Rugged Individualism: It’s Not Really So Real

There is a myth that persists in our society, a myth that the rugged individual (RI)(read: male, usually White, tough, rough, “self-made man“, does it “his way”; think – John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Indiana Jones, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and the Marlboro Man) is the one who gets things done and makes our country the military, economic, and “moral” superpower it is. He explores new places or ideas, fights the “good fight”, goes his own way & finds success, and usually saves the day—in one way or another. He is the reason, some believe, that America is great. He is also the role model for those who wish to remake America in his image (that is to say, without government policies that intervene in social or economic affairs—for the most part). They say that this RI personality trait lies within the social fabric of American society, it’s part of “our” DNA. The only problem with this kind of thinking, is that it’s leaving out 95% of the story, and anyone who is not of the male gender. Rugged individualism isn’t really real.

The other 95% of the story tells of how these tough guys were often raised by families that cared about their physical, mental, and likely spiritual, well being. Additionally, they were raised in communities (be it rural, urban, or the netherworld that lies between) where neighbors helped neighbors, believing in the notion that the whole is greater than any individual part. Without this solid foundation upon which they were raised (that the well-being of the local polity and its constituents take precedent over any one individual), it is doubtful that the more interesting 5% of their story would ever occur.

It should also be pointed out that rugged individualism, the American type, is not exclusively practiced by the male species nor dominated by the descendants of European Americans; men & women of all ethnicities have practiced some form or another of this character trait ever since our continent was first inhabited by Native Peoples more than 10,000 years ago.

Whether the communities that raise these RIs chose to act in a collective manner because of the biblical teachings they heard on Sunday’s, or because they knew that their community was stronger if every person was healthy, educated (in whatever professions were important to the continued existence of their inhabitants) and engaged in furthering the group’s well being, they worked together for the common good. This fraternal style of living arrangement does not preclude any RI from performing heroic acts, or spending long, lonely, hours developing a plan/model for a new venture; but at the end of the day, the solo acts are only one small part of the lived experience of every individual’s greater existence. The ongoing support from friends, family, neighbors, teachers, community, et al. is far more important in any success achieved by “The Great One”, and in the telling of the full story. And this is where some of Americas’ Great Divides have their beginnings.

The real history of our great country is not one of solo actors daring to be great, but rather communal actors being supported in their not truly individual endeavors. While the period of the Columbian Exchange and beyond was filled with the efforts of many capable sailors and crew, we only know the names of the ships’ Captains; they are given all the credit for traversing the oceans and seas.  Similarly, those brave souls who took their wagons Westward are only remembered by their family, or towns for which they are a namesake (the Donner Party exempted), yet the first Governor of each state is prominently displayed on public schools and other buildings/parks/etc. Civil War buffs remember that General George Pickett showed extreme bravery when he led his men into certain slaughter on day 3 at Gettysburg, but those thousands of men who followed Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble, also showed extreme bravery by marching into an open field— knowing the Union Army waited 3/4 of a mile ahead. Certainly, we cannot hope to remember the names of every person who has aided in every successful venture, but neither should we fail to recognize the importance of all those hands that helped to make events possible.

On the one side, the pro RI side, we have people arguing that individuals, not the government, are responsible for taking care of themselves. Whether “care” entails work, medical needs, 2nd amendment rights, education, or basic needs (food, shelter, safety), they argue that individuals should bear the burden of providing for themselves. These folks are more prone to argue for policies that decrease: government oversight generally, business & banking regulations, and taxes.

The other extreme is the far left-end of a socialist-style system (which is very different from a liberal progressive form of gov’t.). Governance of this sort provides many, if not all, of the necessities that people need to survive, though not necessarily thrive; from free or subsidized food and shelter, to healthcare, education, and employment. This extreme doesn’t find much support in the U.S. Neither of these systems, as is, are particularly useful in a modern economy, but they both offer ideas that could, through skillful compromise and some tweaking, be used for the greater good. Compromise, however, according to Cadillac (ads by Publicis Worldwide) and Elbert Hubbard, is for weak men. I would disagree with this premise, as would any wise politician hoping to gain passage of a controversial piece of legislation.

In between the far left and the far right are a wide variety of political ideologies, belief systems, and traditions that dictate, to some extent, regional and personal mores, values, and norms. While it is likely that we (our collective society) agree on far more than we disagree on, some “choose” (aided by various forms of media) to focus on those issues that divide us. The divisive list includes: Roe -v- Wade, 2nd Amendment, proper role of government(s), social insurance & social welfare programs, military spending, role of Christianity in schools/society/gov’t, immigration, minimum wage and the wealth gap (ideal and actual), social justice, and marriage equality. This seems like a big list of very important issues, and it is. But it’s not bigger than the list of items that we accomplish every day.

Work (paid and unpaid), caring for family, keeping up our homes, preparing meals, supporting others (mentally, physically, emotionally), taking care of the self, remembering to be nice to people (because one never knows what another is going through), volunteering, and learning, are accomplishments that many people successfully conquer, daily. So why do we insist on arguing about topics that are not of great enough import to get a majority of us to the polls on election day? (I believe they are important enough, but our national voting record tells me I am in the minority).

