The hip-hop musical Hamilton may have saved the founder of the US fiscal system from being replaced on the $10 bill, and now creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wants to use it to effect another rescue for Puerto Rico. As Congress and the White House negotiate a plan to allow the US territory to restructure its debt without using taxpayer funds to back them up, Miranda pledged to offer a personal rendition of the musical to House Speaker Paul Ryan and “do-si-do with Pelosi.” This morning, an amused Ryan offered advice to Miranda — be patient.
Before getting to Puerto Rico, though, viewers will have to be patient with a significant discussion of the primary, and how Ryan wants to provide a real alternative to the Democrats:
The issues of the election and Puerto Rico are intertwined, although more in the general election than in the primary. Let’s first start with Ryan’s response:
“I turned it on like 10 minutes early and that was on – that guy came on the stage and started throwing my name around, that was very surreal,” he said.
Miranda, who wrote and stars in the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” made a direct plea to Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to pass a bill helping Puerto Rico handle its massive debt burden.
“Paul Ryan, I’ll come sing ‘Hamilton’ at your house,” Miranda rapped. “I’ll do-si-do with Pelosi. I’ll wear my Hamilton blouse.”
“We are focused on Puerto Rico,” Ryan responded Tuesday, saying Congress will let the island restructure its debt
He insisted that “there will be no taxpayer bailout of Puerto Rico,” a country that faces a $70 billion debt burden.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew emphasized in a Univision interview this morning that “the crisis is now,” but it will also be around in November — especially in Florida. Puerto Ricans are American citizens, although the island itself does not participate in the Electoral College in presidential elections. (They do participate in the primaries of both major parties.) Many Puerto Ricans have moved to the US in large part because of the economic problems on the island, and many have relocated to Florida’s I-4 Corridor — the battleground that will decide Florida and its 29 Electoral College votes, and likely the 2016 presidential election.
No one knows this better than Paul Ryan, part of the 2012 GOP ticket that lost Florida. As I point out in my book Going Red, the lack of attention to the nuances of the Hispanic communities in this battleground area of the Sunshine State cost Republicans dearly. Rather than engage with this and other communities to contextualize the Republican agenda for their specific issues and concerns, the Romney campaign used national messaging for Hispanics that mostly discussed immigration issues, rather than the economic issues prioritized by the Puerto Ricans and ex-pat Cubans of the Batista regime that live in the area.
Jorge Bonilla, a former Congressional candidate in the I-4 Corridor and now a blogger at Newsbusters, told me that Republicans had the opportunity to explain that “Puerto Rico is the ghost of Obama’s future” in his economic policies, but instead blew the chance — and lost the Puerto Rican vote 83/17, dooming their chances in a state they only lost 50/49. Puerto Rico’s economic woes matter to these voters, and they present a unique opportunity to contextualize Democratic state-control economics as the cause of the woes that prompted them to come to the US in the first place. But first, these voters want to see Republicans and Democrats find a way to assist Puerto Rico without bailing them out of their own bad decisions.
As long as Ryan sticks to that hard line of blocking a taxpayer bailout of Puerto Rico while pursuing a solution that forces reform, he can provide an entrée for the GOP’s presidential nominee to contextualize their failure with the kind of economic agenda that will be pursued by a President Hillary Clinton and especially a President Bernie Sanders. Whether the nominee does that will be out of Ryan’s control, but he’s at least putting the nominee in position to address it with these voters. A failure to follow up with the kind of bottom-up, granular approach to campaigning in battlegrounds like the I-4 Corridor will doom the GOP in Florida again, and cost it another presidential election.