If the numbers from previous elections are anything to go by, the political journey of Charles Brumskine has been heading south for most part and it appears that a miracle might be needed to get Cllr. Brumskine to the finish line. It will indeed be a modern-day miracle. This cannot be compared to Trump for there are many different twists and turns including that it is the 3rd run for the learned lawyer so there are no “unknown unknowns.”
Before we delve into the numbers and what they portend, let’s look, very briefly at the man Cllr. Brumskine, and, while we think he is a known quantity, so his past performance means a lot in this game. By every measure, Charles Brumskine has a great academic résumé that appeals to many people. Unlike many other contenders, he’s courted the presidency for the best part of the last 20 years and now indulges himself as someone uniquely qualified to steer the affairs of the country-using his short-lived stay at the Senate as that unit of measurement. He has never been elected to anything other than being a beneficiary of the largesse offered through the NPP by a fouled and flawed Proportional Representation System in 1997. He resigned the post of Pro-tempore of the Senate nineteen months later and then after two months as senator. He was on the ballot twice; came 3rd in 2005 with 135,093 votes and a distant 4th in 2011, picking only 65,800 votes. He resigned from politics a few days after the 2011 reverberation, went to his “farm”-whatever that meant, it can best be interpreted by only the man who announced it. He then announced three years later that he’s reconsidered his options and would be running for president. And just before the announcement of being a candidate again, he would court many fat government and private legal offers and appear financially viable.
The Cllr. and his followers have made several attempts to present him as the candidate with governance ideas who actually wants to engage in policy debate rather than the politics of name calling and tribal divide even though he engages in similar acts when he tries to portray himself as the “Bassa candidate.” On the policy front, he has tried too hard to communicate some policy ideas but they have fallen flat because they seem to have been picked up from the street and placed into documents that he has been asked to read. His delivery (the style) of those ideas has been terrible but more substantially, they have been weak and have failed every policy test. For example, he has not communicated how those big promises will be paid for in a country that has budget of less than US$600 million. If you are going to position yourself as the candidate with the strongest policy ideas, then you must be able to complete the entire policy process by telling the country how much the implementation of that policy will cost, how you will pay for it and what impact it will have. Of course there is always an opportunity cost. Besides, checking to see if similar ideas have not already been implemented and what the results have been will be a wise move lest the country sees this as another political promise simply made in order to get elected.
With that being said, here is Cllr. Brumskine performance over time and why I believe his journey in 2017 is going to be bumpy and will require a miracle to get him to the finish line.
If elections were held in 2003 when Brumskine challenged President Taylor, it is a consensus that, all things equal, he would have won. He had the support of many young intellectuals and was seen as the only man who was prepared to challenge Taylor and therefore would have been rewarded. That was the highest moment of Brumskine’s political career. And then came the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in 2003 that put in place the NTGL to prepare the country for elections. Those elections were planned for 2005.
Brumskine had removed himself from consideration to head the NTGL because he was sure of his eventual election as president. The record, in hindsight, shows that that may have been his only chance of ever becoming president. But then by November 2004 George Weah announced that he would be contesting the presidency. Arguably, this was the moment that ended the Brumskine presidency dream because absent Weah from the race, Brumskine still had a very good chance of becoming president in 2005 but the CDC momentum ended that dream.
Because Brumskine had been running for president since 2002 and had exhausted most of his resources coupled with the entry of Weah into the race, he was not able to sustain the network he had built and so when the October 2005 election results came in, Brumskine and his Liberty Party (LP) got 135,093 votes which is now his personal best.
The reason for positing that his 2005 numbers are his personal best is because his 2011 numbers are embarrassingly terrible and everyone can understand why he resigned from politics after those showings.
For a major candidate who claim to have national appeal to come fourth, not just fourth but distant fourth and especially coming fourth to a candidate who had appeal only in Nimba County is an embarrassment and sufficient to end anybody’s political career.
Nationally, in 2011, Brumskine settled at 65, 800 which meant he lost 69,293 (from 135,093 in 2005). So he lost more votes than he kept. He also got less than 50% of the votes that Prince Johnson and his NUDP garnered.
