Here we are, just days from the first caucus/primary for the 2016 Presidential election. The candidates have provided us with an overwhelming amount of politicking (some of it pretty good), mountainous volumes of material requiring fact-checking, and a fair amount of thespian-likeantics. Since last July, we have seen the field shrink, if only slightly; but after Iowa and New Hampshire, it is likely we will find out who the real contenders are in the G.O.P. and just how close the Democratic race will be. Current polls show Donald Trump and Ted Cruz leading in the Republican race, and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both looking strong. However, it is probable that March 1st (a.k.a. Super Tuesday) will bring us a very different looking contest on the Right side of the aisle. By the time the candidates leave South Carolina and Nevada, the field should be whittled to two or three serious contenders per party (plus the possible wild card, Michael Bloomberg). And then, the real melee begins; Small Victories can turn the tide and carry the day.
They have also told us, more or less, about their thoughts on DOD spending, the DEA, DHS, DOJ, DOT, EOs, EPA, FRB & FRS, INS, JCAT, NNSA, ORR, OWH, SEC, SSA, USCCR, WHO, and the WTO. Which is to say, we’ve learned a lot about who they are (or who they say they are for the sake of votes). But they’ve also told us a lot about what matters to them based on what they haven’t talked about.
Policy matters aside, the Democratic nomination is shaping up to be much more of a contest than most pundits thought twelve short months ago. Secretary Clinton still has an edge, nationally, but Senator Sanders has shown how his youth movement can have a substantial impact, already doing yeomen’s work in Iowa and New Hampshire. Governor O’Malley is simply raising his profile in hopes of having a better outcome in 2020 or 2024, depending on what happens this November. The Republicans, conversely, look like they will be engaged in a much greater competition and may end up getting into some of the back-room deals that were more common in the politics of yesteryear.
But look at what the polls tell us…
I don’t put a lot of weight in the polls that have Donald Trump and Ted Cruz with big leads (which would be the vast majority). This is not to question the veracity of their methods but to highlight the realities of modern polling. Here’s the scoop. Polls have the uncanny ability of being able to tell pollsters whatever they want to hear (not saying this is the intent of the aforementioned survey firms). Good polling outfits design a survey using tightly structured methods, within set parameters, and scrutinize every angle prior to the final product being rolled out. That said, even when the best in the business believe they’re doing everything right, sometimes it all goes to pot. The potential snafus are illustrated in many instances and there are various reasons for results coming out the way they do (DeweydefeatsTruman; Landon-vs.-Roosevelt;Bevin (R)-vs-Conway (D)). Additionally, people forget that these polls reflect the beliefs of those who are still answering their phones when an unknown # (or a “known” #) comes up. It’s unlikely that a broad swath of our nation is taking part in such antiquated methods (which is to say a lot of phone calls are being placed in order to reach the magic number of responses); rather, it may be that the most extreme constituents, on both sides, Left & Right, are completing many of the phone questionnaires. Moreover, how many of the folks who support Trump on the phone are going to bother showing up on primary day? He might have a lot of backing from the “all talk – no action” crowd; who knows?
Many political polls are done well and are valuable because the time was taken to ensure accurate results. Additionally, when multiple polls are considered in a forecast, along with in-depth analysis and common sense, the odds are definitely in one’s favor. But, it’s still difficult to imagine Donald Trump & Senator Cruz being the big winners in the 1st (3) states (or the remainder of the primaries for that matter). Why? you ask. Because; Trump is still not running a serious campaign (more like buffooneryonplanet clown) and Cruz is about to learn just how serious the Republican gate-keepers are. When the “old guard“ talks about finding a candidate who can draw interest from hard-line Conservatives, along with the more socially moderate Republicans and Independents who lean Right, they’re not endorsing a firebrand like Cruz.
