Callous and Ignorant Election Politics

By Tracy Kronzak Sep 16, 2008

Last week, I was watching this video of people in Haiti waiting for food aid after a series of hurricanes and tropical storms pounded the country. The crisis is so bad that people are willingly pushing themselves through razorwire to get food for their families. John McCain said that "We’re all Georgians now," in reference to the Russian invasion in South Ossetia a few weeks back. But we’re sure as hell not all Haitians now, are we? It’s neither politically expedient nor economically worthwhile for the United States to invest the kind of interest in Haiti as we have South Ossetia because there is no payoff other than doing the right thing. By making Haiti a priority, we’re not pushing a former Cold War enemy into a corner, and in fact we might be sending the wrong message of support to a country that our foreign policy has done its damndest to vilify. And that’s not good election season politics. What triggered this for me was a mention on the local news during my morning workout that the 2008 election cycle is on track to raise $1 billion or more by November, mostly between candidates Obama and McCain. Despite however good it feels to give money to a presidential candidate, make no mistake that in doing so we are not participating in democracy. We’re participating in a corporate political process with no oversight and run by two of the largest companies in the world: the Democratic and Republican parties. If neither party can advance a candidate who can make a convincing argument that they will represent the people without hundreds of millions of dollars of advertisements, then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the election process. In fact, it’s probably time to re-evaluate American democracy as well. It’s not that throwing money at problems will make them go away or solve them without action. But when our monetary resources are so closely aligned with what amounts to a national popularity contest, it makes a statement about our country’s overall priorities. So this election season, instead of pulling together a group of friends to raise $5 or $5000 for candidate Obama or candidate McCain, pull them together to educate them about and raise money for Haiti, Darfur, Tibet, New Orleans, Galveston, Hancock County, down-winders at home and abroad, or any one of the myriad of social, political and environmental catastrophes perpetrated, exacerbated or ignored by these United States.