On Sunday, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein traveled to Baton Rouge to help out with relief and rebuilding efforts following more than a week of intense flooding in Louisiana. She joined local Green Party members to visit displaced residents in and around Baton Rouge, and posted videos online explaining how her supporters could help with disaster relief efforts. President Obama is also expected to arrive in Louisiana on Tuesday after Donald Trump's recent high-profile visit to Baton Rouge, but Hillary Clinton's campaign announced that the Democratic nominee would only travel to Louisiana "at a time when the presence of a political campaign will not disrupt the response." However, Clinton should follow Stein's lead in helping with relief efforts on the ground.
That's not to say that Clinton hasn't addressed the situation in Louisiana. She reportedly called Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards late last week, and a post on her official Facebook page urged her supporters to donate to the Red Cross and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. "My heart breaks for Louisiana, and right now, the relief effort can't afford any distractions," the post read. "The very best way this team can help is to make sure Louisianans have the resources they need."
She makes a good point. Presidential candidates should not visit disaster-stricken areas just to get votes, and their visits can consume necessary resources. Indeed, before Trump's visit, Edwards' office released a statement saying they hoped Trump was there to volunteer and donate, and not just for photo-ops. But even Edwards — a Democrat who voted for Clinton in the primaries — later praised Trump for his $100,000 donation to Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.
Stein has proven that presidential candidates can genuinely help out with rebuilding efforts. They have access to numerous resources, and also to people across the country who are paying attention to what they have to say. Posting to social media is helpful, but it doesn't have as much weight if the candidate isn't also doing everything in their power to assist in disaster relief.
This is not meant to chastise Clinton insomuch as it is to gently point out that it is possible for a high-profile figure to visit Louisiana and help out on the ground without just being a distraction. By posting video updates to social media and contextualizing these floods within broader issues — like climate change and its disproportionate impact on low-income communities of color — Stein and her fellow volunteers have drawn attention to both the flooding and to systemic problems while also amplifying the voices of Louisiana residents like Le'Kedra Robertson, a local activist featured in the video above. Donations are extremely important, but as Le'Kedra points out, "we need people." Not everyone has the resources to travel out of state to volunteer their time, but Clinton likely does.
Stein is not the first volunteer to respond to the flooding in Louisiana, and she won't be the last. She is just one of many people coming to Louisiana to help displaced residents rebuild their neighborhoods. According to Mother Jones, roughly 60,000 homes were damaged since the flooding started on Aug. 12, and at least 13 people have died. Sometimes, it takes someone with a big platform and a lot of influence to garner a sufficient amount of attention and support, and Clinton should reconsider her decision to visit at a later time.