Part two of the political status options discussion
A FRIEND suggested the political ambivalence and inertia Guamanians have exhibited for decades all boils down to one simple question: Do we want sovereignty or U.S. citizenship? Those choices are mostly incompatible, notwithstanding the “have our cake and eat it too” fantasies of separatist activists.
According to multiple, and very recent, poll results, most folks here – including Chamorros – prefer statehood or other close association with the United States. Every survey ever conducted shows that regardless of ethnic, political or other persuasions, Guam voters would overwhelmingly opt for continuing U.S. citizenship for future generations over independence, free association or other sovereign status.
Independence is clear-cut and unambiguous – most of us have no problem understanding what that means. On the other hand, many who embrace the free association concept as the best of all possible worlds don’t realize, or refuse to acknowledge, that it also means severance of political ties with the United States before any freely associated compact can be realized. Real free association is based on separate sovereignty, nationality and citizenship.
Puerto Ricans have repeatedly attempted to craft free association or commonwealth versions of what one U.S. senator dubbed the “free beer and barbecue” option, seeking a sovereign status that would, among other fabulous perks, also guarantee U.S. citizenship for future generations. That approach has been soundly and consistently rejected by the U.S. Congress, as it should be. Ambivalence or all-or-nothing demands don’t cut it when political status discussions get serious, as Guam’s politicians found during the Draft Commonwealth Act hearings.
We must also recognize and acknowledge that Guam just isn’t in the same league with Puerto Rico on the status issue. Statehood is a real possibility there. Puerto Ricans need only come together and select it by popular vote. Unfortunately for them, they suffer from the same internal political squabbles, ambivalence and “crabs in a bucket” mentality as Guamanians. Their several political factions can’t seem to get it together in any meaningful way.
Should they eventually manage to do so, impact on the U.S. political scene would be significant. Two new senators and some indeterminate number of representatives could radically alter the national political balance. About 3.8 million citizens in Puerto Rico and around 4 million ethnic Puerto Ricans in the mainland U.S. translate to a lot of political clout, while Guam has less than 2 percent of that potential.
Realistically, there’s little hope Guam will ever realize statehood on its own. Unification with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands would improve chances, and the concept of a unified Micronesian community to include now-sovereign Micronesian states is certainly worth considering. Meanwhile, local politicians should learn to be prudent, circumspect and forthright in their dealings with the federal government. As we’ve often noted, it doesn’t pay to mess with Uncle Fed beyond a certain point. To the best of my recollection, GovGuam has never won a legal tussle with the feds. Our public officials have painted themselves into a corner through their obstinate refusal to do what’s right and needed when it should have been done, and we all now suffer the long-term consequences. For now.