Skip to main content

American Politics: A Jigsaw Puzzle And A Cobweb Of Intrigues And Shifting Alliances By Dr. Wumi Akintide

April 21, 2016

I have traveled the world quite a bit in my life. I am yet to see anything that comes close to the sheer sophistication of American politics.

I said it before, and I say it again that American politics is a jigsaw puzzle compared to how politics is played elsewhere around the world. You have not seen anything like it. Added to that mix are Nigerian Facebook pundits who are now two for a penny in America, if you have been paying as much attention as I do. Only in America!


When you add into the mix the Nigerian factor and mindset of Nigerian Facebook pundits which include individuals like SundayIwalaiye, Mayowa Adeleye, Laolu Fasuyi, Professor Ozodi Osuji, Alex Kaaba, Chika Onyeani, Alex Omeke, Wande Agunloye, Justice Faloye, Okey Ndibe, Rudolf Okonkwo, Alfred Obiorah, Adeola Fayeun and my humble self to mention a few. What you get in American Politics becomes a lot more complicated and complex. The current primary season in America has exemplified a lot of those imponderables as I would show with the remaining segments of this article.

Weird and strange things happen in America all the time as I have stated in my article describing American politics as the most delicate the most sophisticated and unpredictable in the world. It is not only in politics that you observe the good, the bad and the ugly and some trends you would not find anywhere else in the world. I have traveled the world quite a bit in my life. I am yet to see anything that comes close to the sheer sophistication of American politics.

Britain used to pride herself as being the mother country and America’s colonial master before July 4, 1776, but today America has altered that perception and reality. You could almost say with some validity that Britain has now become the lap dog of America. America has not only caught up with Britain, she has surpassed Britain at nearly all levels but one.

Britain still remains the quintessential bastion of democracy and decency around the world where 2 plus 2 in politics still remain 4 till tomorrow. It could be 5 or 6 in America depending on whom you ask. When Scotland lost the referendum vote to cut herself loose from Britain not too long ago, it did not waste any time acknowledging that she lost fair and square. If that referendum were to take place in America, the problem could arguably have taken a different dimension.  

There was no victor and no vanquished in the referendum. The British government on its part immediately began to take steps to grant more autonomy to Scotland and to meet their demand half way because Britain knew it was the right thing to do. Britain was persuaded that if it did not immediately respond to Scottish demands, it might not only lose Scotland but Wales, too, as time goes by.

By the same token, the leader of the Free Scotland Movement quickly acknowledged that he lost the referendum. The following morning the man tendered his resignation to allow a new leader to come in to heal the wounds. The Scottish did not do what the average American would have done in similar circumstance: looking for some excuse to justify their loss and some new way to prolong the conflict or the debate.   

I frequently took the subway otherwise called "the tube" when I was a student in London. Not once did I witness in the tube the kind of spectacle you regularly see on the subway in New York. Subway entertainment is a regular feature in New York and the way commuters react or respond to it is nothing to compare with what happens in London or most parts of Britain. Everything in America including their politics takes a different connotation.

You often find panhandlers on the train in New York begging for alms. Such a sight would be considered a heresy in the London Tube. In New York you find young boys entertaining commuters in between stations, especially on the express trains with longer stops to give themselves enough time to do their acrobatic displays and break dance, which can be very scary. Those boys play those pranks to justify their solicitation for money from other commuters. Even though there are laws against such behaviors in the trains in New York, those laws are not strictly enforced by the MTA Police riding in the trains to enforce the law and to maintain some modicum of security for commuters.

You find subway musicians and entertainers who play the electronic piano or blow the trumpet and saxophone to an improvised karaoke music to cheer up the commuters as they move from one platform to another to catch their trains.

You actually see some commuters gathering around the entertainers to cheer them on, give them some money in appreciation of their musical talent while a few others actually stay a few minutes to dance away their sorrow before moving away to catch their trains. There is no city like New York on the face of the Earth. The rough and rugged nature of American commuters in New York is so different from the civility and decency often associated with the British train commuters in the heart or outskirts of London.

New Yorkers are as crazy as hell. They will blow your mind with some of the things they do on the train and out there in political rallies. Other Americans from the country side generally call the observation the "New York state of mind" or "New York values," all of which manifest in American politics as the country prepares for its next presidential election in November from coast to coast and from sea to shining sea like they say in America.

