The crisis in Flint, Michigan has taken the media by storm. The political negligence of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has led to severe and harmful lead pollution of the water — leaving thousands of people without access to clean drinking water.
The truth is this: the people of Flint do not need your outrage. They do not need your politics. They need to be able to bathe their children. They need to be able to drink a cup of clean water. They need their basic human rights to be upheld.
As we can expect with any serious situation during the height of a political campaign, the presidential candidates have jumped on the opportunity to express their concerns for those affected by the crisis. Candidates have also taken the chance to publicly denounce the government officials who failed to keep this problem from arising — or at least, the Democratic candidates have.
On Feb. 7, Hillary Clinton spoke at the House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church in Flint. She’s continually urged Congress to help the people of Flint by passing a bill which would fuel a relief effort and provide supplies. Recently, Bernie Sanders raised the question of how this would have been handled had Flint been a primarily white community instead of a black one.
However, it should be made clear that before the presidential candidates inevitably turn this crisis into a bipartisan or race issue, which it very well may be, it is a sheer violation of government trust and even human rights by those responsible for the protection and well being of Flint’s residents.
The primary reason for this partisan split on the issue comes from the fact that Governor Snyder is a Republican. Consequently, leading Democratic candidates to place themselves on the front line to express how terrible it is that ‘no one is outraged by this.’ People ARE outraged, just not those whose outrage would aid these candidates’ accusations of negligence.
Regardless of how candidates decided to speak out about Flint, neither has kept quiet about how this is entirely the fault of the Republican Party, rather than the actions of one member. Whether it’s Clinton calling the Republican Congress’ inactions immoral or Sanders calling for Snyder’s resignation, the spotlight is now on the GOP.
GOP candidates have, in fact, been vague. When asked about the crisis, Marco Rubio simply responded that he was not briefed on the issue and therefore could not comment. He also added that this “is not the issue that, right now, (they’ve) been focused on.” The New York Times reports that Donald Trump has simply refused to comment on the issue.
The silence from the Republican candidates regarding this crisis simply proves that the candidates do not care about the people or the issue. In a time when people’s lives are at stake and an injustice has occurred, the GOP has shown a whole lot of politics and not nearly enough humanity; this is not leadership.
If there had been a Democratic Governor in Michigan, would the Republican candidates have spoken up? Would the Democratic candidates still have been silent on the issue, or busy pointing fingers?
These question may arise again soon as the city of Chicago is also experiencing a similar issue of elevated lead levels in their drinking a water. Their Governor, Bruce Rauner, is also a member of the GOP.
For candidates who are so used to asking the question of “Where is the outrage?” we must ask not where the outrage is, but rather, where their morality is.
So, presidential candidates, if you’re going to use these suffering people to get more votes, they deserve your help. If you’re not going to address the injustice that has happened here, they still deserve your help. Millions of dollars raised for your campaign mean nothing if you can’t spare a case of water.
Sriteja Yedhara, Contributing Columnist