For those of you who have clicked on this article, I should let you know that there is a Part One, which you can read here. You can still read this article if you haven’t read Part One, but you should read the first part first because we aren’t barbarians and this is a society with rules—but you can, of course, do what you want. It’s a free country. If you’ve just come from Part One, welcome back, and let’s get to it. The coming election, like so many in the past, will focus on four key issues: foreign policy, the economy, immigration and healthcare.
Note that I didn’t mention social issues here–things like abortion and women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and other hot-button topics are extremely divisive issues, which a good candidate will try to stay away from. By offering a firm opinion on any one of these issues, a candidate alienates an entire segment of the population. For example, any candidates that say they will take political action to ban abortion have instantly lost my vote (and more votes than they could possibly hope to gain by offering that stance). I should mention that no pro-choice Republican candidate has ever gotten the nomination, so that might be something Republicans should think about as a party.
Here’s my thing, though. The leader of our entire country trying to deal with social issues would be the equivalent of me trying to organize a single desk drawer when my room is a complete mess: nonsensical, unproductive and a huge waste of time and energy. The president should be doing a load of laundry, recycling all the paper strewn on the floor and making the bed–taking care of the big things that are really making the room look chaotic. No one will notice that your drawers are beautifully organized if the visible parts of your room look like they were hit by a tornado.
So, key issue number one is foreign policy. On one end of the spectrum we have Lindsey Graham, who actually wants to deploy more troops to Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, as if we haven’t already gone down that rabbit hole (Shockingly, he’s not alone in his beliefs, but he’s the most gung-ho). On the other end we have Rand Paul, who is against foreign aid and involvement to the point of being a complete isolationist.
Here’s a pattern that politicians might want to take note of; radical opinions don’t win elections. I would say that the candidate with the best ideas about foreign policy is Marco Rubio; his opinions are even-handed, rational and influenced by his knowledge of the economy; I might actually like him if he believed in global warming (sigh).
To say the U.S. economy has some issues is the understatement of the century – yet every candidate thinks they can solve them all. Jeb Bush is particularly confident because of his success at budget-balancing in Florida, though it’s unclear how much he actually had to do with it. Unless you’re really invested in being informed, you should expect to have only vague knowledge about a candidate’s intentions with the economy.
Anyone who has taken an economics class can attest that it’s a very complicated area, and it’s impossible for candidates to fully explain their economic views in the one minute they’re allotted in a debate. Instead, they will rile up those of us with simpler minds by saying things that sound good, like “We must cut government spending,” or “I will fight for the middle class,” or “Our debt is simply out of control,” because no one could disagree with them, and everyone will jump and cheer and make them feel like they’re doing a great job.
Immigration comes up as an issue every four years, but in my opinion, it’s much more interesting than the other topics we hear about. There isn’t much to say about LGBTQ rights or abortion because they’re black-and-white; you’re either for or against, and there isn’t much gray area. Immigration, on the other hand, allows varying opinions. While I can’t be convinced to not support LGBTQ rights, I’d be willing to entertain many different opinions on immigration.
You could say “no one gets into this country because we’re gonna build a huge wall” (really original idea), or you could say “let’s let everyone in and bake a cake with rainbows and smiles,” but most people exist between these poles. Should there be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, or should we spend more money trying to deport them? How should we think about the children of these undocumented immigrants, who are legal U.S. citizens, but who many look down upon? What about refugees? What about people that have been waiting on a list for 10 years to immigrate legally to this country?
Health care is the final important issue, and boy is it a doozy. To simplify things, I’m splitting candidates into two camps: those who want to defund, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and those who either want to alter it somewhat or keep it as it is. In group one we have George Pataki, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson (who has called Obamacare “the worst thing to happen to the U.S. since slavery”) and Ted Cruz, who is the most vocal about the issue.
For those keeping score, that is every Republican candidate except Jim Gilmore (who still recommends extreme alterations) and John Kasich; they’re in the second camp with the Democrats. The last thing anyone wants is to start over from square one and set ourselves back eight years, so I think that any candidate actively trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act will be met with some sighs. In the spirit of compromise, the candidates with the best shot will note the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act and seek to change the weaker elements of it, while still retaining some of its foundation.
Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you either know me personally (Hello friend, thanks for the support!), or you want to get informed about the upcoming election. These articles are pretty crammed with information, but they barely scratch the surface of what you actually ought to know to be a well-informed member of the electorate. You don’t have to be a political science major to use Google. Seriously, just look up the candidates and see what they’re all about and what different people have to say about them. Pick a few news sources and incorporate them into your morning “Check Facebook, Insta, Twitter, Vine and email” routine to see if anything interesting is happening. Be curious about where you live and who’s in charge because willful stupidity just isn’t a good look on anyone.