"Not only is it not democratic, it goes against the very soul and ideas of the Founding," he noted. "We were created as a republic, not an empire."
Some Republicans worry that if Puerto Rico becomes a state, its residents would vote for Democrats and Democratic representation in Congress would increase. The Republican Party must learn to compete for votes, however, rather than seeking advantages through the rules of the game. Opposing statehood for Puerto Rico residents does not show Puerto Ricans you have their best interests in mind.
4. D.C. Representation
"No taxation without representation," was a one of the rallying cries of the Revolutionary War. Yet, over 600,000 Americans living in Washington, D.C., have no representation in Congress.
The only reason Republicans have for opposing giving representation to D.C. residents is that most of those residents are Democrats. Here again, though, Republicans cannot attract voters to their cause by being opposed to voting.
To compete for the loyalty of voters, Republicans must first earn the right to be heard. Unless they support the right to representation, they have not earned that right.
5. Immigration Reform With a Path to Citizenship
Immigration reform appears unlikely to pass this year. Regardless of whether it happens in or after 2014, immigration reform is inevitable. It is favored by business groups, religious groups, law enforcement groups and, most importantly, a majority of voters.
When immigration reform is passed, Republicans should think carefully about what form it will take, particularly with regard to current unauthorized immigrants. Since the two extreme positions — mass deportation and mass amnesty — are off the table, some type of path to authorized status will likely be included. The current consensus among Republicans appears to be that the reform legislation should include a path to legal status, but not a path to citizenship. That would be a mistake.
(A clarification: The "path" that Republicans are talking about is not amnesty. There would be consequences for breaking the law. And, it would also not be a "special path" that favors those who broke the law over those who did not.)
If, however, an unauthorized immigrant does pay restitution for their crime and is able to gain permission to remain in the country, why, at that point, deny them the full rights of citizenship? Those who live in the United States should be encouraged to participate fully in its democratic institutions. Anyone who believes in the merits of democracy must surely recognize the benefits of allowing legal residents to participate in the political process that affects their communities, states and nation.
Republicans should also think about the message it sends if they support legal status but not citizenship, which includes voting rights. To the immigrants and children of immigrants who are citizens, it sends the message that they are unworthy of the fruits of democracy. This, in turn, harms GOP outreach to those groups.
6. Repair the Voting Rights Act
Last Summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The VRA singled out certain states and voting districts for extra scrutiny due to their history of discrimination. After nearly 50 years, the formula passed in 1965 is no longer valid, the Court ruled.
The Supreme Court made the correct decision. There is no reason to believe that the worst offenders of discrimination against voters today are the same as they were in 1965. It is up to Congress, the Supreme Court said, to fix the VRA. Republicans should take the lead in making sure this happens.
One Republican, James Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin, has co-authored compromise legislation with two Democrats, Patrick Leahy, Vermont, and John Conyers, Michigan. Republicans should support Sensenbrenner in his efforts, reach an agreement with Democrats, and show they want to "expand democracy," not restrict it.