The heated US-presidential race has, as always, gained attention all around the world. Until now we have seen a lot of talking with a total of ten inner-party presidential debates – four by the Democrats and six by the Republicans. But it is finally getting serious when voters in Iowa on the 1st of February and in New Hampshire on the 9th of February can decide on whom they want as a nominee for their party. So the time is right to finally understand who’s still in the race and what they stand for.
We will start with the Democrats: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are the two big rivals here. The third candidate is Martin O’Malley who is considered by most to be a place holder, though he has good chances for running in the future.
Hillary Clinton – Potential “Mother of the Nation”
- She has been First Lady when her Husband Bill Clinton was President (1993-2001)
- and is currently Secretary of State.
- Hillary Clinton has already run against Obama back in 2008.
- She wants to “keep up the good work” that President Obama has done so far and expand on it.
- Due to increasing popularity of Bernie Sanders she has moved further left and now advocates for more medicare, tution-light colleges and other “moderate socialist” policies.
- She claims that, as opposed to Sanders, she actually knows how to pay for her reforms.
- She has a strong following among the established middle class
- and unsurprisingly is held highly among women.
- But also minorities back Hillary. Here she has the benefits of her husband’s name who was very popular among black and hispanic communities.
- She is arguably the most likely candidate to become president. Apparently the Republicans at least think she is as they pound on the “nominee who will be able to stand up to Clinton”.
Bernie Sanders – Potential “Grandpa of the Nation”
- He is the son of immigrants who came to the United States from Poland and spent his youth in Brooklyn.
- Sanders is Senator of Vermont as the longest serving independent.
- He is also an Independent candidate in this race, running for the Democratic nomination.
- He describes himself as a “democratic socialist” and advocates for medicare and education like in Europe, financed by taxes on transactions on Wall Street and admittedly regular families, although they are still much better off afterwards.
- If he became president he will tax the rich much more highly as he has highlighted in his eight and half hours (!) filibuster speech against tax reductions for the rich.
- Many regard him as the “political incarnation” of the so called “Occupy movement”. He rallies against big banks and big business, “the one percent” as they are called.
- Sanders also wants to reform the political system and significantly reduce the influence of large corporations and banks. Staying true to his word, he is the only nominee who does not have a SuperPAC behind him but more than three million individuals who contribute to his campaign.
- He is of the opinion that it is necessary to remove Assad, because it is just not predictable as to what comes afterwards, as has become evident in eg. Egypt.
- “Socialism” is a word that is subject to extreme stigma in the US and it is in fact very surprising that he enjoys so much popularity.
- Bernie Sanders is the hero of white college and high-school students and among the left-leaning middle- and lower -class
- However he was not able to really reach minorities. Not because of his policies, which are very strongly in the favor instead they simply do not know about him.
On the Republican side we have significantly more candidates. As expected they have very different concerns and issues. Primarily foreign policy and immigration laws. A very important point is that the president shall be a strong commander in chief (of the US-Military), which is likely to become one of their biggest arguments against a Democratic nominee. When one is comparing the debates one immediately notices the Republican talent as orators as they focus much more on the emotions and are great at framing issues, leaving the actual facts and figures in the shadows.
Donald Trump – Will “Make America Great Again”
- He is and extremely famous business tycoon and is a big name in the construction and real estate industry.
- He has a rich family background being born to the successful real estate developer Fred Trump.
- He is an accomplished entertainer starring in The Apprentice and other TV shows.
- Trump tried to run for President before in 2000 and although he won the primaries in Michigan and California he dropped out due to party infighting.
- He is currently wed to his third wife Melania Trump (45), a model of born and grown up in Slovenia.
- He has become by far the most prominent candidate.
- Donald Trump is the only candidate who largely self-financed his campaign, which among other privileges gives him the ability to practically say whatever comes to his mind.
- Trump has attracted massive media attention through many controversial statements. Most famously that muslims should note be permitted entry to the USA. Border security is a big topic for him.
- His overall position is not quite clear and he sometimes even contradicts himself. For example while he is “all for business”, he is at least taking into consideration a trade reform with China “if they will not do fair business with us”.
- But in general he is pro-life, meaning against abortions, against gun control and against raising the minimum wage or legalizing marihuana.
- As the most prominent candidate he is doing great in the polls, which many journalists attribute to his media presence and hope that voters will “come to their senses”. But they have done so for more than half a year now and he does not seem to be sinking anytime soon.
- By many Americans, who are predominantly moderate he is seen as being too extreme and even crazy.
- Trump runs on a highly populist platform and is admired by many voters who are frustrated with changes to America’s ethnic and religious demographics and partly also with the political establishment as such, much like in Europe.
Ted Cruz – More Government is not the Answer
- He is born in Canada to American parents, a fact that Donald Trump has often pointed out as it challenges his eligibility as president.
- Cruz is Junior Senator of Texas and a very religious man.
- He criticizes Wall Street and is opposed to what he calls “New York values” as a direct attack on Donald Trump.
- Cruz has a very high focus on America’s foreign policy and wants to re-strengthen American influence abroad.
- He also proposes a flat tax rate and wants to go against tax havens for the rich.
- He is very popular among Social Conservatives
- and Conservative Christians.
Marco Rubio – “Reverse Obama’s Damage”
- He is a native of Miami, where he was born as the son of Cuban immigrants.
- Rubio is the Junior Senator in Florida.
- He wants to reversing the damage that Obama made as a president. And especially replace Obamacare
- Previously strong opinions on helping illegal immigrants to reach legal status and many other things but he has changed gears recently.
- Clearly a voice for the hispanic minority in the US.
- Also a picture of the American Dream that many immigrants still carry.
Other Candidates who do not have a real chance anymore:
Jeb Bush – “Proven Record of Conservative Leadership”
- Although he is a household name as both his father George Bush Senior and his elder brother George W. Bush have served as president
- and has a SuperPAC with tens of millions of dollars,
- he is not a real threat anymore to any of the leading Republican candidates.
Ben Carson – “The Christian Neurosurgeon”
- He is a self-made man
- who is famous for not believing in the theory of evolution or the Big Bang.
John Kasich – “Common Sense Republican”
- Ohio Governor
- the one you do not need to be ashamed for being a Republican
What is particularly interesting about this year’s presidential race is that is very polarizing. Obama has commented in a recent interview that this polarization is really shocking and could have immense effects. For example was McCain no climate change denier though in this election all the Republican candidates are. On the other hand, among the Democrats medicare for all and free public education have drawn the liberals significantly to the left.
More recently Michael Bloomberg, ex-mayor of New York City, has threatened to run for president as an Independent. While he would have a real chance of receiving votes of more moderate Americans, it is already very late and few people give him a real chance to win.
There is a reason why practically the whole world is watching the American elections which is because whatever the self-declared “greatest country on earth” does has massive on the rest of the world. And it makes a real difference if there is a Republican or a Democrat behind the steering wheel, but also the specific person who is important. Who will eventually be able to declare the White House as his (or her) new home will be decided in the coming weeks. That’s my incentive for keeping up to date with this election anyhow.