Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thoughts on the 2016 Election

I know it's still early, but clearly the frenzy surrounding the 2016 presidential election has already started. First, I'll briefly note that I think it's ridiculous that election season for the highest office in the country really lasts this long, and I'll also point out how that's true in no other developed country in the world. US presidential campaigns are absurd, overlong circuses that we've become accustomed to because a lot of us don't know any better.

With that out of the way, since election season has started whether I like it or not, I'll go ahead and make some observations so far. We'll start with the Democratic side. We have, firstly (and most prominently), Hillary Clinton. I've pretty thoroughly detailed why I don't like her, and nothing has changed since then to make me like her any better. We've heard some economic populist sort of rhetoric from her, but, unfortunately, there's no reason to believe it's anything but rhetoric. Her record is not that of economic populist, it's that of a corporatist. In the speech launching her campaign, she cited her husband, Bill Clinton and President Obama as good examples of presidents who carried on the legacy of the New Deal and helped create an economy that worked for the middle class. This ignores the fact that the top one percent's share of the national income spiked under Bill Clinton, he repealed New Deal legislation (probably helping to lead to the financial crisis in 2009), and signed a welfare "reform" bill that essentially shredded the social safety net. As for Obama, I've already covered that.

So as I predicted, Hillary 2016 does, in fact, suck. But, interestingly, she has a competitor that has surged in some polls, and may prove more troublesome to her than originally expected. That competitor is, of course, Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist senator from Vermont. While I still have my disagreements with Sanders, he's certainly far preferable to Clinton, and does offer a platform that, if enacted, would take some major steps in the right direction, in terms of economic policy, social policy, and foreign policy.

Predictably, the shills for the Democratic Party mainstream (Allen Clifton, for instance) have offered up a thousand reasons why the Democrats should nominate Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, and even implied he shouldn't be running. Supposedly, he'll weaken Hillary Clinton and make a Republican victory more likely (just like how the fiercely competitive 2008 primaries left Barack Obama weakened and allowed John McCain to win the election, unless I'm remembering that wrong). To them, Hillary's nomination is inevitable--and, to be honest, I still think it's what will happen in all likelihood. But it isn't inevitable, and no one should settle for a candidate like Hillary Clinton, for all the reasons I (along with many more prominent people) have pointed out.

"But he could never win the general election!" Well, yes, he could, if enough people voted for him. Again, I consider Sanders a longshot for the Democratic nomination, but if he manages to win that, it hardly seems impossible that he could win the general election. He does describe himself as a socialist, as noted, but 1.) almost half of Americans say they would be willing to vote for a socialist for president, and 2.) much of Bernie Sanders's platform is widely popular, given the general sentiment that the middle class are being screwed over as Wall Street rakes in huge profits, meaning that some who might have first been unwilling to vote for a socialist could be swayed once they understand what Sanders's socialism actually entails (which is to say, basically the social democratic policies of the Nordic countries).

"But even if he won, he couldn't get anywhere with Congress!" How far has Obama gotten with Congress? Unless the Democrats have majorities in both houses (and probably only if they have a 60+ supermajority in the Senate), no Democrat will be able to get much done. The president has far more power than many people realize, given his ability to take unilateral actions in terms of foreign policy, choose how to enforce the laws, and make appointments to various positions. Were Sanders to get elected, he would almost certainly not be able to do everything he's proposed, but he would still make a far better president than Clinton.

There are a few other candidates for the Democratic nomination, but they're honestly so low-profile that I haven't looked too closely at them, so I'll skip over them. We can then move onto the Republican field which is, well, a total mess. The last number I heard was thirteen candidates, and that's likely to keep going up. They usually include at least fifteen in the polls. There's really not a clear frontrunner, either. If I had to guess, I'd say the nomination will probably go to Jeb Bush or Scott Walker, both of whom are completely terrible. The others aren't much better, with the exception of Rand Paul, who, as I've noted, says some decent things on some issues, but is still pretty awful on a number of other issues.

Mostly, the Republican field is so big and includes so many absurd candidates (Santorum again, Trump for real this time, Jindal, Huckabee) that it promises to be entertaining, though sadly there won't be anywhere near as many debates as there were last time. I don't have much to offer in terms of serious thoughts on the field, other than that it seems to indicate a total disarray and chaos within the Republican Party itself, which is nothing new. Whoever they end up nominating, it will very likely be another right-wing authoritarian corporatist who would ramp up the "national security" state, the war on drugs, and military interventionism.

I will note a serious concern that I have, though. ISIS, even though we haven't been hearing too much about it recently, is still very much a serious issue, and not about to disappear. It seems hard to fathom that it will be gone by that the next president takes office, assuming we continue our strategy of refusing to partner with Iran and Syria in the fight against ISIS and supporting Saudi Arabia as it fights against militants in Yemen who are also engaged in the fight against ISIS. If Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, or Scott Walker get elected, there is real reason to fear that our intervention there will escalate and Iraq War III will go full-blown. We do have the opportunity to make a meaningful choice in this election. And the impact could be enormous.

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