It is only in America where a presidential candidate like Al Gore clearly won the popular vote by more than 2 million votes but still lost the presidency to George Bush who won the Electoral College tally, which is a total repudiation of the concept of one man one vote we have all grown accustomed to in other countries of the world.

Strange things happen in America all the time. 

Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, a popular wrestler but also a Naval SEAL and veteran, won the governorship race in Minnesota for one term by promising to govern differently. Ronald Reagan, a cowboy and an actor at 69 defeated a younger and more youthful incumbent President Jimmy Carter, arguably the most educated man to ever run for President at that point as his life. Abe Lincoln came third in the Republican Primary but went on to become the nominee and President in 1861. Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic nominee in similar circumstance. John F Kennedy came from behind to not only beat a sitting Vice President in Richard Nixon, but he did it as the first Catholic ever to be elected President in America at the age of 42.

Michael Dukakis, a Greek law professor, was beating Vice President George Bush in opinion polls before his presidential ambition was derailed by a silly answer he gave to CNN anchor, Bernard Shaw, when he asked what he would have done if he had caught somebody raping his wife. Dukakis thought he could make the voters believe he would be tougher than George Bush, a former prisoner of war and a highly-decorated war hero, by driving an armored vehicle while dressed in a military uniform. He never recovered from the aftermath of his stupid act as the Republicans pounced on him to turn him into a cartoon character. He lost to George Bush by double digits.

The greatest orator and three-term Governor of New York State, Mario Cuomo, chickened out of a contest with President George Bush, who was hovering around 90 percent in opinion polls following his success as Commander-in-Chief of Desert Storm when he humiliated Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Mario Cuomo had thought he could never win. But a young charismatic Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, was not fazed by the daunting challenge.

He threw his hat to the ring against George Bush and he beat the sitting President, becoming the second youngest American President at 43 and sending George Bush to early retirement. Al Gore was too scared to let Bill Clinton campaign for him in his contest with George Bush Junior in 2005 because he thought that the Monica Lewinsky scandal had irredeemably damaged Bill Clinton. Al Gore most certainly would have won in Tennessee, Arkansas and even in Florida and would have won the Electoral College tally, to become the 43rd President of the United States, if Bill Clinton had campaigned for him. He failed in all the three places and he lost the election to George Bush. That notwithstanding he was among the first to congratulate George Bush when the Republican-dominated Supreme Court ruled in favor of George Bush by 5 to 4 majority among the 9 judges of the Supreme Court. Only in America! In Nigeria or Tanzania or Ghana, hell would have broken loose!

Absolutely nothing is written in stone in American politics. It is never over in American politics until it is over and little things can derail the political ambition of an otherwise strong candidate who is believed to be unbeatable.

Many in the polarized Republican Party are still rooting for Donald Trump today because they believed he was going to beat and humiliate the Republican Establishment, humiliate Islam and Muslims, exile more than 11 million illegal immigrants in America and cut down to size the first woman with a chance to be elected President by attacking her and her husband and saying anything to humiliate and deflate her.
Republicans voting for Trump see that attitude as Trump’s greatest strength but most Americans on the other side see that craziness as Trump’s greatest weakness. I don’t care what the polls may be saying today, I can tell you the same points are going to be Donald Trump’s greatest vulnerability and weakness in the November election.

Most Americans are going to view him as a loose cannon and the ugly equivalent of an Adolf Hitler whose presidency is going to lead America to the Third World War and the greatest arms race the whole world has ever seen. His coming to power in 2017 would make the Barack Obama presidency loom larger than life in comparison to Donald Trump.  Americans would look back and realize that Barack Obama was God’s greatest gift to them.

It is like a reset button is always set in American politics after the end of each of the primary elections in many states of America because the rules and regulations and protocols differ from one state to another, as if you have 50 separate countries in America. The rules in New York may not apply in Arizona or Connecticut or Missouri or Mississippi and Oklahoma. Elections are decided in some states and by winner-take-all or by a caucus, while it is based on one man one vote in many others, leaving a “Tower of Babel” that is very confusing and looks very unfair to those who do not know America.

