At a time like this when political events unfold with a bewildering rapidity, such as we’re currently witnessing here in the US, it’s almost impossible for the writer interested in political dynamics to hit a dry spell on the issue of what to write about. A 24-hour news cycle here is invariably filled with items about Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican presidential candidates, and with what is gradually but systematically panning out to be another hard-fought primary between Hillary Clinton and a challenger who takes no quarter and gives none.
Today, I wanted to shift my attention to Nigeria or elsewhere other than the United States in order to strike a judicious balance of subjects covered by this blog. But I have been constrained once again to gravitate back to events here, most curiously to the same issue I addressed only a few days ago ( see “A Memo to the Democrats: Nominate Bernie Sanders and Lose), for the simple reason that that piece received interesting reactions, especially on social media.
Nats Agbo, a former top editor of Newswatch and my former boss at the same publication, found the piece interesting enough and took the kind step of sharing it on his Facebook page. The piece also garnered the most number of “Likes” out of all the posts I have made since I began operating this site. Almona Oluku, an Atlanta-based Public Attorney on top of his game and who boasts a deep knowledge of American and Nigerian politics, also called to plumb the depths of what he correctly understands to be my fears for the Clinton campaign. The nearly 20-minute telephone conversation we had on a wide range of issues related to the current presidential cycle, was sharply illuminating, to say the very least.
On twitter, many of the reactions agreed with my point about Sanders’ poor general election chances against a Republican candidate. They retweeted the piece many times, and often with their own comments. One reader, obviously a Hillary Clinton supporter, wrote: “Americans have never voted too far to Left or Right. Stop Revolutionist Bernard!”
Agreeing with me, a contributor with the cute name of RoseFromPhila wrote: “Totally! This is when # GOP will bring out the Hammer & Sickle emblem to Hammer him with it. Wake up Bernie Suppers.”
A lady named Jill who described herself as “Obama’s # 1 fan”, said, “The #GOP hasn’t started attacking #Bernie yet… On purpose.”
Yet another lady, ShirleyAnn Adams, a “Campaigner for Hillary”, said this: “Bernard is NO FDR! He is NOT a Democrat and doesn’t want to be D and NOT liked.” Her message came atop another boldly written reminder: “Bernie alienates his natural allies. He’s completely ineffective as a lobbyist because he offends just about ..”
But the reactions coming from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum were more visceral, some even close to incandescent rage as the readers, ostensibly irritated by my assertions, dismissed them in comments laced with acid bite.
Bristling with what clearly amounted to righteous indignation, one JoAnn Vargass, a dyed-in-the-wool Sanders follower who described herself as a “#feelthebern mom, activist, democratic socialist, anti-elitist, humanitarian”, etc., etc., wondered how much I got paid to peddle the heresy against Sanders. She wrote: “That had to be one very well paid author to write all those twisted lies, seems link Clinton wrote it herself.”
Bradley J. Timm had to inform me, in case I’d forgotten, that Sanders was more electable than Clinton. “Wrong,” said he. “He beats Trump in every poll.”
Another contributor simply known as Yevette, commented thus: “Ja! Bernie Fear! It was Cheney-Libby who outed Plame, and was Bush, who approved Bank Bailouts.”
Interesting, all of them. But the most remarkable contribution on twitter came from Andrew Gildersleeve. A counter-puncher, Gildersleeve reached for an arrow in his quiver and fired it directly at me with a loud twang. He wrote: “A Memo to Mudiaga Ofuoku: Nominate Hillary Clinton and Lose.” Convinced that I owed him a response, I, in turn, tweeted back at him: “Healthy disagreement makes for a robust debate. I respect ur view but still think WJC remains a huge asset 2 a Dem candidate.” Mr. Gildersleeve was surely one irrepressible fellow. The dude came back at me: “I agree with your position on civil debate and WJC, esp. his ability to be loved by the people. Hillary is hard to love. Problem.”
Hillary is hard to love. That sounded truly heart-felt, and Gildersleeve is just one of many millions who happen to think so of Clinton.
But there are a couple of things wrong with that conclusion. First, on a general note, must a voter choose a candidate on the basis of love or on the strength of his/her competence and experience? It is a debatable matter, but it also happens to be, in my view, one of the attitudes that make a mockery of American presidential politics today. The voters feel more inclination towards the candidate they think they can drink a beer with and not towards the one they believe is more equipped to do the job. That was how Al Gore, a more competent, intellectually more suited candidate, lost to George W. Bush, scarcely a man who would be elected prime minister in the UK or president in many western European countries. What did America and the world get in return for that decision? I remember two things: the Iraq War and an economy run aground.
The second problem is that the assertion is totally wrong. Wrong because the Clinton they can’t bring themselves to love is only an ersatz edition of the real Clinton. The real Clinton is that woman who, for the 20th time in a row, has been adjudged by the American public to be the most admired woman in the world. That decision couldn’t have been reached outside of her many contributions to progressive causes in America and around the world. The real Clinton is that woman who, as secretary of state, played a key role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, in addition to initiating the talks that inexorably led to Iran ending its quest for a nuclear weapon. The real Clinton was, and remains, that woman the entire world beheld as she took questions from the highly partisan Benghazi Committee for eleven hours.
The other Clinton, I should note again, is only a myth, a cartoon character shamelessly manufactured by the GOP and dutifully nourished by its right-wing media with the fierce devotion of an acolyte. Systematically demonized, and almost successfully defined by her detractors, this finished product has since come to be the main prism through which much of America views her. And unless you come into the bargain with an independent, inquisitive mind, it is almost impossible not to sieve her through the funnel provided by the GOP. I must also observe that “outsiders” boasting a more metropolitan, holistic view of things, as opposed to the rather insular, provincial worldview of her Republican detractors, are apt to see a clearly different Clinton. That’s why in the hours following her testimony to the Benghazi Committee last October, opinion of her from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, was exclusively laudatory.
But what did she do to merit the caricature? Her original sin was that she tried to introduce into the country the same type of healthcare system Sanders hopes to introduce if he wins: a free, universal healthcare, the type that exists in Europe. Her second original sin was that she stood solidly by her husband, and did not divorce him, during the sex scandals of the ‘90s. And her third sin is that she is a strong, smart woman. And the Republicans resent such traits in women, particularly if they happen to be Democrats.
With only six days left before Iowa, the polls are tighter than they have ever been, causing a great deal of anxieties and trepidation in the ranks of the Democratic Establishment. Barely 24 hours after I published my piece, Clinton supporters emerged with knives and began slashing Sanders by making the same argument I’d made. Not that they had read my work. They knew this all along, but just didn’t want to come at the Vermont senator with all guns blazing. Even Sanders also has ditched caution. He had promised a civil campaign. Now he’s unleashing vitriol at Clinton because he truly believes he is within striking distance of the Prize.
It’ll only get nastier between the two candidates until and beyond Iowa. But in the final analysis, one hopes Clinton wins, and may God hasten the day she should do so. Sanders’ nomination will send the Democratic Party into the wilderness.