Let’s go further into the country and start with his stronghold, the “Bassa belt” and see what occurred there. In 2005, Brumskine got 38,498 votes in Grand Bassa but in 2011, he only managed 28,039 votes in Grand Bassa County out of the 81,369 people that turned out to vote. That was a massive loss of 10,459 votes. To put this in perspective, consider that Daniel Chea, an aspirant for Senate got 23,072 votes and John Whitfield (deceased) another senatorial candidate got 23,490. The person that Brumskine is depending on in Grand Bassa today, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, won bi-election with only 11,000 votes.
In Margibi County, Cllr. Brumskine seemed to have lost every steam he once had and dismally performed in the Mamba Bassa area of Margibi. He managed only 5,498 votes in the entire Margibi out of 86,498 votes cast in that county. Margibi is a county with a huge Bassa speaking population. But then an unknown Roland Opee Cooper, a Bassa candidate who also ran on Liberty Party’s ticket in the Mamba Bassa part of the county attracted 6,383 in a single electoral district. What Representative Opee Cooper got in District #1 is more than what Brumskine got in the entire Margibi County.
Then Rivercess County, another Bassa speaking county, also showed terrible and troubling results. In 2011, Cllr. Brumskine and his Liberty Party could only attract 3,179 votes out of 19,159 votes cast and that is 2,326 votes less than the 2005 votes. Unlike Grand Bassa County, Rivercess has two new sheriffs in town; Senators Dallas Gueh and Francis Paye. Senator Gueh got 6,604 votes amounting to over 100% of the number of votes acquired by Cllr. Brumskine. Sen. Paye, during the runoff, also managed 1,959 votes. The sad news is both men have endorsed the candidacy of Vice President Boakai. Given the sad tribal underpinnings of our politics, it is an endorsement with interesting features. Why are they not supporting their own? Why is he being rejected by his kinsmen after all? Is there something we need to know? Or can we conclude that he does not have it anymore?
But to be president, a candidate must have more appeal that what exists inside his own county or amongst his kinsmen. Though Brumskine doesn’t seem to be commanding such appeal among the Bassa-speaking people as gleaned from the 2011 results, I am attempting to see whether there is any glimmer of hope for him, nationally, and so I take Montserrado. Amid the political commotion, the county is home to tens of thousands of Bassa speaking residents especially in the sprouting Sinkor area, Oldest Congo Town and the King Gray-Robertsfield Highway areas. In 2005, Cllr. Brumskine did a formidable job by securing 45,375 votes but then in 2011, he could only appeal to 11,211 votes out of 472,550 people that voted. In contrast, Losene Bility, LP’s senatorial candidate in Montserrado County appealed to 51,611 voters. Yes, a whopping 51,000 plus votes in a big Bassa speaking county. Yes, you could also argue that Bility’s kinsmen voted him but why not his party? Or let’s look at Lewis Brown, another Bassa speaking candidate running for senate in Montserrado. Lewis Brown got 129,255 votes. This means that Lewis Brown has more national appeal than Charles Brumskine if numbers are anything to go by. Even though you could argue that he was endorsed by the Unity Party but then, numbers from precincts based in Bassa speaking communities were impressive than that of the learned Cllr. Is it that Brumskine has no traction? Can we then conclude that he’s placing his personal ambition above the interest of the party? What is happening to the Bassa narrative and this imposing feature of a Bassa president? Why is Brumskine not liked by the electorates?
I know we might want to dismiss these analyses but they speak volume about Cllr. Brumskine’s candidacy and the challenges he faces. In 2017, Brumskine’s first major hurdle is to outpace Sen. Johnson of Nimba. The current dynamics communicate a huge challenge for him. He needs to up his numbers by 75,000 votes to defeat PYJ and then attract at least 275,000 more votes to have any chance of making it to the 2nd round. As it stands, he needs a miracle to get those numbers. Even if he attracts all of the Bassa speaking votes of 271,000 for which there is no evidence to support, he still needs 79,000 more votes to be in that 2nd round conversation.
Anyway, miracles do happen and we are standing by to be witnesses to a modern-day miracle but aside from that, a Brumskine’s presidency is a far cry from reality.