A Presidential aspirant, Dr. Arthur Kennedy has stated that he does not believe in an early congress to select a presidential candidate to contest Election 2008. In an exclusive interview with the ADM he provided his reasons and gave insights into other issues confronting his party.
Do you believe in an early or late congress?
I have heard a lot of people say it is good to get an early congress so that we can "market" the nominee. I respectfully disagree, I think we should have the congress as late as possible and here are my reasons:
First, most people know that there is a lot of frustration and tension within the party, I think that one can reasonably predict that whoever becomes the party's nominee would whether he likes it or not become the party's spokesperson rather than the government's spokesperson. So you run the risk of in effect setting up of a shadow government against your own government where you would have the nominee and the president disagreeing and whenever a party gets into a situation of arguing with itself, it is almost certain to lose power. I think that is not the good idea.
The second reason why I think an early congress is not the best idea is that once the nominee is picked, the task of all of us uniting to build the party falls preponderantly on the nominee. I think we are better off delaying the choice of the nominee and keeping everybody interested in rebuilding the party which they all would be because they are interested in being nominees. With a vibrant party, no matter who the nominee is we would have a strong party to go forward. Taking the nominee early would make it imperative that that nominee is good at rebuilding the party and if he is not that good, we are gambling on a lot.
The third reason is that, I think it is an advantage to pick your nominee late rather than early particularly since the NDC is in opposition, they would like to pick a nominee early and start marketing the person, it gives us an advantage to sit back and look at their nominee's strength and weaknesses and then based on that, we can let ourselves to be guided to select who will be our best candidate under those circumstances.
Ok, talking of unity, right now a few of you, just a few have officially intimated your interested but then in the public domain we know close to may be ten to eleven people are interested .Don't you think these are big numbers and this could dissipate resources and could lead to factionalism within the party because people are already talking of "camps".
I think that has some merit, but democracy in its very nature - elections - is an exercise in disagreement. Once you say you are going to have primaries, there are people, for whatever reasons, believe that they are qualified, so based on our democratic traditions, et everybody compete and let the best person win.
Having said that, I think by the time we hit the home stretch, the number would get down, some people may have found out that they are not as viable as they thought , they would find out for example as they share ideas with other aspirants, who is a better messenger. An election is not all about the message; it is also about the messenger. For the same message there has to be someone who is a better messenger.
Dr. Kennedy, why don't you allow the outgoing President to recommend a successor?
Allowing the outgoing president to recommend his successor is all right, he can, but it is up to congress to decide. I think no one person ought to have a disproportionate influence in the choice of the next president because to the extent that one or a smaller group of people to have influence, it becomes less democratic, that is why I do not think it is a good idea to let the out going president to recommend a successor. Another thing we should have to watch is that we might pick the successor, let's say a year before the outgoing president leaves and if he recommended A and congress picks B, the relationship between the nominee and the incumbent president who did not recommend him might not be the best for the time left. So I think if I were the incumbent president I would stay away from making recommendations.
What of the incumbent vice president, shouldn't he be the first choice in our quest for replacement?
I wouldn't say that he should, but I think he should have some strong claims to the office provided he did his work well. I believe that if he had served his party and his constituency, by now he would be the presumed front runner.
If he is not the presumed front runner, it is an admission that may be there is something he should have done that he did not do, but having said that I think every vice president has a strong claim to the office assuming that his administration or his party is going to be re-elected. Let me caution you though. If you look at the American history, Martin van Buren was elected president as an incumbent vice president in 1836, it took until 1988, nearly a hundred and fifty years later, before an incumbent vice president was elected.
There is the difficulty in the vice president running to succeed the president and this seems to have been even when the president who is leaving office is popular. If the president leaving office happens to be unpopular, they blame you for all his failings and they don't give you any credit for his success. We know about Richard Nixon, Al Gore; there is a lot of history about incumbent vice presidents who did not succeed to the office, but I think any incumbent vice president is entitled to very serious consideration as a candidate to succeed the president he has served as a vice president.