-by-mail policy for Democrats as the least risky behavior to vote on Election Day. Given the diversity in state regulation for counting those votes in such a close election, the consequence has been days of anguish awaiting the final count.
At the time of this writing Biden prevailed in Pennsylvania, accumulating enough Electoral College votes to declare victory. The state’s Latino population, made up mostly of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, is a small part of the Pennsylvania electorate (exit polls score 4% of voters). 6 to 4 they voted for Biden. The results in Florida differ since Trump won 52% of the Latinos vote for him; although there are Democratic pockets where many Puertorricans, living in Orlando and Tampa that voted Biden 7-3. But the Cuban exile vote was very powerful in Miami.
Of course, the President’s threats to take fraud cases to court remain to be seen; at the moment this has not generated success because scrutiny seems to have been meticulous. What needs to be seen is the next chapter, his departure from the White House.
Pedro Pierluisi of the New Progressive Party prevailed in the gubernatorial race against Carlos Delgado Altieri of the Popular Democratic Party, after voting in 5,567 stations located around the island. Pierluisi obtained 406,830 votes, for 32.93%, while Delgado obtained 389,896 votes, for 31.56%. Alexandra Lúgaro from the Victoria Ciudadana Movement obtained 14%, Juan Dalmau from the Independence Party 14% and Cesar Vázquez from Proyecto Dignidad got 7%. The margin of victory for governor prevailed by a slim amount, but Jennifer González, the Resident Commissioner incumbent candidate was the only one who won comfortably getting 229,000 votes, getting fewer votes than in 2016.
The governor-elect arrived at this position under the shadows of the last four-year term, in which the leader of his party was dragged out of the Government Palace, his impetuous swearing in as incoming non-elect govenor (which our Supreme Court unanimously and swiftly disavowed), a party divided by problems at the primaries, and with corruption scandals on all corners. The fact that he won the race by a nose and that he accumulates 32% of the electoral vote was something of a feat, but his victory does not stop being Pyrrhic. It points out that 20% of the statehooders who voted Yes to statehood did not vote for their candidate.
The fact that the Popular candidate received 31% of the votes for the governorship, confirms the wear and tear of that party. It shows that the PNP base that came out to vote for Yes gave their candidate the slim margin as severe punishment. Four years earlier, his predecessor Ricardo Rosselló won with 41.8%, a number that was considered low at that time. The results fuel the debate about the end of the bipartisanship majority and the advent of a government comprised of factions and coalitions. Hopefully that will bring us out of the previous morass, but is not exempt from the risk of immobility and merciless torpedoing.
And this being the case, my cynical self wonders: who would want to govern an unincorporated territory in bankruptcy, overwhelmed by public debt, with an elected government subordinated to a Fiscal Board (PROMESA) that controls the budget entirely and also with two-thirds of the population opposing him? There is something masochistic about it and the potential for political suicide is high. But someone has to do it and some consolation must be obtained by managing 10 billion dollars, even if permission is needed.
Add to this the recent appointment of Justin Peterson, a known bondholder’s lobbyist, a bitter taste for retribution, and add another probable heavy-handed realignment with two pending appointments, which could further reveal the president’s bad feelings toward us. As things are shaping up, confirm the prediction of the esteemed and recently passe judge Juan R. Torruella that things are going to get worse. We place faith that Biden’s election will change the course of things to come.
Statehood Yes or No
If it was a surprise that so many people supported Trump, the biggest surprise was the result of all was the “Yes” or “No” statehood plebiscite. “Yes” obtained 52% and “No” obtained 48%.
A previous plebiscite in 2017 had statehood endorsed by 93% of the votes cast, things are very different. explained by 23% of the voting population exercised their right to vote.
Although the plebiscite of “Yes” or “No”, did not obtain the blessing of the Federal Department of Justice at that time, it becomes reduces to yes or no the wish to be incorporated as a federal state.
History records three political reasons which Congress has used in all new states admission processes:
(1) that the inhabitants of the territory are American, that they share American principles, values and form of government of the United States.
This first requirement we fulfill without problems; Since 1917 we have been citizens and share electoral participation in the last century. This is reliable proof of the value of the vote in our population. I don’t think there are big problems with the federalist notion of the state government.
(2) that the people desire statehood and there is clear and consistent majority support from the population.
Finding out how many people want statehood was the explicit purpose of this plebiscite. The result is that “Yes” won with 52%. In a democracy, victory is determined by half plus one, it is called a simple majority. No need to explain. What I find amazing in the language of the statehooders is that these results constitute a clear, solid, unequivocal forceful expression, that statehood won and was empowered by a super majority.
Really? A territory taught to fear independence, the beneficiary of millions of dollars from the federal government that have not managed to eclipse the grievances that the empire also proffers on us. The selective delays in the allocation of funds, the insults and the disparagement of the President and an imposed Fiscal Board have lessened sympathy from the ideal of statehood.
3. That the territory has enough population and economic resources to support its government and contribute to the national treasury, and a robust economy that facilitates the transition.
Enough population we have; sufficient resources depend on who and how they look at our “patrimonio”. The economic organization in this neoliberal period keeps us bankrupt, with an economic recession in the last 14 years. So please, let statehooders go to Congress with those results and announce all the benefits that statehood offers to an impoverished population. We wait to see how Mitch McConnel takes care of them.
We will be watching them as to know if the fairy tale becomes true. Worthy of notice, Biden had among his campaign statements said he favors statehood. Democrats would do well to promote legislative deadlock with statehood for DC and PR. Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s activism in the House, who move decolonization projects, is not ruled out either.
So, take a pause, celebrate and get back to the show; there is entertainment for everyone. This moment is very fluid, many things have happened and there is no time to be lulled into complacency. Political changes open up a world of possibilities that should well help us get out of this unworthy condition.
Copyright 2020 by José M. Umpierre. Biden Harris banner used under fair use proviso of the copyright law. All other images in the public domain.