They are back! Yes, Hillary and Joe, as in Clinton and Biden, some of the permanent fixtures in American presidential politics, are back on the campaign trail.
Early days, of course, but Hillary – First Lady of the USA, former Senator from New York and presidential candidate in 2008 and 2016 – has launched a political action committee (PAC) called Onward Together, a name that hints at her goal to fight on until she captures the presidency. The official purpose of Hillary’s PAC is to promote “progressive values.”
Freshly recovered from a humiliating defeat by a man who is predictably muddling his way through the presidency, Hillary is in fighting form, with a laser-sharp eye on the 2020 elections.
For his part, Biden is doing the rounds, speaking, taking the political temperature, emboldened by Donald Trump’s chaotic reign, his confidence on the upswing.
The man who served as United States Senator from Delaware for 36 years and vice president for eight, has formed a PAC called American Possibilities. The name gives hope to a nation that is increasingly growing despondent as they watch their new president’s performance in the Oval Office.
Biden, aware that Hillary is in the race for 2020, threw a barb at her in a recent speech. “I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” Biden told a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 18.
Now, these two, of course, have the right to seek their country’s presidency. They are very bright, seasoned politicians with a lot to offer. Either one would make a better president than the man sitting in the Oval Office today.
However, there is something unsettling about their relentless pursuit of the presidency into their twilight years. Hillary will be 73 when Americans choose their next president. It will be her third run for the presidency.
Joe will be almost 78 in November 2020. It will be his second run for the presidency. His first was in 1988.
They will not be the only returnees to the presidential boxing ring. Jeb Bush, brother of America’s 43rd president and son of the 41st, will almost certainly give it another go. He will be only 67. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, will probably try again. He will be 73.
Even Senator Bernie Sanders, the democratic candidate who gave Hillary a good run last year, has not ruled out his candidacy in 2020. He will be 79 years old.
There is a lot to say in favour of age and experience. Age does not matter where a leader is of sound mind and is endowed with the ability to set the grand vision, select the best people to lead the state, and offer stability. Nelson Mandela (South Africa), Mwai Kibaki (Kenya), Ronald Reagan (USA), Manmohan Singh (India) and Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal) come to mind.
However, when political parties repeatedly recycle their reconditioned politicians as though there are no alternatives, one questions the health of their countries.
America is a great democracy, one founded on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War against the British monarchy. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …….” Yet America seems to have a very small pool from which it selects its leaders. Well, that is until Trump upset the cart and left America’s political blue-bloods dazed and lost for words for a while. Now they are back, ready to reclaim what is theirs by right.
This trade in reconditioned politicians is on display in Kenya, where our good neighbours will be electing their president in August. Raila Odinga, the main opposition candidate, first ran for president 20 years go. This is his fourth go at it. He is 72. His father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, was a towering politician whose efforts to lead Kenya were thwarted by Jomo Kenyatta, the father of the current president.
There is something sweet and romantic about the battle of the Kenyattas and Odingas. However, it speaks volumes about the feudal nature of politics. More than fifty years after the first contest for power between a Kenyatta and an Odinga, the competition for the presidency seems to be ring-fenced for their offspring. Yes, Daniel arap Moi and Kibaki spoiled the natural flow of things, but they seem to have been mere regents until the princes came of age.
In Uganda, the competition for the presidency has settled down to two families – the Kagutas and Kifefes. Yoweri Museveni mwene Kaguta, in power for 31 years and counting, will be the candidate for president in 2021. He will be 77. The small matter of a presidential age-limit will soon be sorted out due to “widespread public demand.”
His main challenger will be Kizza Besigye mwene Kifefe, who will be only 65. It will be the fourth time that the two men face each other in a contest that will, once again, be heavily tilted in favour of the incumbent.
In the unlikely event that one or both men choose to step down from the ring, a close relative will be put forward as their replacement. Their wives and their sons will be on presidential ballots in the years ahead.
Ugandans, like Americans, will rally behind these political dynasties, all the while claiming that in their respective republics, all men are created equal. Sweet but troubling.