On Wednesday, Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño led a rally staged by his party, the New Progressive Party, celebrating the 94th anniversary of the Jones Act, which granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. “American citizenship is a determining factor in our lives, both individually and collectively,” he said in his message to the gathering. He also used the occasion to give his very Republican views of government, in which he asserted that when “government exceeds” its “essential and limited function” as a provider of basic services to those less fortunate, it becomes “paternalistic.” Funny but it seems to have become all the more paternalistic since Fortuño’s crew began hacking away at the government’s role as provider.
But these contradictions are a bit beside the point. While Fortuño, celebrated by the conservative U.S. press as a moral conservative and austerity enforcer, rejoices in the idea that Puerto Ricans (and other Latinos) are Republican at heart, a sizable chunk of conservatives don’t want anything to do with us. Witness the following post, published in leading conservative organ National Review:
I’m at a hearing of the immigration subcommittee, and the pseudo-congressman from Puerto Rico is going on about how “we” are a nation of immigrants. “We”? Puerto Rico is a foreign country that became a colony of the United States in 1898, no different from the French colony of Togo or the British colony of Uganda (or the U.S. colony of the Philippines). Congress granted residents of the island U.S. citizenship during World War I, but Puerto Ricans remain a distinct people, a distinct nation, with their own (foreign) language, their own history, their own culture. Like other remnants of late-colonialism (like Belize, Djibouti, Comoros, etc.), most Puerto Ricans don’t want independence at this point, because it would end the gravy train. But that’s not our problem — we need to end this unnatural situation and give the nation of Puerto Rico an independent state as soon as practicable.
Of course, this sort of xenophobia has been a problem since the days of the Jones Act. But one wonders about the “plurality” of views in the Republican Party, which feeds on both anti-immigrant scapegoating and hysteria, and at the same time tries to court the Latino vote by building a stable of right-wing Latino politicians like Fortuño, Utah’s Raúl Labrador, and Florida’s Marco Rubio. This past year has also seen the launching of the Fox Latino website (its simulated moderate tone disguises its function as “fair and balanced” pseudo-journalism), as well as Newt Gingrich’s “The Americano,” which has featured Fortuño among others. But even as outlets like Mother Jones speculate about a possible Gingrich-Rubio presidential ticket, Newt has become a target for xenophobic right-wingers. This report from The Hill opens with a succinct explication of the problem: “Newt Gingrich’s simultaneous courtship of the base of the Republican Party and Latino voters could pose major problems for his likely bid for the White House.”
This all might be a battle between the Bush-centric center of the Republican Party (don’t forget the little brown ones in Florida and Texas) and the Tea Party-Koch Brothers wing. Still it seems inevitable that the only game in town–fundraising–has a big hand in most of our contemporary political contradictions. Why not leave open the potential to solicit donations from all ends of the political spectrum and continue to stage scapegoat-driven bread and circuses when whomever wins, wins. You can get dizzy following all that money.