One of the great things about writing a column where I’m allowed to bring a cynical, slightly-ironic hipster’s perspective to news stories is that literally everything is newsworthy. What I’m trying to say is that timeliness is a non-issue. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to fulfill every hipster newsman’s dream and get a scoop before anyone else has heard of it, so you’ll find I’ll frequently be deferring to the second favorite thing of hipsters: outdated things that don’t matter much. Sure, I might be occasionally one week behind the curve, but that’s no different than the average hipster’s insistence on sepia photographs, Johnson-era Woody Allen glasses and typewriters. If you’re letting one week get between you and a good story, you are clearly looking in the wrong place for your hipster news.
I say all this as an elaborate way to justify the fact that I really want to talk about Puerto Rico’s Republican primary, which happened on Sunday, March 17. Last week was as far away as 1978 in news-years, and the Puerto Rico primary probably was about as essential to this political race as 1978’s release of the Laserdisc was to the development of the iPad. But I’m still fascinated by Laserdiscs, and I still don’t have an iPad, so this metaphor clearly shows that I was a big fan of this primary.
I’ve been fascinated by Puerto Rican primaries for a long time. This is entirely because I forget they exist, and I love surprises. Campaign season is great in Puerto Rico because, once again, the candidates were suddenly all about Puerto Rico becoming a state. One button, one issue, guaranteed to be the headline in every political publication. It’s an issue that totally hasn’t been in talks since the New Deal, an issue that totally will be solved by the president and not by Puerto Rico’s legislative assembly, and an issue that is totally something Romney and Santorum discuss all the time when not standing on that island. Yes, it’s time for one-button pandering.
I mean, sarcasm aside, I know pandering is nothing new. Even George Washington did it when he tried to win votes from the very powerful cherry tree-hating lobby, and we all know Harrison’s whole term was plagued by attempts to appeal to the important “pneumonia victim” demographic. But in a small way, the Puerto Rican primary can tell you a lot about where the next few months of campaign season will go.
If anything shows that Romney has more of a chance of nabbing this nomination than Santorum, it’s the pandering skills the dynamic duo used over in Puerto Rico. Sure, Romney and I might disagree on fundamental issues like, well, “almost everything,” but I can respect his mad pandering skills. When asked for his opinions on Puerto Rican statehood, Romney simply said he would support the Puerto Ricans in whatever they wanted. The ol’ “I’m okay if you’re okay” method of pandering is my personal favorite, because it’s the way I get out of ever disappointing people with movie choices on Friday night. No matter what they choose, I look like a great friend, and they’ll never have to know that I’d rather be watching Lost in Austen.
And, of course, pandering this way certainly works better than the ol’ “I’m okay if you rescind some of your cultural heritage” technique. Santorum masterfully employed this stratagem when he said that Puerto Rico could become a state if they adopted English as their official language. I don’t know everything, but I do know that this idea is not likely to get you a vote anywhere in Latin America. His claim that adopting English as an “official language” is a federal law displays a wonderful misunderstanding of the US constitution. That always goes great with bizarre racism.
Unsurprisingly, because he was not running in the 1844 election against James K. Polk, Santorum’s anti-Latin America sentiments did not win him many votes. Romney referred to his unsurprising victory as “darn good news,” which is hella folksy and thus adorable. He noted that this proved that Latin Americans can vote Republican, which…uh…sure, you got some Latin Americans to vote for you in a primary when their only choices were Republicans; that absolutely shows a massive demographic shift from every other election ever.
Of course, even in the wake of an embarrassing mishap, Santorum has once again proven that he’s got views that he’s going to stick to, even if they’ve made him yet another scumbag meme on the Internet. And I guess there’s a lot of appeal to that determination. But honestly, I don’t think the Republicans need that right now. If they want to win, they’re going to have to play the pandering game, and deferring to the public is just a better skill to have.
But what do I know, anyway? I’ll say anything to make people happy.