It is only in America where a loser would be threatening the winner as if he had actually won. Bernie Sanders came to New York claiming he had momentum by winning 7 of the primaries in 8 relatively tiny states which rely on caucuses to decide their winners.

Even though Hillary Clinton was leading him by more than 2 million in the popular vote and by a huge margin in pledged candidates, Bernie came to New York threatening fire and brimstone and claiming New York as his place of birth even though the man had chosen to go live in tiny Vermont the smallest state in America rather than staying in the Big Apple to run and help the city.

The man who had lived for 34 years in Congress and has never done a thing for New York now wanted New York to massively vote for him and he was so glad and over joyous when 28,000 turned out at his rally at the Prospect Park in Brooklyn. He simply counted those 28,000 as proof of his popularity in New York but he lost by close to 20 points to Hillary when the votes were counted.

The bald-headed man had to quickly run back to Burlington, Vermont to leak his wounds and to recoup before heading to Pennsylvania and the next primary states of New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine and Indiana to start repeating the same lies all over again. Hillary continues to lead him in popular and pledged delegates by huge margins but the braggart continues to make noise, claiming he should still come from behind to snatch the nomination from Hillary by some magic or some abracadabra because in his convoluted mind he is more electable than Hillary because some Voodoo pundits tell him he could beat Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or John Kasich, forgetting that opinion polls are only snippets of the moment and they mean nothing when the rubber meets the road.   

Exactly the same thing is happening on the Republican side where, strangely enough, Donald Trump the wild cat is leading on all counts but the second and the third candidates to him are claiming that the fact that he has the highest number of votes should not be a guarantee that he has to be the nominee because they claim he is not electable. Only in America!

What the opinion polls are saying today may be totally different from what they say tomorrow after the two major nominees should have emerged.  The emphasis is going to shift to who the two major nominee are going to pick as their running mates. That is the first litmus test the 2 nominee must pass going forward.

American politics is a high wire business because the choice of a running mate can go a long way to help or handicap the nominee in the perception of the voters and the pundits who do the opinion polls. After that comes the Convention proper where the Party platform is finally settled before the last phase of the campaign kicks into high gear for 3 to 4 months before the election. Within those 3 to 4 months there would be at least 3 or 4 televised debates or less between the two presidential candidates and either 2 or 3 between their Vice President designates as well.

What is so spectacular in American politics is how the members of the 4th Estate of the Realm suddenly become the Alfa and Omega as the individuals who would more or less conduct the job interview for the two candidates vying to be President of the greatest country on Earth. The experience is so humbling for them that you would sometimes wonder if they were still the same characters once one of them is elected and sworn in as President while the other goes into political oblivion so to speak. Americans call their top most leader the President but take offense if they start acting or behaving like hereditary monarch. It is a big irony!

Becoming an American President is one hell of a process but there have also been instances when some individuals have become President through what you could call sheer luck or a flip of the coin, but one way or the other the individual must of necessity go through a baptism of fire as I would now briefly show with the remaining segments of this write-up.

Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Andrew Johnson became President and he governed for just one term from 1865 to 1869. James Garfield became President and served for only one year or less in 1881 when he was succeeded by Chester Arthur who governed from 1881 to 1885.  Upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, Lyndon Baines Johnson as Vice President was sworn in Air Force One less than a few hours after the assassination. He served out the first term of JFK and another 4 years of his own before throwing in the towel because American blamed him for his Vietnam policies and he knew his time was up. Upon the resignation of Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal in 1974, Gerald Ford as Vice President became President with effortless ease from 1974 to 1977.

I love American politics. I call it the most sophisticated on Earth. It is like no other Presidency in the whole world. I can tell you that. One thing you cannot take away from every individual who becomes American President is that the person has had to to have something special and unique to get him there even when that person gets there by sheer default or the call of destiny brought about by a sudden natural death of his predecessor or by assassination or resignation of his predecessor, like what happened to Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

The system has been so perfected and distilled that a bozo would never be in line to become an American President, which happens quite often in many developing countries like Nigeria, where the weakest link in the chain and a compromise choice could suddenly find himself becoming President just by sheer accident or just by being in the right place at the right time or because of his state of origin or tribe like Shehu Shagari from 1979 to 1983, Umaru Yar Adua from 2007 to 2010 and Ebele Goodluck Jonathan from 2010 to 2016.

I rest my case.