As for the remainder of the Republican field, Governor Christie and Governor Bush still have an outside shot but their odds are just a bit better than the chance our national flag will get a 51st star (for the State of Superior) anytime soon—not great. Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson did well to garner the support they did, neither being particularly astute politicians. Rand Paul and Jim Gilmore (wait, who?) will always have their supporters, regardless of how small their fraternities may be. And Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee should have followed their friend, Scott Walker, in a stage-left-exit, prior to the holiday gatherings; it would have saved them the embarrassment of having family members ask, “How is Donald Trump beating you?” while sipping BouRye and wearing a sarcastic grin.
But What Do I Know?
So, which candidates will come out of wintertide’s donnybrook with a crown & cape and a road map to the nominating conventions, in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Well, on the Republican side, Marco Rubio and John Kasich wouldn’t be bad bets. They’re both fairly level-headed and don’t offend a majority of the party elite. And for the Dems—as hard as it is to imagine, the presumptive nominee, Clinton, could be a two-time runner-up; it wouldn’t surprise me. Nor would I be surprised if she suddenly surged on Super Tuesday. The nation’s voters (to include the so-called Independents) have seen a number of changes in their demographics in the past 10 years and we could be in for a surprise, or three.
Amongst Republicans,Rubio has a slight edge as he is better known amongst likely voters. And between his youth, his heritage, his home state (Florida), and his measured responses to most questions, it is realistic to think the majority of the party royalty will support his nomination. The opposing side (Dems) may not shake out a candidate until June, after California and New Jersey announce the winners in their primaries. It looks as though we might be in for a spirited six-month skirmish, on both banks of the the District’s aisle. Whatever ends up happening, it’s good to know that come the morn of 9 November, we should know what it all means.
The 2016 Presidential race has officially started! With Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, and Donald (Hashtag) Trump (amongst a host of others), tossing their hats in the ring, we are now starting the run-up to the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, seven months away. Because there are so many candidates, especially in the Republican ring, and due to the fact that it is confusing to stay up-to-speed on which (major) candidates are pushing which policies, and pushing back on others, I have prepared a 2016 PRESIDENTIAL PRIMER, which will be updated after DJT (who knew he would still be around come June 2016) and others drop out of the race…
(this is presumptuous of me, I know, but Trump’s track record speaks for itself, and he hasn’t given us any reason to think he’ll start acting “Presidential” in the next 16 months. Moreover, he’s Donald Trump, we’ve seen this circus before. Donald is not really a complicated man (but he tries to give that appearance), he’s a business man, he understands how to make money; he does not, I would argue, understand American politics very well and that is why he is unlikely to remain in the race for more than 3-6 months, if that. He’s made his splash, he’ll create some controversy, remind people that he’s still here, probably roll out some new t.v. show, business idea, or announce he’s going to be a music producer (one never knows), and then sit back and have his accountants count those Benjamins that his little scheme netted the Trump Organization (I’m now (June 2016) wondering if this has been an attempt to get his casinos a new infusion of cash)).
This initial post will focus primarily on domestic policy issues, as many candidates are still educating themselves on foreign policies. (Candidates’ stances are taken from their campaign websites and/or PBS online. Also, the issues below are not meant as an exhaustive list; rather, they are a sampling of how the candidates view specific policies and how liberal, conservative, or moderate each candidate is on each issue.)
First the Democrats, because the list is shorter and “D” comes before “R” in the alphabet.
Lincoln Chafee (former Governor-Rhode Island, former Mayor of Warwick, RI, and captain of the wrestling team at Brown University-senior season): Chafee’s campaign is focused on four main priorities. He wants to: 1) keep America out of “foreign entanglements”, using “brains…not biceps” to bring about peaceful solutions to international affairs; 2) support the middle class through “incentives and protections” and ensure those Americans in need of assistance, have access to fully funded social programs; 3) act as a steward of the environment while considering the needs of our energy infrastructure, and finding a balance between the two; 4) safeguard personal privacy protections relating to the individual liberties as outlined by our Constitution, guarantee citizens’ rights to privacy, and make certain our country is secure; 5) supports the federal govt’s role in “setting or organizing education standards”; 6) initially voted for the Patriot Act but is now against it; 7) create a path to citizenship for immigrants and provide them with in-state tuition rates, if they meet requirements; 8) make possession of small amounts of marijuana a non-criminal offense; 9) continue with the ACA and work towards a universal style healthcare system; 10) pro-choice and supportive of same-sex marriage; and 11) reform taxes by ending deductions, lowering rates, and placing limits on the estate tax.
