The Race for 51st Place


In March, the House of Representatives voted to allow the commonwealth of Puerto Rico to hold a referendum on statehood. Although the Senate is expected to sit on the idea indefinitely, advocates of D.C. statehood are not pleased. It was only five years ago, after all, that a supposedly more sympathetic Democratic Congress squashed statehood for our capital city in an embarrassingly lopsided 277-153 vote.

To some, the tacit approval of Puerto Rican statehood is especially galling in light of D.C.’s more statelike behavior. One of the main differences: Our amigos in the Indies are curently exempt from federal taxes; statehood would mean more money in federal coffers. But a brief glance at some of the other disparities between the two might explain both why Puerto Rico would make a better state than D.C. and why the Latino-courting GOP might prefer it.

—Jake Tapper

Candidates Puerto Rico District of Columbia
Population 3,782,862 543,213
Climate Mild; mean temperature of 77 F Unbearable summer humidity; wearisome, drab winters
Official Motto “Joannes est Nomen ejus” (John is his name) “Justicia Omnibus” (Justice for all)
Unofficial Motto (drug-induced) “Gatillo al chota” (Shoot down the snitch)—ubiquitous graffiti slogan “The bitch set me up”—Mayor Marion Barry
Local Government Democratically elected representative house Democratically elected but federally baby-sat council
Language Spanish Bureaucratic gobbledygook
Political litmus test 82% pro-life
91% pro-school prayer
Mayor Barry endorsed a 1997 initiative to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes
Voter registration Not known (Puerto Ricans can’t vote in U.S. elections) 78% Democrat
7% Republican

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