Thursday, October 27, 2016

Voting and Realistic Expectations (Clinton and Haiti)

This is very likely the only time you will see me post about the election season during the election season, so I bid you to read carefully. I will tell you right off what this post is NOT about:
-One candidate versus another
-Whom I think you should vote for or not
-Demonization or blame

I don't truck in any of those, frankly, and tire of seeing them. So before you start reading this, really, please consider if you are ready to look at the election process and our expectations themselves, without details about candidates or panic or fear. If not, place a bookmark on this and come back later.

With that "trigger warning", so to speak, let's keep going.

Recently, I've been reading a lot about Haiti. I've got a post over here on my other blog about why, so I won't go into it too much here. What got me to reading the Jonathan Katz book about Haiti (basically all that went wrong after the earthquake there in 2010, kept in mind while we look at the post-effects of the hurricane) was his article about the Clintons in Haiti. In case you prefer to keep reading this instead of going off to other articles and posts, let me summarize what Katz says in terms of what is relevant here: the Clintons (both of them) drove a lot of efforts in Haiti to raise 16 billion or so dollars to help after the devastating earthquake there in 2010. Almost none of the money wound up in Haitian hands, and very little of it actually got donated and used, most of it misused.

Most of this isn't news, since Trump has used all of these points and more to say that Hillary is useless and corrupt.

BUT, and this is important, Katz also points out it is not as simple as that. The Clintons were working in already-existing systems - NGO's, current US governmental policy, international aid tendencies, etc. Not to mention, our deep capitalistic greedy drive towards cheap goods and the long US history of keeping Haiti down in order to benefit our country financially.

Just in case you think I am about to tell you to vote for Jill Stein, Green candidate, or Trump, Republican candidate, you can think again. Because I will tell you right now, and hopefully if you support someone else you can keep reading, because I promise you some nuance here, that I voted for Hillary. And I will also tell you I did it with very mixed feelings, but not because I hate Hillary or wanted to vote for a woman - I had mixed feelings because I think she's the only one right for the job, but I hate how the job is configured right now.

Here's what I will say about voting: Right now, currently, when it comes to presidential elections, I believe in voting for the situation we have and not the situation we want. What do I mean by that? In terms of overall political view, I am much more aligned with Green Party than Democratic Party. I am disappointed heavily by the overall system (not too far off from a lot of Trump voters, I would add), as well as how the situation has been internationally and federally for a long time now. However, I not only think a vote for Stein wouldn't make much of a ripple at this point, I also think that when it comes to federal, presidential elections, I need to vote understanding what it takes to actually become president. I can't expect someone non-corrupt, with aligned views with my own, to make it to the point of being able to qualify as president. Because I am very clear on another thing for myself: no one else is qualified for this race than Hillary.

Am I disappointed by that? Yes. I'd love a Green candidate who is qualified - hell, I'd love a Republican candidate to be qualified (even though I likely wouldn't vote for them). I vote strategically - at this point, anyway, though I was raised to vote by my heart and previously have done so - because at the presidential level, the job is so sophisticated and complex as to merit someone who knows how to play the ropes, even if I don't like the ropes.

This is what happened in Haiti - the Clintons played by the ropes, and they - and more importantly, Haiti - got burned. Do I think that means they are not responsible? No. I definitely hold them accountable for all kinds of errors. But I only hold them accountable for their errors. I do not hold them accountable for what it takes to try and make a multi-national NGO successfully raise and deliver billions of dollars of donations. They can't change that system, not at the same time as trying to help a devastated country. Ditto elections.

Burnie tried, and did I ever want him to be able to do it - change the system he was running in while running in it. But I don't think that is possible, not really. I think it has to come from grassroots. I think we have to try and change international aid while there's not a panic in place, and I think we have to change elections not during a heated election season. I think most change comes from ground up - grassroots, baby - wherein we can raise people and change systems systematically (not all at once) so that by the time someone with integrity gets to Oval Office, they can actually get things of integrity done, because the system itself has integrity.

Frankly, when I voted for Obama, I was excited by the idea of an African-American candidate, and liked his speaking style and personality, but that was about it. I continued to be disappointed by him, as well as pleased, during his run - but all of that was tempered by understanding what is - and what isn't - possible for a president in the role we now put them in. Overall, I was pleased with what he could do - considering his restrictions. I believe something similar will be the case with Hillary, though I dread her warhawk tendencies moreso than any other of Obama's characteristics, and the idea of a female president carries less wow for me than a black president.

I want to invite you to take a step back. Don't look at the candidates as much as the situation. What is the situation, by your view? Do you agree with my assessment, or think generally democracy is in good shape? Do you sincerely think it is possible that either Stein or Trump (or another candidate than Clinton) can be president in the situation we have? Use some critical analysis. See if you are voting for someone not just because you prefer their tone or like their arguments but because you actually think they can do the job.

Spend less time following lists of criticisms and more time considering what it means to be president of the United States. Then take a close look at your local politics - city and state level - and see what you could be doing there to help grow the views you actually hold. In that way, I don't care who you vote for in the end - but simply that you vote for what is possible - at this moment, in this situation. Then extend your view of what you want, the bigger view, the next steps, into the less-heated situations of future, local elections.

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