Hillary Clinton (website-Spanish & English) (former Sec. of State, former U.S. Senator-New York, Presidential campaign (2008), 1st Lady-U.S. & Arkansas, and Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees fan): Clinton kicked off her campaign in 2000, when she ran for, and won, the Junior Senator slot in New York. Since then, she has been padding her resume: (1.5) terms as U.S. Senator, one unsuccessful Presidential bid, four years as Secretary of State, and a lot of time preparing for 2016. Clinton supports a long list of policy actions (too numerous to enumerate every one, so I’ll list 11 that capture a wide swath of her campaign literature), to include: 1) paid leave and child care that is high quality and affordable; 2) immigration reform that creates pathways to citizenship; 3) reforming the criminal justice system; 4) a minimum wage increase & 5) tax relief for America’s working families; 6) protecting the right to organize; 7) making college affordable; 8) clean energy; 9) fixing the Voting Rights Act; 10) keeping the ACA and Social Security intact; and 11) campaign finance reform, to name a few. Marijuana legalization is one issue where she hasn’t made up her mind, yet.
Martin O’Malley (website-Spanish & English) (former Governor-Maryland, former Mayor of Baltimore, and still singing & playing the banjo, in O’Malley’s March): O’Malley’s “Vision for the Future” includes 12 themes. Briefly, they are: 1) increasing the federal minimum wage to an hourly rate of $15 and “restoring workers’ collective bargaining power”; 2) provide greater oversight/regulation to big banks & Wall Street, and reinstate Glass-Steagall;3) affordable child-care and pre-k and debt-free college and modernization of our high schools; 4) investments, nation-wide, in infrastructure & mass transit, and “affordable housing near good jobs and good schools”; 5) support of women and families—leave policies (post child-birth), equality of pay and “safe and affordable child care”; 6) invest in public education, local community initiatives and “critical programs” e.g. earned income tax credit, to cut poverty in half, within 10 years; 7) creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and passing the DREAM Act; 8) expanding benefits for senior citizens; 9) clean renewable energy tied to job creation; 10) enforcement of anti-trust laws and making trade deals that benefit America’s workers; 11) modernization of voting registration, restoration of the Voting Rights Act, removal of voter I.D. laws, and “embracing citizen-funded elections”; and 12) a Federal Government that is transparent, accountable, and high-performing. Additionally, O’Malley is pro-choice, would abolish capital punishment, expand the ACA and move to an “all payer” system, and increase gun control to include fingerprinting individuals wishing to purchase a handgun.
Bernie Sanders (website-Spanish & English) (running on the Democratic ticket but is an Independent and self-described socialist) (current U.S. Senator-Vermont, former U.S. Congressman-Vermont , former Mayor of Burlington, VT, and former organizer for SNCC(Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee)): Sanders keeps his list of issues, on his campaign site, fairly short, but he is extremely passionate about these topics: 1) The continued difficulties of America’s shrinking middle-class due to wage and wealth inequalities—and he will address the effects of these inequalities on citizens who are not in the middle and upper economic strata in the “rigged economic system”; 2) the removal of “Big Money” from politics generally and campaigns more specifically; 3) the effects of climate change on our planet, now and in the future, and the need for increased investment in wind and solar power, wants to charge corporations for carbon emissions. Also, Sanders supports: 4) 2 years free tuition at State colleges and the ability to refinance student loans at a lower rate; 5) allowing states to set waiting periods for handgun sales and a ban on assault style rifles; 6) changing the ACA to a single-payer health system; and 7) creating a path to citizenship and allowing some groups of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. ( e.g. children brought as minors—akin to the DREAM Act)
Jeb Bush(website-Spanish & English) ( Former Governor-Florida and fluent in Spanish): Bush is still developing his talking points, but PBS did get him to talk about several topics that will likely play roles in the forthcoming debates. 1) On education, he believes the Common Core is a good program but is opposed to forcing states to institute the standards. 2) On guns, he would expand gun owners’ rights (the article did not mention what exactly this means and I don’t want to guess). 3) On immigration, he would create a “legal status, not a path to citizenship”. 4) He is for each state making its own decision concerning the legalization of marijuana. 5) The Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare), under his watch, would be replaced by a “‘market-oriented’ alternative”. 6) On social issues, “ban most abortions after 20 weeks” and believes in 1 man-1 woman, for marriage.
