The 51st State…and More?

I’ll bet you didn’t know this.

The 51st State Party is a political party in New Zealand. It advocates New Zealand becoming the 51st state of the United States of America. The party’s secretary is Paulus Telfer, a former Christchurch mayoral candidate. On February 5, 2010, the party applied to register a logo with the Electoral Commission. The logo – a US flag with 51 stars – was rejected by the Electoral Commission on the grounds that it was likely to cause confusion or mislead electors. (sources omitted)

Although it’s a miniscule party in NZ politics, its few members aren’t exactly alone. Some Guyanans also would like that honor.

Due mainly to emigration to the USA, Guyana’s population growth is in the negative. Only 650,000 people remain in Guyana. According to some studies, of those people who remain in Guyana, almost each and every one of them is awaiting the issuance of an immigrant-visa for the USA!

More than 350,000 Guyanese people have already immigrated to the USA… The overwhelming majority of these individuals support the legal incorporation of Guyana into the USA, in the form of US Statehood, Commonwealth or Territory of the USA…

The advantages derived from American territoriality are many: especially in the areas of culture, technology, science, scientific discovery, drug-interdiction, education, economics, tourism, sports, religion, the environment, the protection of natural resources and the rain forest; and to the overall security of both the USA and Guyana and to the improvement of the quality of life of all the people of both Guyana and the USA.

I’d be sympathetic to the idea, if that’s what most citizens of those countries really wanted. But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Kiwis to make a serious bid, unless Oz decides to go for territorial expansion.

Puerto Rico, one of the two most likely candidates for 51st statehood (along with D.C.), held a plebiscite last November in which the majority voted for statehood. And Congress has long had an agreement with PR that with such a vote they would take the issue under serious consideration. So I’ve been wondering if they would, once they got all the sequester bullshit out of the way. But probably not, and probably rightfully so, if David Royston Patterson is correct.

The Nov. 6 referendum consisted of two parts, the first of which requested a yes-or-no vote on the question “Do you agree that Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status?” The second part instructed voters to “please mark which of the following nonterritorial options would you prefer.” Three choices were offered; statehood, independence or “sovereign free associated state.”

… On the first part of the plebiscite, 54 percent of those who voted disagreed with the “present form of territorial status.” On the second, 61 percent voted for statehood, 5 percent for independence, and 33 percent for sovereign free associated state. The current commonwealth status was not listed as an option.

Enough voters left the second part blank — some as a protest against the exclusion of the commonwealth option — that one could credibly argue that only 45 percent of the people voted for statehood. Indeed, a recent article in The Hill quoted an unnamed Capitol Hill staff member as saying that some in Congress considered the 61 percent vote for statehood to be a “statistical fiction.”

This is a common attitude in Puerto Rico as well. My cousin Vicky in San Juan — a politically sophisticated liberal and a good-humored pro-commonwealth patriot — called the plebiscite “una trampa” (a trap). In Vicky’s view — and many others’ — the departing governor, Luis Fortuño, who is pro-statehood, put the plebiscite on the ballot in an effort to draw his voters to the polls.

Color me mildly disappointed, but not surprised.

About James Hanley

James Hanley is former Associate Professor of Political Science at Adrian College and currently an independent scholar.
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13 Responses to The 51st State…and More?

  1. James K says:

    I’ll bet you didn’t know this.

    I didn’t

  2. James Hanley says:

    You’re probably not alone.

  3. lancifer666 says:

    I guess I don’t see the difference between being a state and a commonwealth. For instance Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia call themselves commonwealths but I think they are also states.

    Do the folks that want Puerto Rico to be a commonwealth mean it in a different way than the US states that are commonwealths?

  4. trumwill says:

    Do the folks that want Puerto Rico to be a commonwealth mean it in a different way than the US states that are commonwealths?

    Yes, the commonwealths you mention have “state” status despite their name while PR would have a not-state status.

  5. James Hanley says:

    Will is correct. The word “commonwealth” does not have a clear determined meaning in U.S. law. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated organized territory of the U.S., meaning it belongs to the U.S., but is not part of it in the way a state is (or even the way western states, including Alaska and Hawai’i, were when they were just territories). In short, it’s a colony, although we don’t like to use that term.

  6. Matty says:

    It’s kind of off topic but protection for the rainforest in Guyana is already being funded by Norway. I can’t put links as I’m writing this on my phone but anyone interested can google Guyana REDD+

  7. trumwill says:

    Don’t forget about Albania!

    I’m kind of glad that you had the same take-away from the Puerto Rico referendum that I did. I am not in favor of PR statehood, but if they had a genuine vote that showed that they wanted to be a state by a significant margin, I think we’d owe it to them. But the vote they had was a sham, geared towards a specific outcome.

    Guyana intrigues me. I read a book a while back called Lost States that talked about various almost-states, proposed states, and some off-the-wall never-gonna-happen states. That was when I found out about Guyana and I’ve been sort of keeping an interest in the country ever since. I don’t typically feel all that bad for the states we brain-gain from, but that’s rough for Guyana.

    Most of these options (and most of the non-continental inclusions in Lost States) would be real heavy-lifting works for the US. I feel at least somewhat sympathetic to PR due to our history, and Guyana has better English proficiency than we do! But man, it’d be tough.

    New Zealand… hadn’t really thought about New Zealand, though I’d be hard-pressed to say “no.” Not that there is any real movement, certainly not if James K has never heard of it.

    I’d still like to try to make a hard sell to Alberta, though.

  8. Matty says:

    I found the website for the 51st State Party and I’m afraid it appears to be one guy with a very long list of grievances that he thinks the United States will fix for him. I couldn’t get through the whole thing but I have a horrible feeling he may have explained the cubic nature of time somewhere in there.

  9. James Hanley says:

    I don’t think that guy understand ps he U.S. very well.

  10. Matty says:

    Does he understand New Zealand?

  11. jwk1101 says:

    Matty, I just browsed that site you linked to, and you’re right. That guy is to Political Science what TimeCube is to physics.

  12. lancifer666 says:

    Wow, I just Googled TimeCube.How have I never seen this before?

    It would be funny except I think the guy is serious, so it’s just kind’a sad.

  13. James K says:

    As GLaDOS puts it, it would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.

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