TImes Square - New York, NY. Photo Credit: Garry Pierre-Pierre January 2018
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By Bobb Rousseau, Diaspora Matters Columnist

Dear HAVE members, 

Our political presence is more noticeable than our vote. For this reason, I urge you to develop strategies to empower us to mobilize towards political self-sufficiency — the same way we mobilize for Flag Day in Miami and Labor Day in New York. I further urge you to put a lot more energy on local and federal legislative elections because local elected representatives and federal legislators, not the president, hold the power of the purse and that of negotiation and appropriation.

What is the use of forming a coalition to encourage us to vote in general elections if you do not encourage us to participate in local and legislative elections, in order to elect those who will form committees that hold the power to oppose any decision of a president? What will it be for us to vote if, in the beginning, you have not energized the base to build a political presence in our community?

Our political presence will allow us to muster political value in American politics.

If we demonstrate for American politics the same unity, mobilization, sense of organization, and degree of commitment that we demonstrate for Flag Day and Labor Day, politicians on both sides of the aisle in American government would seek dialogues with us about our positions regarding American immigration and US humanitarian aid policy to Haiti, instead of commissioning diplomats to go manipulate Haitian politics. They would also develop a policy to court, and ultimately win, our vote because our vote would matter to them at that point, especially in Florida where a meager 500 votes can decide the presidential results. 

Haiti’s future does not depend on who will be or remain the President of the United States, but on how we position ourselves to stand out to attract American press coverage both liberal and conservative, during and after the American elections.

Wall mural in Little Haiti in the City of Miami, Florida, United States. Photo by Marc Averette.

Conventional wisdom holds that we only come here to work and then return home with our fortunes. Few of us are entrepreneurs and we, of the great working majority, are not interested in American politics so much that we do not know who our mayors and governors are, let alone members of our state legislature. Yet, we know the names and activities of all our politicians in Haiti; the country we want to change as we remain hopeful that the U.S. will intervene to drive out the corruption there. However, on the other hand, through weekly meetings, we position ourselves offensively against US interference in our country’s affairs.

It is good that you want to change the narrative for these elections. I admit that your initiative to form a coalition of Haitian-Americans to encourage the Haitian population to get deeply involved in federal politics is more than commendable. Nevertheless, you are encouraging all of us to vote for Joe Biden, because in your opinion, the re-election of Trump will plunge Haiti deeper into corruption, insecurity, and misery. This cannot be further from the truth. This is a false statement since our commitment, regardless of who wins it, is likely to avail no positive social change for Haiti if we do not strengthen it with a political presence constantly visible on social networks, on the campaign trails, on the donation list, etc. 

You are firmly convinced that a president alone can influence American policy towards Haiti. Again, this is wrong. It is the parliament, not the president, that holds the power of making the final financing decision. Therefore, while you are raising funds to elect Joe Biden, you are neglecting to prove our political relevance in the committees of foreign affairs, justice, security, and defense. It is they, not the presidency, that decide American policy, appropriation of funds, and the tension of U.S. foreign policy for our country.

The American federal system is created so that any judge can block the decisions of a president, so that any entity can drag a government to court, or so that any committee can vote against funding for a president’s program. Thus, contrary to popular beliefs, the next American president, no American president for that matter, is strong enough to change the degrading situation in Haiti for he cannot decide anything without the approval of his congress. 

The guiding point is that, in order to influence American legislation in our favor, we must have a political presence that will attract local and federal legislators who have directly the capacity to decide or oppose the development of Haiti. Our absence from local politics and governments endangers our opportunity to elect representatives who will champion our cause in Washington. Fix it.

The U.S. Congress is where Haiti’s economic and political development begins. Ignoring it or underestimating its power on American foreign policy towards Haiti is proof of the political illiteracy of your leadership and the weakness of your initiative. I urge you to start establishing strategies to build street credit so that these legislators know, once and for all, that the Haitian vote matters. 

Bobb Rousseau holds a Ph.D. in Administration and Public Policy with specializations in Public Law and Managing Local Government. Dr. Rousseau firmly believes that the Haitian diaspora in the United States is at a prime stage to build an attractive political force that can shift U.S. immigration, diplomacy, and humanitarian aid to Haiti and to advance the Haitian agenda around the world. Connect on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Bobb Rousseau

Bobb Rousseau holds a Ph.D. in Administration and Public Policy with specializations in Public Law and Managing Local Government. Dr. Rousseau firmly believes that the Haitian diaspora in the United States...

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