United States presidential election, 2016

US Presidential Election Update

Although there are over four hundred days left until the actual event, the election for the president of the United States is already making headlines and dominating the American media. This is perhaps due in part to the crowded Republican field, the high possibility of the first female presidential candidate and the colourful candidacy of Donald Trump, whose controversial comments gain mass attention from a society that is used to politicians behaving a certain way and saying certain things, sometimes seeming disingenuous. That mood of wanting someone who doesn’t fit the stereotype of a politician and speaks their mind has become a significant factor in this election season.

On 21 September, Republican candidate, Scott Walker, who once was seen by many analysts as someone who was a formidable opponent to the established Jeb Bush, dropped out of the race. He is the second Republican to do so, leaving 14 left seeking the Republican Party’s nomination. The front runners according to the most recent polls are Trump in the lead with almost 29% followed by Ben Carson at around 18% – Carson is a neurosurgeon who like Trump, has never held elected office before. The same is also true for former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina. Fiorina has recently seen a rise in the polls due to her performance during the last televised debate. All three have been making their case that they are successful individuals in the private sector looking to utilise that success in the oval office, which is why they may have been attracting more media attention than a lot of the others.

The failed campaign of Walker is evidence of the troubles that come with not having a high enough profile to keep up with the celebrity status of Trump, who criticized Walker and other candidates for having to “beg for money from the Koch Brothers”, questioning if they were “puppets” to the conservative billionaire donors. The Kochs plan to spend $900 million to elect a conservative to the White House. Trump on the other hand, blatantly points out that he “is really rich” and is using his own wealth to run. The braggadocios way he talks about his wealth is not the only thing that is polarizing Republicans; his comments about women, Mexicans (“they’re rapists, and some, I assume are good people”) and views on immigrants in general (if elected he would get rid of the J1 program) receive harsh condemnation. Yet these controversial remarks resonate with the views with a large number of Republican voters – enough so that they are making him their number one right now. His most recent diversion from the norms of Republican candidates was his attack and subsequent ‘boycotting’ of Fox News.

The large group of American citizens who value a candidate who speaks his mind and has views that sometimes are at odds with the party establishment are not a uniquely conservative-Republican phenomenon. It has also been evident with the more left of the Democratic Party in the form of the growing support for Senator Bernie Sanders. He has positioned himself as a more progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton whose political machine and name recognition gives her a sizable advantage. Sanders is a self-proclaimed democratic-socialist, arguing for increased minimum wage, free public university and holding Wall Street accountable. He has never been in the nation’s eye to the extent he has been recently, despite being in Congress for 16 years. His campaign faces skepticism in relation whether he can capture base Democrats and if the American public is ready elect a socialist to the presidency. He has overtaken Clinton in some polls in New Hampshire but overall the former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State leads him by 15 points. For now, those who are ‘Ready for Hillary’ are withstanding those who ‘Feel the Bern’.

Although Clinton is maintaining her position as the frontrunner, she is facing backlash for using her personal server for official and personal emails. Her critics point to this as evidence that she is untrustworthy. The FBI is currently conducting an investigation of Clinton’s emails. Her loyal supporters stand firm with her and continue to donate, helping her stay on top of the polls and remain most analysts’ prediction as to the Democratic nomination. Both Clinton and Sanders have sizable leads in the polls compared to the three other Democratic candidates (Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and, Lincoln Chafee) though that is not considering the potential candidacy of current Vice President Joe Biden. Support for Biden is close to 20% and if he ran, would greatly affect the nature of the race, especially for Clinton.

The sport and spectacle of American presidential-politics is one that can be ever-changing, filled with controversy, scandal, gaffes and surprises. Trump, Sanders, Carson and Fiorina could continue to give a voice to those who want a change in the system and the kind of leaders that are elected. However, it’s just as possible that the establishment and machines could produce a Bush vs. Clinton race when next November comes. In politics, nothing is certain.

Andrew Grossen