Part of the problem stems from our lack of understanding each other. We interact with and live amongst people, with whom we share commonalities. This serves to reinforce our beliefs and polarize those who dare to think differently. When we are continually told that our beliefs are right/correct/valid, and we hear the vitriol directed at those with other ideas, it’s natural to assume that “those people” have it wrong. But what if they don’t? Or, what if they do but don’t know it, because no one is willing to engage in civil conversations to understand another perspective. Or, what if the truth lies somewhere in the middle (like the suburbs)? And what about the RIs who claim that all sides have it wrong and that we should rebel against all government action and fend for ourselves (while surrounded by 500 friends and family members, a whole crew of RIs)?

This calls for conversations. Real conversations, one-to-one, face-to-face, “a” to “b”, you get the picture. These conversations take time, and courage, and sometimes cold beer(s). But this is the best way to learn about our differences, our fellow citizens, our brother and sisters, our countrymen/women and those with whom we share so much yet know so little about. Urban and rural people need to connect and learn why each feels the way they do about gun control and gun rights; it’s not as simple as one might think. Republicans and Democrats could learn a lot from talking to each other about the employment, economic, and moral dilemmas that come with income inequality and the pro’s and con’s of unions. Children of privilege could gain new insights into the power of words by talking with Ta’Nehisi Coates. And those Americans in positions of power and/or with greater wealth could speak with folks in middle and lower socio-economic communities and “get in touch” with what it’s like to not be wealthy; possibly giving them pause before spouting off about the minimum wage being one of the Democrats’ lame ideas .

Policies that promote individual risk and reward (such as deregulation of the banking and business sectors or tax cuts that do more for those at the top than those at the bottom) over the needs of the greater society are responsible, by and large, for many of our current economic issues. When more of the wealth (which is finite) is concentrated in the pockets of fewer individuals, it serves to depress an economy. The concept is not complex; if you have less money, you will spend what you have in order to survive and support anyone that depends on you. If you have more money (a lot more), you will invest it, or stash it offshore, or play other sorts of games to keep from paying taxes. Money that is hidden is not helping our economy; money that is spent in local businesses, whether on french fries, fuel, or fixtures for the kitchen, is contributing to the supply and demand cycle that economies rely on.

We have come to this point in our nation’s history (vast economic inequity) in part by crediting individuals with making America what it is today rather than talking about nation-building as an effort undertaken by all of us: enslaved Africans & African Americans; construction, industrial, & agricultural workers; miners; lumberjacks; fishermen/women; teachers; engineers; volunteers; men & women of the Armed Forces; bakers & brewers; salespeople, I.T. professionals, athletes, public servants, thespians & artists of all types, and all the other Americans and immigrants who have taken part in building our country, should be recognized for their substantial efforts in making America the country it is. By placing the elite on a pedestal, we have given them carte blanche to do as they please in all matters financially, legally, and politically; and they have done what is in their best interest, made money for themselves and their friends and left everyone else standing on the far side of the moat.

I don’t begrudge anybody from trying to make money. Money is not the issue; the issue lies in the mindset that those who are the most successful have achieved their goals through nothing more than their own hard work, tenacity, and sheer brilliance, choosing to ignore all the people that have played a role in them reaching their zenith (which tends to lead to less sharing of that created wealth).

While individuals accomplish goals everyday: open businesses, graduate from college, get promoted, win a wrestling tournament, write a book, etc., etc.,;  they don’t do it without the support of their extended family/community. Be it financial, mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual, they are supported by many people from the various contacts they have made. Additionally, they are encouraged/motivated by loved ones; AND, the Local, State, and/or Federal government(s) provided services (e.g. infrastructure, emergency services/first responders, disaster relief, education, possibly tax breaks, grants & loans, and much much more) that allowed them to focus on achieving their goal.

Rugged individualism is not a myth, but neither is it the whole story. Some people have the innate ability to rise up and conquer whatever is thrown at them. This doesn’t happen through DNA alone, it is a skill that is first learned, then honed, and eventually ready to be used. It only exists because s/he had the opportunity to learn and the time to hone, and finally, the access to a place where using it offers the potential of reaping great rewards.

Leif Erikson—Rugged Viking type, got by with a lot of help from his friends
Leif Erikson—Rugged Viking type, got by with a lot of help from his friends

If you’re interested in exploring the political relationship between public and private actors and how policy actions shape societies, read Deborah Stone’s Policy Paradox. This book lays out some of the major issues that policy makers have to deal with when considering new policies and the communities they affect.

A few political cartoons about rugged individualism: AlaskaMedia production; RI

2016 Presidential Politicking—& The Donald’s All in (sort of, but not really, it’s complicated):

President Obama's 1st Inauguration, 20 Jan. 2009—it was COLD!
President Obama’s 1st Inauguration, 20 Jan. 2009—it was COLD!

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)

Potential Democratic Candidate:

Jim Webb (former U.S. Senator-Virginia, former Assistant Sec. of Defense, former Sec. of the Navy, and U.S. Marine (not former, because “Once a Marine, always a Marine“)

And the Republicans:

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 fighting against 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 Actthe 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 that story 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)

Scott Walker (current Governor-Wisconsin, former State Assembly member-WI, and counts the Koch Brothers as supporters)

John Kasich (current Governor-Ohio, former U.S. Congressman-Ohio, former Ohio State Senator, and he is not a fan of the Coen Brothers’ Academy Award winning Fargo)

Between here and Iowa, a lot can change. My next update (closer to Iowa’s caucuses) will focus on a smaller list of candidates and include domestic and foreign policy issues.

If you are interested in reading other blogs that focus on politics, foreign and domestic, Barry Casselman has a great site, and here is a list of others.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the National Mall (2010)
Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the National Mall (2010)