Dr. Ben Carson (website-Spanish & English) (former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery-Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, recipient of Spingarn Medal (2006) and Presidential Medal of Freedom (2008) and holds 67 Honorary Doctorate Degrees): Dr. Carson lays out plans for 10 areas, 7½* are domestic related (*Gitmo – Naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba) qualifies as ½ because if it closes, the remaining 116 detainees could be transferred to the U.S. (domestic policy) for detention and/or trial, but that’s a BIG if). 1) He believes in local control for public schools and would overturn Common Core; 2) fiscal responsibility through passage of a Constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget; 3) Health Savings Accounts would help “re-establish a strong and direct relationship between patients and their physicians”; 4) Carson would like to “keep faith in our society”. He is advocating for all religions to have the right to express their beliefs in public, without fear of government intervention (his site does not state if this idea relates to prayer in schools, 10 commandments statues in front of courthouses, or other religious displays); 5) Pro-Life; 6) Pro 2nd Amendment; 7) On taxes, he touts reform aimed at shortening, simplifying, and eliminating the loopholes; and 7½) “Keep Gitmo Open”.
Ted Cruz (current U.S. Senator-Texas, born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and, might be the only “Texan” (in quotes because this calls into question who he really is) who hates avocados)): Cruz is a Harvard trained lawyer, believes very strongly in preserving the Constitution, and: 1) He is pro-life and believes in “traditional” marriage but allows that states should individually decide the marriage question; 2) does not support the Affordable Care Act but, 3) he does support school choice, in the form of allowing Title 1 funds to be used in public or private schools, he is for local control of schools and against the Common Core; 4) authored legislation to prevent “taxpayer dollars [from] subsidizing corporate fat cats”; 5) would cut the corporate tax rate to 15%; 6) against allowing current undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S.; 7) anti-net neutrality and wouldn’t tax access to the internet; and 8) likes the flat tax and thinks with an easier tax system, the IRS would be unnecessary.
Carly Fiorina (ran for U.S. Senate-California, 2010, lost to Barbara Boxer (D) in general election, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard): Fiorina believes:1) that climate change is not a myth and humans are responsible, but the government doesn’t have the ability to do much to control it; 2) education standards should apply nationwide but local control should remain in place; 3) in protecting the 2nd amendment and that assault weapons should not be banned; 4) the ACA should be repealed and replaced with more competition in the insurance marketplace; 5) Congress should pass the DREAM Act and other immigrants should not be granted a “direct path” to citizenship; 6) Roe -v- Wade should be overturned and marriage consists of a male-female union—civil unions are ok for same-sex partnerships; and 7) the tax code should be less confusing and the gas tax should not be raised.
Lindsey Graham (current U.S. Senator-South Carolina, former U.S. Congressman-S.C., former South Carolina Legislator, U.S. Air Force-Retired, and has supposedly never sent an email): The Senator is a vociferous advocate of “Security” for “Our Nation, Our Future, Our Values”. Here is where Graham stands on some of the issues: 1) he acknowledges that climate change is real, and man-made and he is in favor of limiting carbon emissions; 2) campaign finance laws need reform and Congress should be able to limit spending; 3) on education, he does not support Common Core standards and would like to see more local and state control for school districts; 4) assault weapons and larger magazine clips should be easier for most people to access and he is against expanding background checks generally; 5) securing the border is the most important aspect of immigration reform and then he would work on a path to citizenship for some immigrants that are currently living in the U.S.; 6) He is against the ACA but enrolled in South Carolina’s exchange (which falls under the order of the ACA (he is a complicated man) and he is not the only anti-ACA Republican candidate to do so); 7) he is pro-life and believes marriage is between 1 man & 1 woman, but he also states that America should accept the Supreme Courts decision on gay marriage; and 8) he is not completely against raising taxes, as a means to balance the budget, and he likes the idea of a flat tax.
