Election year


Legacy, socialism and idiocy


It is election year in the US and over the course of the next nine months they will be closely followed on both national and international forums. It is also not a re-election year hence there will definitely be a new face with the big job in the White House for the next four years. Presidential debates for the GOP candidacy started in June last year with over twelve hopefuls while the first democratic debate took place in October last year with a more modest five candidates. After six GOP debates and four Democratic debates it has become quite apparent which candidates have a shot at battling it out in the final phase of the elections.

Presidential debates will continue within both parties simultaneously with caucuses starting in February along with primaries for both parties to determine candidates who will run against each other in the general elections to be held in November. The choice of final candidates will only become clear as things progress but a few key events can be indicators as to each party’s selection. One of those is the Iowa caucus, scheduled to begin in two weeks. The Iowa caucus basically kicks off the primary elections and winning it gives the candidate from either party a tail wind heading towards the rest of the caucuses, primaries and debates. It is the same caucus that launched Barack Obama in 2008 after he unexpectedly beat Hilary Clinton by a significant margin.

Whatever the caucuses may bring, after the debates held in 2015, it is safe to assume that all eyes will be on three candidates (one from GOP and two form Democrats), two of whom may very well proceed to the general elections.

The GOP presidential debates have been entertaining, shocking, controversial and at times just downright ridiculous, to say the least. Most of the hue that has been given to the GOP debates can be attributed to one person, Donald J Trump or “The Donald”. Apparently being an arrogant egotistical racist maniac with a bad comb over can get you top numbers in the running for the GOP presidential candidacy. Donald Trump, a billionaire real estate tycoon, had expressed his desire to run for president in the next election when Obama was re-elected in 2012. Trump’s candidacy hence did not come as a shock to anyone.

No one really took it seriously. He was the subject of countless jokes on late night talk shows. Then came the debates and with it a tirade of racist, sexist, idiotic ideas and notions coupled with lack of information, a lot of misinformation and finally some dangerous suggestions in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. Just to highlight a few: building a wall on the US-Mexican border and have the Mexicans pay for it; ban entry of all Muslims entering the US until the country’s representatives can figure out what’s going; hundreds of people celebrating on the streets of New Jersey following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, something he says he saw himself on television but not a single TV network has been able to find any footage or proof of said celebration.

Unfortunately, he is the frontrunner in the GOP running and even if he doesn’t get the nod from the GOP, he is more than capable to finance an independent campaign. Fortunately, there is still some comforting speculation that lingers in my mind; Trump will not do very well against the Democrat heavy weights. He has thus far only had to spar with the likes of Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, all of whom are a far cry from a formidable opponent.

The Democratic presidential debates have been less contentious and more sober. They are also much more neck and neck with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders being the front runners and Martin O’Malley a far-flung inconsequential third. Hillary is currently in the lead, with the Iowa caucus just two weeks away. Unlike Trump, Hillary is a seasoned politician. She served as a New York senator from 2000 to 2006 and was re-elected; she took up health reform and women’s rights as First Lady and was Secretary of State in the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2013 after she failed to win the democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential elections.

This is not to say that her political career has been free from controversy and criticism. She was Secretary of State when the attack on US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, took place in September 2012, which left four Americans dead including a US ambassador. At the congressional hearing she took responsibility for security failure while maintaining that she had not received any requests for increase in security beforehand.

This year a Hollywood movie called “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” will be released which covers the events of the attack and shows the lack of urgency and competence shown by the political and military bureaucracy as they failed to send reinforcements in time. Last year, just before her candidacy announcement she was accused of breaching federal rules and protocols for using her private email account for official business.

Since then she has handed over around 30,000 emails to the State Department for investigation. In recent weeks, her past role in the cover up of her husband’s sex scandal has also hurt her female vote bank, votes that were unquestionably hers from the start. Hillary, who lost Iowa caucus to Obama in 2008, could very well lose to Sanders this time around.

Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Socialist Democrat, is not new to American politics either. He has been serving as US Senator from Vermont as an independent since 2007, the longest tenure of an independent in US congressional history. He has gained immense popularity amongst the youth due to his anti-establishment line.

He currently enjoys an 11 point lead with the under 35 voters against Clinton. He wants heavier taxes on the top 1% along with the idea to break up the bigger banks and tougher regulations on Wall Street. Sanders’ campaign is solely surviving on donations rather than corporate and Wall Street money, a fact which only solidifies his voter’s belief and trust in him about tax and Wall Street reform policies. He is anti-war while also serving on the Senate Standing Committee on Veteran’s Affairs.

Sander’s also supports stronger provisions on gun control although Hillary also blames him for voting in favour of the NRA on multiple occasions. During the debates he has chosen to stay away from controversial topics such as Hillary’s email scandal and the most recent questions about her husband’s past transgressions, rather he likes to remain on topic and discuss real issues.

The election season is in full swing and it is too soon to call but it will probably come down to a contest between either Hillary or Sanders against Trump, where Trump’s style of ill-informed rhetoric and outlandish buffoonery will simply not fly. Getting endorsements from the likes of Sarah Palin should not take him too close to office either. Obama has been able to tie off some loose ends before he leaves.

As promised he has removed a significant amount of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. He has introduced a new medical insurance plan (Obamacare). He was able to get gay marriage legalised countrywide. He has taken executive action on gun control after a very deadly year for gun related violence. During the end of last year, there were signs from the White House that Guantanamo Bay Prison may be closed through an executive order. The economy has improved and for the first time since 2008 interest rates have risen. At the same time there exists a very real and dangerous terrorism threat from ISIS. The Iran nuclear deal has just been implemented while tensions with Russia remain.

In his last State of the Union address Obama said that instability would continue in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan and Pakistan region for at least another decade. Recent attacks in this region only solidify this notion. So whoever wins this year has some big shoes to fill while he or she will have to make tough domestic and foreign policy decisions in the future. Let’s just hope and pray that it is not Trump!