There are few bigger spectacles in world politics than the US elections. Whilst here on campus it may feel that Executive Elections run forever, America takes around eleven months of voting and campaigning to ultimately elect one position.
There are few positions in the world with as much power and influence as the President of the United States and there are currently five men in contention to be crowned as the Commander in Chief, The Leader of the Free World.
Prior to voting for a President, America spends months choosing the candidates for both parties. For the Democrats, the choice is simple, Barack Obama – the current President, who at this point four years ago, was still an underdog to take the Democratic candidacy, let alone become President. For the Republican Party there are currently four men, each attempting to earn the right to face Obama.
To this point in time, each candidate has had successes and controversies, as the ever-watchful American media attempts to pick apart candidates. By the end of the campaign, it would be shocking if not every mistake has been overturned, every regrettable moment in each candidates history dug up.
It is widely considered that the American media eventually picks the President, a consideration that puts an inordinate amount of power in the hands of the likes of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. This all, unfortunately, is the nature of American politics – large amounts of money, large amounts of exposure for a large amount of power.
Most people in England approach American politics with overwhelming sense of ambivalence, yet to do this may be short-sighted.
These elections have profound implications for everyone within the free world. The wrong candidate could be the difference between another war in the Middle East or a newfound desire to promote diplomacy. The choice of the wrong candidate could see a halt to the promising advancements in stem cell research, it could see the end of America’s attempt to create a greener planet and could also result in more economic downturn in America, something that will undoubtedly impact the British economy.
The two main parties in America are unique in their own ways and have very specific ideologies.
Support for each party is largely formed by location, the Southern states provide the vast majority of support for the Republican party, the remaining states are split between Democrat states and the all important swing states, which ultimately determine who will become President.
In terms of ideologies, the Republican Party is more closely related to the British Conservative party, whereas the Democrat Party is more similar to Liberal Democrats. Yet they are far from the same as our British parties.
The Republicans have a considerably large religious following, highlighted by their stance on social issues, most notably their stance on abortion. The Republicans are in support of a ban on abortion, yet this is not their only puzzling ideology; they are generally a greater supporter of the death penalty, the rights to own guns (including assault rifles) and are of the belief that global warming is a hoax.
The Democrats are generally a mor progressive and modern party, supporters of more liberal concepts such as legalising gay marriage and the use of medicinal marijuana.
These stark differences form the differences in regards to social issues, however they are also largely separate on their beliefs on how to run an economy.
The Democrats promote a more government-assisted economy, providing services such as unemployment support and medical care. The Republicans subscribe to the belief of small government, low taxes and ultimately a much lower government involvement and support.
Obama’s attempt to provide universal health care, similar to the NHS in Britain, was met with unrelenting backlash from the conservative faction of American politics and media. Obama-care, as it was called, invoked more hatred and negative attention than is imaginable for people living in Britain. Obama was labelled as a socialist, with Republican leaders claiming that he was attempting to change America in to a ‘European welfare state’.
These ideologies and beliefs form the core values that each candidate is running with in an attempt to gather support from the masses. However, as with most elections, the core ideologies of the candidates are generally undervalued. The two biggest factors up until this point in the current elections have been scandals and money.
Republican candidates have had their share of scandals. Once considered the frontrunner, negative press has marred Newt Gingrich’s campaign, stories of his infidelity during his previous two marriages, as well as his involvement with Freddie Mac, a government supported enterprise aimed at helping people pay for mortgages during the economic downturn that ultimately crashed.
This resulted in Freddie Mac needing millions in government bailout money and caused many housing foreclosures. These two scandals resulted in distrust from the Republican support and have cast a considerable doubt on the likelihood of his election as Republican nominee.
Republican candidate Ron Paul has also faced considerable scandal when columns he had written for a small newspaper in the early 90’s highlighted some disturbingly racist comments,/ Whilst from looking at the numbers it would appear that this scandal had a devastating impact on Ron Paul’s campaign, as he is yet to win a state, Paul is continuing to campaign.
He has the support of the younger voters and despite facing an uphill battle for the Republican nomination; he remains true to his core ideologies, the most notable of which is his desire to promote diplomacy in America’s foreign policy, especially in regard to Iran.
The other candidates, who claim they are set to meet Iran with force, to kill anyone who hates America and to have the strongest army in the world, clearly do not share this belief on diplomacy. What is to become of Ron Paul, should he not win the nomination, is unknown as, at 76, he will unlikely be able to run for another nomination should he miss out this time.
Rick Santorum has forced his way into contention in the Republican candidacy race; despite starting off as a rather unknown candidate and lacking the financial backing of Mitt Romney, he is remaining in contention. Whilst he hasn’t faced a scandal in the way the other candidates have, he has faced adversity in the form of his ‘Google problem’.
This issue was that when googling “Santorum” the first result to come up was not his personal website or his personal Wikipedia page, rather a link explaining how ‘Santorum’ has become a term for the result of homosexual intercourse. His name was chosen as a result of his strong stance on homosexuality, most notable coming from an interview with the Associated Press (AP) in 2003.
He defended his comments in the AP interview by stating that he did not specifically mean to state that homosexuality is wrong, merely homosexual acts and any acts outside of a marriage of a man and woman would undermine the fabric of society, he went on to say; "That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be."
Despite his widely known stance on homosexuality and unfortunate Google problem, Santorum has become the strongest opponent to Romney. He currently is the only candidate that could likely win the nomination instead of Romney, despite having the modest campaign budget of $6.7 million to Romney’s overwhelming $63.7 million.
Regardless of his position as frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney hasn’t avoided any controversies. The majority of his controversies have grown out of his previous occupation. He began an investment firm called Bain Capital, whose investments have had many successes, including Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Toys R Us and Staples; yet the biggest issues have arisen from investments in companies that have failed and lead to large amounts of unemployment throughout America.
A further controversy arose around his personal taxes. He made an income of over $20 million in 2010, yet only paid around $3 million in taxes, and around $4 million in charitable donations. This resulted in his tax rate being at 13.9%, considerably lower than Barack Obama’s for the same year, which was more in line with the state set rate at 26%.
The impact of this information on his personal finances may have had a tangible effect on the support for Mitt Romney; despite this, since January 1, he has rarely had less support than his rivals and remains the likely candidate to face Obama.
This race for the Republican nomination is essentially a drawn out semi-final, where the more in fighting and scandals play directly into the hands of Barack Obama. The state of the American economy over the past four years should have made this an easy victory for a Republican candidate.
However, the current Republican candidates all lack in comparison to Obama. They lack his charisma, his leadership, and ultimately his experience in the Oval Office.
At this point, nobody appears to be capable of beating Obama come November, which makes the Republican Presidential Primary an overpriced campaign between four equally flawed and quite honestly, useless, candidates.
The only election that this years Republican Primary can be compared to is South Park’s spoof of the 2004 US Presidential Election, where the only choices were “the giant douche and the turd sandwich.”
Let’s hope, for the sake of the rest of the world, the American people think before they vote this November, and save everyone from another Republican President.