Mike Huckabee (former Governor & Lieutenant Governor-Arkansas, Presidential campaign (2008), and served as a Baptist pastor for 12 years): Huckabee is a staunch conservative and his faith guides his decision making processes. He takes the following positions: 1) energy independence, to include exploration of the Arctic and the Outer Continental Shelf, wind, and solar; 2) no new gun controls (“restrictions, registrations,regulations, & mandates”); 3) opposed to amnesty for immigrants and strong advocate of securing the border; 4) reform colleges & universities to control costs, and eliminate the Federal Dept. of Education and the Common Core, and return to local control of schools; 5) healthcare reform by way of getting rid of the ACA and providing Americans with “solutions and choices”; 6) protect Social Security and Medicare; 7) proponent of the “fair tax“; 8) against same-sex marriage and abortion (though he makes an exception for abortion if the life of the mother is at risk); and 9) still not convinced that climate change is a big deal and not sure if humans play a role in it.
Bobby Jindal (current Governor-Louisiana, former U.S. Congressman-LA, named President of the University of Louisiana system at the age of 28, and Willie Robertson (Duck Dynasty) has endorsed Jindal): Jindal, the youngest major candidate, so far, promotes the following: 1) climate change is real and humans play some role though he’s not sure how big that role is; 2) dislikes Common Core standards, likes “school choice” and wants to decrease funding to State Colleges/Universities while promoting for-profit colleges; 3) gun access expansion; 4) border security, before any path to citizenship can be debated, and no “radical muslims” allowed to emigrate to the U.S., under his plan; 5) repeal and replace the ACA with a proposal that he helped author; 6) pro-life and still fightingagainst same-sex marriage; and 7) he believes eliminating state income taxes will create jobs, and local governments should be able to pick up the slack of a decreased state revenue stream.
George Pataki(former Governor-New York, former State Assembly Member-N.Y., former Mayor of Peekskill, N.Y., U.S. Delegate to the United Nations (2007), and he is a self-proclaimed environmentalist): Policy positions include: 1) allow the private market to take the lead on combatting climate change (Pataki is an environmental consultant); 2) give states control over public education and get rid of Common Core; 3) bans on some assault weapons, require trigger locks on new guns, and raise the legal purchase age to 21 (currently 18); 4) marijuana legalization should be a state-by-state basis; 5) favors the Patriot Act; 6) the ACA should be repealed and a new “market-based” health care law should be enacted (which is basically what the ACA is); and 7) rewrite the federal tax code and cut taxes.
Rand Paul (current U.S. Senator-Kentucky and he earned an M.D. from Duke University School of Medicine (who does he cheer for when Kentucky and Duke square off?)) Dr. Paul is a self-declared Libertarian (I think the vast majority of American citizens are pro-liberty but many Libertarians take this idea a bit further). Here are his ideas: 1) Do away with the Patriot Act and mass data collection of citizens private information; 2) Get rid of the Dept. of Education and the Transportation Security Administration (he would privatize the latter); 3) immigration reform with two caveats, increased border security and increased numbers of work visas for agricultural workers; 4) reform of the justice system, to include felon voting rights (for some, non-violent felons), and reclassification of drug offenses as misdemeanors; 5) pro-life but would leave Roe-v-Wade alone and “traditional” marriage supporter but doesn’t believe government should get involved in peoples’ personal lives; 6) a flat tax of no more than 17%; 7) and supports term limits on elected officials.
