By Garry Pierre-Pierre
In which country did a highly educated, former first lady and senator lose an election to a firebrand, political neophyte, gaudy and raunchy entertainer? No, I am not talking about the United States, it happened in Haiti first in 2011 when Michel J. Martelly defeated, or was selected, president over Myrlande Manigat.
I’m not done. Do you know who orchestrated Martelly’s presidency? Hillary Clinton.
In the words of former president Bill Clinton, “You just can’t make this stuff up.”
Former Secretary of State Clinton ordered her chief of staff Cheryl Mills to broker a deal in that Haitian election. The U.S. was uncomfortable with the leading vote getters and made an offer, which Martelly, who was in third place, jumped on and with that the self-proclaimed President of Konpa — Haitian pop music — became the president of Haiti.
That back room deal infuriated Haitians and many in Haiti and the U.S. never supported her candidacy. During the campaign Haitians staged protests in New York and Miami.
In Haiti, people worried deeply about a Clinton presidency on their beleaguered country. They were shaken that the secretary of state could intervene in their national affairs, creating such a negative impact. But in conversations after conversations, I tried to assuage their fears that first of all Clinton is not as bad as she is pictured and the majority of the American electorate would not vote for Trump. I even went so far to say that her misdeeds in Haiti were in part because of our lack of strong institutions and poor leadership. Had we gotten our act together she would not see fit to meddle.
Boy was I wrong. The reason that I was so off is not because I relied on polls or on data journalism, which all predicted a Clinton landslide. I based my analysis on the goodness of the American people. I was convinced that those in the so-called middle -America would not vote for a boorish person like Trump, despite their malaise and uncertain future. I bet on the goodness of the American people and I lost.
I am an American by choice. When I was 15 years old my mother was filling out her citizenship papers and as a minor I was eligible to be part of her application. I told her that I didn’t want to become an American because after college I intended to return to my country to work. She smiled and mailed her application without her only child’s name. I eventually made the decision in college after studying history at historically black Florida A&M University. So that decision was not out of naiveté. It was based on a keen understanding of the role slavery played in the foundation of this nation and the racism that guides it till this day.
But America has been changing and I missed the fact that this wasn’t the same place I had to come admire. Our discourse has become coarse. We’re more divided than ever and things are looking gloomier.
The America that I came to love is a place where people respect each other and where decency triumphed over political ideology.
Trump was an affront to conservatism and conservative values, so I thought. I remember during one Republican debate, a pained Jeb Bush said, “Donald you can’t insult your way to the presidency.” He did.
Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy were assassinated not for what we have today. I’m pained when I see swastikas painted on walls of all places, college campuses. That’s bad news, no matter how one spins it.
Trump’s ascendency to the presidency was a campaign infused with outright lies, grandiose promises and an appeal to people’s worst instincts. I’m timid about making another prediction, but I suspect that by the time Trump voters realize that they’ve been conned it will be too late. Mexicans or Chinese aren’t stealing our jobs, they are being gobbled by robots. Let’s hate them too.
Like everyone, I have had my share of defeats and setbacks. In every case, I get up and move on. I know that the ball doesn’t bounce your way all the time. If it does, a person becomes arrogant and smug.
It’s been a week since Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States of America and still I’m feeling blue. I thought that after a few days I would have dusted up my derriere and move on. Eventually I will. This shall pass too.
I’m energized by the protests that I’ve been seeing across the country and I hope it all remains hopeful and these young people can galvanize adults to stand up. We can’t resolutely count on the Democrats in Congress to stand up to the Republicans. They didn’t when they voted for us to go to war in Iraq, a folly whose impact will haunt us for a long time.
Martelly left Haiti a constitutional crisis and an economic mess. Is this what await America? I hope not.