On the fence


This will likely upset many of my closest friends, including some of my immediate family members who generally feel much stronger about politics than I do and are staunchly opposed to one side of the runoff showdown—they have their reasons. To put it simply, I am on the fence as to who I will vote for in the runoff.

Truth be told, my opinion sways from day to day (sometimes hour to hour) based on what I might call the preponderance of every little bit of information or data point that happens to cross my sphere of influence (that is, the things that influence my thinking). Occasionally, I do take time to read and/or listen to the propaganda being peddled by both sides (insert green-faced, puke emoticon here). Further truth be told, my opinion and my vote have always been influenced more by how candidates (and their respective camps) have made me feel rather than by what they may have said.

I’ll take some liberties in name-dropping here as examples, but please note that views expressed are solely my own and do not represent the opinions (nor do I have permission from any) of those mentioned here.

I don’t think it’s any secret (at least from people who know me) that Tina and Leila are my friends and generally I put a high value (often to a fault) on friendship. Both are admirable individuals in terms of their passion, dedication and, frankly, courage to stand up so publicly for what they believe. So I voted for them, but (and this is an important but) I voted for them because they are my friends, not because of their politics and, as I quipped to another friend in the political arena, despite them being far-left Democrats—I am no such thing. Going forward I think it’s a mistake to assume that all of us who voted for them did it for some desperate need for change—I certainly didn’t and, for that matter, offering me a choice between two sets of incumbent candidates from the same administration (and let’s be honest, the same political party) does not strike me as a vote for change.

Rep. Ed Propst, who I can’t claim as my friend (at least I’ve never sat for any beers with him, although certainly a friendly acquaintance), is someone I also voted for (when I voted in Precinct 1), although more recently I told myself outright that I wouldn’t vote for him again if I had the chance (I vote in a different precinct now). My reasoning? I didn’t like how some of his rhetoric (often veiled in childish sarcasm and at one point laden with cuss in the Chamorro vernacular) made me feel. No doubt he is entitled to his freedom of expression and frustration often gets the best of us, but I think he stooped too low at times and I felt somehow that I was being dragged down with him (beneath the man I expect him or any of my elected leaders to be). For a long time I stopped listening to what he has to say. And then very recently, I tuned in to hear one of his FB live posts and found it thought-provoking enough to make me ponder my upcoming vote a little deeper and perhaps begin to see him in a new light again…maybe (?)—all to the point that my opinions of people swing rapidly at times based on how they make me feel, whether or not they may be right or wrong.

At the heart of Rep. Propst’s recent monologue was the issue of the BOOST program and the only reason I stopped long enough to listen—I felt annoyed by another recent post, meme, or whatever you call such things (forwarded to me by another friend) in which the representative is holding what looks like a semi-automatic rifle, likening it to a fishing spear and mocking the governor with a sarcastic comment about qualifying for the BOOST program. I was loaded, cocked, and ready to comment on his “live” post and then, to my surprise, he articulated the issues in a way that I could grasp without getting in a huff…without getting triggered, if you will. I still don’t agree with some of what he said or perhaps what was implied, but I get his point. In particular, I don’t agree to his thought about just handing out another stimulus in lieu of trying to target small businesses and entrepreneurs and I still hold out hope that those who may have received BOOST funding have met a legitimate eligibility criteria with a specific intent and likelihood of giving our local economy however many millions of dollar boosts.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs face added layers of challenges and offer opportunities for economic growth that the average citizen does not. And so I am particularly annoyed at the notion (and there is a pervasive undercurrent of political messaging about this) that if you get BOOST funding and you support or vote for the Torres/Sablan camp that you have sold out or had your vote bought. Even as an “unconnected,” insignificant man in the scheme of all things politics and someone who could benefit hugely from BOOST funding, I do not subscribe to the notion that all who receive funding are sellouts and, more importantly, I won’t resent anyone who gets assistance regardless of who they support politically. Whether anyone likes it or not the decisions and discretion for awarding funds as such rests in the hands of those who hold the purse strings. For emphasis, all the rest of us can do is hold out hope that those who may receive BOOST funding did so because they met a legitimate eligibility criteria with the specific intent and best chance of creating necessary boosts in our local economy. Ultimately, it is about the economy as a whole, not about each and every individual or much less about spreading the wealth unless you want to turn it into another socialist handout where everybody gets a little or nobody gets any at all—again, I do not subscribe to that line of thinking.

For full disclosure, I’ll add that I too applied for BOOST funding assistance in support of my fledgling fishing and room rental business—and not just the $500 supplement, but rather large amounts, I’d say life-changing amounts—and I feel very certain that I meet the eligibility criteria and offer a viable business with huge potential for significant economic contributions. I won’t likely get the chance to vote based on whether or not I get my BOOST application funded—I don’t expect, though I hope to get funded—but I can and will vote based on the simple fact that it is my right to vote as I please. To be clear, though (and my conscience is clear in saying this), if somehow I did receive funding as requested, you can be damn sure that I will vote for and maybe even schlep for the administration that made it possible because that would make me feel very good. I don’t know if that makes me a sellout, but I do know it will help my business to sell more fish and…to borrow an old Michael Jordan faux pas, “Republicans buy fish too.”

I wish the very best of luck to all of the gentlemen (each of who in our respective, chance encounters have always greeted me with respect beyond my measure) who are running in the final race of this political season. Thank you for your willingness to serve. God bless you and God bless the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Jim Rayphand (Special to the Saipan Tribune)

Jim Rayphand (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
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