Rick Perry(former Governor & Lieutenant Governor-Texas, Presidential Campaign (2012), former member of the Texas House of Representatives, served in the U.S. Air Force, and he is an Eagle Scout): Perry’s introduction to Presidential campaigning was brief, in 2012. He’s hoping this go-around lasts a little longer. Here are his ideas: 1) Climate change is a natural occurrence and there is no proof that it is human made or permanent; 2) get rid of the Dept. of Education and Common Core; 3) proposed partial privatization of Social Security and/or raising the retirement age and lowering benefits for the wealthy; 4) secure the border then deal with immigration reform and allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, additionally, he is opposed to the DREAM Act; 5) repeal the ACA and let each state figure out healthcare on its own; 6) believes that cyber security needs to be upgraded and should be a priority for our government; 7) pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage; 8) first time, non-violent, drug offenders should be offered rehabilitation, not criminalized; and 9) one flat tax for everybody, 20%
Marco Rubio (current U.S. Senator-Florida, former Speaker and Member-Florida House of Representatives, adjunct professor of political science at Florida International University, in Miami, FL): Rubio takes the following positions: 1) Climate change is happening but not because of human actions; 2) repeal the ACA and replace it with tax credits and less healthcare regulation; 3) opposes net neutrality; 4) reform immigration laws once the border is secure; 5) marriage is between a man and a woman but we should abide by the Supreme Court’s decision and he is pro-life; 6) simplify the tax code, reduce corporate taxes, and increase the child tax credit; 7) supporter of the 2nd Amendment; and 8) sponsor and co-author of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act—the idea is that colleges would be required to tell students how much they would make, on average, all else equal, based on the degree they were pursuing when they entered as first year students (which would be great if it were only so simple…and we only needed engineers, healthcare specialists, and teachers)
Rick Santorum(former U.S. Senator-Pennsylvania, former U.S. Congressman-PA, Presidential campaign (2012), and he once represented the World Wrestling Federation in Court): Santorum would: 1) push an economic plan with a “flat and fair tax” (combination of cuts & simplification), ask for a very moderate minimum wage increase, and “end the IRS as we know it”; 2) increase border security and reduce immigration by 250,000 people annually; 3) continue his fight against same-sex marriage and against abortion; 4) return local education control to school districts and communities and get rid of the Common Core; 5) push for more drilling, oil & gas, and does not believe humans play any role in climate change; 6) repeal the ACA and replace it with a mix of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and tax credits and high risk pools for those who qualify; and 7) would “consider cutting cost-of-living increases” for current Social Security recipients.
Donald Trump (according to The Donald’s campaign site, he is “…the very definition of the American success story…”; if thatstory contained a real-estate tycoon as a father and business practices that are likened to that of a slumlord, then yes, that would qualify as “the very definition”, but I have trouble believing that the majority of people would accept his idea of an American success story. Beyond that, his political career is filled with possible campaigns that never materialized, stumping on behalf of other candidates, and twice being named the “Statesman of the Year” by the Sarasota, Florida, Republican Party (for what it’s worth)). Trump’s beliefs are no secret, ever, though his party loyalties change somewhat frequently, like the University of Oregon football team’s uniforms. Here is where he stands, currently: 1) climate change is a hoax that was created by the Chinese to gain a competitive advantage in manufacturing; 2) wind turbines (energy production) are bad environmentally and aesthetically (but no mention of how nice a fracking rig looks on the skyline, or the beauty achieved through removal of an Appalachian mountaintop); 3) Social Security and Medicare should be left alone (he “know[s] where to get the money from”. [and] Nobody else does.”); 4) pro 2nd Amendment but supports banning assault rifles and is ok with a longer waiting period; 5) against a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but would give foreign college students legal status if they graduate from an American university, wants more European immigrants, but not immigrants from south of the U.S. border; 6) repeal and replace the ACA…with something akin to Canada’s system, aka, universal healthcare (not sure what to make of this); 7) pro-life and anti-same-sex marriage; and 8) would get rid of corporate taxes altogether and decrease the individual tax rate.
Potential Republican Candidates:
Chris Christie (current Governor-New Jersey, former District Attorney for the District of New Jersey, said he will announce on Tuesday, June 30th, and has attended more than 100 Bruce Springsteen concerts)