FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Puerto Rico Won’t Matter

by DAVE LINDORFF

There are a number of reasons why the Puerto Rican Democratic primary election set for this coming Sunday won’t matter, in terms of Hillary Clinton’s failed bid for the party’s nomination.

The main one is that she’s not going to get the big vote that she has been predicting.

Clinton, trailing Obama by about 400,000 votes nationwide with only three primaries to go, is fantasizing that she will win the lion’s share of one million Puerto Rican votes, which would put her in the lead for the nomination in terms of the popular vote, though not in the delegate count.

The problem with this fantasy is that Puerto Rico, a colonial possession of the US since the 1898 Spanish-American War, while famous for its passionate electorate when it comes to island elections, is not going to have that kind of turnout for a Democratic presidential primary. Indeed, local politicos in Puerto Rico are saying they will be surprised if even 600,000 people turn out to vote.

Clinton may well win the majority of those votes that are cast, but her margin is shrinking as Obama campaigns and runs ads on the island. She’s already down to a 13% lead, with 11% still undecided, and that lead is liable to shrink further, not grow. Even if Clinton kept that lead in the voting, however, if the turnout were just 600,000, she’d only pick up a net 88,000 votes. And Obama is likely to win Montana and South Dakota two days later, by large margins, erasing much of that gain again.

The other thing is, why would Democratic leaders and the all-important remaining undecided so-called superdelegates care what Puerto Rican voters do? Thanks to the continuing colonial status of the island, although its residents are all American citizens, free to travel to and from the US and to carry US passports, they are not allowed to vote in national elections, have no representation in Washington, and don’t even pay federal taxes (only Social Security and Medicare taxes). Puerto Rico has no Electoral College votes.

That in a nutshell is why Puerto Rican voters are so uninterested in this primary—so uninterested that the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico earlier this week requested that the island’s election authorities close 1000 polling stations. It wasn’t that they thought nobody would want to vote in them—they couldn’t find volunteers to staff them!

The other thing is it would not surprise me if the vote this Sunday comes out a lot closer than the polls have been predicting.  For the most part, the early advantage held by Clinton has been a matter of name recognition. Clinton’s husband was president for eight years, and moreover, with half of the eight million Puerto Ricans living in the mainland US, most of them in New York, Clinton is familiar as “their” Senator. By rights, she ought to be considered Puerto Rico’s home state senator, as sure to win this primary as she was of winning New York, or as Obama was of winning Illinois.

But in fact, there are reasons for Puerto Ricans, particularly those on the island, to view Clinton negatively. Her husband, after all, helped get rid of corporate tax breaks for American companies doing business on the island—tax breaks that kept a lot of US manufacturing jobs on the island. Doubling the felony, the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, pushed through the NAFTA treaty that made it easy for those same companies, when their tax breaks were lost, to pack up and move to Mexico, since Puerto Rico also lost its advantage of being inside the US customs zone. Now US companies can make things in Mexico, where labor costs are a fraction of what they are in Puerto Rico, and ship them tariff-free to US consumers.

Puerto Ricans also do not have the same latent hostility towards blacks that some Mexican-Americans may harbor, and which the Clinton campaign so shamelessly tried to stir up in her Texas and California campaigns.

Unlike Mexican-Americans, who are ethnically a mix of white and Indigenous American, Puerto Ricans are much more a mix of white and African—a legacy of the slaves that Spain brought over to the island to replace the native Indians who were slaughtered, worked to death or who died of disease and starvation. Many Puerto Ricans are indistinguishable from African-Americans in appearance, and when they come to America to visit or live are likely to experience the same racism from whites that African Americans experience. They are not going to be easy marks for a campaign that tries to stir up racial fears or animosity.

Obama’s skin color will not be a liability in Puerto Rico. It will more likely be an asset.

Although predicting this kind of thing is always risky, I’m going to bet that Clinton will win a narrow victory in Sunday’s Puerto Rican primary—somewhere between 5-9 percent, with turnout of perhaps 550,000.

If I’m right, she will pick up a net 55,000 votes and 5-6 delegates. There are also 11 Puerto Rican superdelegates, but they will also probably split fairly evenly, at best, for her.

So no big deal—especially since Puerto Rican voters, in the end, simply don’t count.

Until the island is either made a 51st State—an unlikely occurrence since it would be a reliably Democratic state virtually ensuring Democrats of Senate and House majorities for years to come, and thus would never be admitted by Republican members of Congress, and since almost half the island is passionately opposed to such a submerging of their unique culture—or set free as an independent nation, the citizens of Puerto Rico will mean next to nothing to the powerbrokers in Washington.

The Democratic Primary is over, whatever Hillary Clinton may say or do between now and the Democratic Convention in August.

Obama has won it.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

 

Your Ad Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail