I’ve recently been following politics in the US a little closer, and the preparation for the primaries early next year really intrigued me. For those not familiar with American politics, primaries take place months before the actual election of the President, and involve the choosing of each party’s candidate who gets put forward in the presidential election. This is the fight within the party, the battle of Democrat against Democrat, and Republican against fellow Republican. I find this far more exciting than the eventual presidential race, as there are so many surprising differences between candidates belonging to the same party.
This variety of opinion is very obvious in the build up to 2016 with the potential Republican candidates. One of the most prominent is Jeb Bush, son of George HW and brother of George W. For a Republican, he comes across as quite sane, intelligent, and appears to have many viable ideas. He is even moderate on the issue of immigration, something on which he looks upon far more favourably than most of his fellow candidates. Unfortunately, this means that Bush will probably not win the Republican primaries, due to hard right-wing members within the party.
Similarly, Marco Rubio, a popular Cuban-American candidate from Florida, understandably has a healthier attitude towards immigration than many, but he falls down along with most others for being against abortion, gay marriage, and gun control. An otherwise promising young candidate, although he also doesn’t believe in climate change… In fact, there is only one Republican candidate, George Pataki, who supports abortion rights. Yep, out of all the candidates, he alone believes that abortions should be legally available. He is also a supporter of gay rights. Due to this, the official candidate’s website calls his stance on social policy leaving ‘something to be desired’. An interesting view to take.
The leader in the polls currently is none other than Donald Trump. A popular businessman and TV presenter he may be, but many of his views are quite unbelievable. He has accused all Mexican immigrants of being criminals and rapists, called all black people lazy, and openly claimed that he would fire a TV presenter because she was fat, ugly, and disgusting inside and out. In general, Trump is quite the misogynist. In a recent debate, he was booed because he asked of the only female candidate on the stage, ‘why does she keep interrupting people?’. He criticised Hillary Clinton as being the ‘worst Secretary of State in the history of the United States’, even though she is now a favourite in the 2016 presidential election. Need I say more? There is more. He claims that free trade is ‘terrible’, and he, too, doesn’t believe in climate change, claiming that it was created by the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive. What an interesting(ly horrible) choice of leader Trump would make for the most powerful nation on earth.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the Democrat candidates. The frontrunner is, as many will be aware, Hillary Clinton. Wife of Bill, so former First Lady, and also former Secretary of State, one might imagine she has unique experience for the top job. She emerged relatively unscathed from a security drama revolving around emails she sent from a private account whilst Secretary of State, and even upped her donations in the aftermath of the incident due to her impeccable handling of the situation. She supports gay marriage, wants universal childcare before kindergarten, and thinks undocumented immigrants should have a path to citizenship. However, much of the American population is, of course, not socially liberal. Clinton is therefore not too popular, although she is tipped to win the Democratic primaries. It is also extremely important to consider that Clinton is heavily backed by Wall Street, which will mean she will have to pander to their whims if she wins the presidential election.
Her closest contemporary is Bernie Sanders, an independent candidate who is running as a Democrat (most likely in order to take part in televised debates). Of Donald Trump, he says that he doesn’t ‘believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process’. He is also a self-confessed democratic socialist, wanting to fight wealth and income inequality and expand Social Security benefits. This is due to the fact that recent movements in the distribution of wealth have been skewed in the favour of the rich, with the top one tenth of one percent doubling their share.. He essentially believes that American economy and politics are broken, and he wants to fix them. Although an admirable aim, the reaction of the American public to Obamacare last year suggests that extending benefit and welfare schemes is not a very popular policy in the current climate.
However, Sanders appears to have stood strong recently. He did well in the recent Democratic debate, appearing well versed and less prone to scandal than his major competitor Clinton. His views on raising the minimum wage make economic sense, and even accusations from Republicans surrounding his socialism, even Communism, fall flat due to the unmistakably American roots of his policies. From an article on the New Yorker website, Sanders has correctly pointed out “how many of his proposals have roots in the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the period of postwar prosperity”. His ideal of a revolution, a democratic movement, is intriguing and exciting, but as the same article states, such movements have rarely triumphed in national elections.
Personally, I would consider most of my views in line with those of the UK Conservative party. However, I am sceptical of US Republican views, as so many of their opinions appear outdated and, in some cases, immoral. I find it difficult to declare my support for someone who thinks that abortion should be illegal, that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married, and that widely available use of guns is truly keeping people safe, despite contributing to the death of tens of thousands in America every year. These values are not ones I share, and it is difficult to argue that these opinions will not end up influencing policy if America elects a Republican president. Whilst otherwise agreeing with many of Jeb Bush’s policies – and of course I’d love to see a woman president – I honestly think Bernie Sanders would make the most interesting candidate for the presidency. It would be intriguing to follow how he would transform a country entirely at odds with his own views.