“It is time to give the citizens of Puerto Rico the opportunity to vote on statehood,” said a future presidential candidate. “There is one thread weaving through the rich history of the island of Puerto Rico, from 1897 when autonomy was granted from Spain, to today — Puerto Rico’s unsettled political status.”
This statement had nothing to do with Ben Carson’s recent endorsement of Puerto Rico statehood. Nor is it related to former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s call for statehood or Senator Marco Rubio’s emphasis on self determination for Puerto Rico. This was a statement by Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) in 1987. Dole ran for president in 1996, less than a decade after presenting his bill on Puerto Rico’s status.
“It was not long ago,” Dole said, “that Alaska and Hawaii were viewed as distant, exotic lands.” Now, more than a quarter of a century later, this idea may sound quaint, but it was true at the time. Dole’s implication was that these formerly exotic States had been accepted into the Union, and Puerto Rico could succeed as a state, too.
Dole also recommend a simple up or down vote on statehood for Puerto Rico, a proposal which is currently under consideration today as HR 727, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Process Act.
“I can think of no better way to honor the dreams of our founding fathers,” Dole concluded his statement, “than to give our citizens in the Caribbean the opportunity to vote on statehood.”