Presidential Election 101

Many are in the dark in regards to the race for the house in our nation's capital

Brian Culligan

Many are in the dark in regards to the race for the house in our nation's capital

Brian Culligan, Writer

Tensions are high and controversies are on the rise as the Republicans and Democrats desiring to become president in 2016 take their opinions to the public. However, many citizens, especially students, are unaware of what is really going on in our nation’s great race. In the jumble of conflicting media coverage, confusing political language, and heated drama surrounding the campaign trail, getting a basic understanding of the election is like trying to hit a moving target. But don’t worry, if you are one of the many that can’t name a candidate other than Donald Trump, your confusion is about to be lifted.  


Starting with the basics, it is important to know the difference between the two major political parties. Republicans are those with more conservative political views, and thus they are sometimes referred to as Conservatives, or members of “the right”. They generally believe that the government should be small and less involved in the everyday lives of the people, only serving to protect the freedom of its citizens. They are firm believers in the minimalist principles which the Constitution was founded on, strong supporters of limited presidential power, and advocates for allowing the economy to flow as a free market without government intervention. In a modern context, Republicans generally oppose increased government spending, increased taxation, amnesty for illegal immigrants, abortion, and regulation on private companies.

Democrats, also referred to as Liberals, or members of “the left”, are those with more liberal political stances. They are believers in a more communal system, where individuals have a responsibility to help support the country as a whole. They are in favor of the government being used as a working presence in the nation, involving more programs, regulations, and financial support for those in need. Regarding the discussion topics on the table today, they support government spending where necessary, increased taxation, universal healthcare, a raise in minimum wage, leniency towards immigration, and the right for a woman to be able to choose to have an abortion.


With two opposing general outlooks understood, individual candidates can now be looked at. Among the notable Republicans running are Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and of course, Donald Trump.


Jeb Bush– The brother of former president George W. Bush, and former governor of Florida. He is a traditional Republican in the sense of economic policy, but deviates from the pack in his support for illegal immigrants. He has made it unclear whether or not he supports his brother’s controversial decisions as president. Polls taken of American Republicans give him a favorability rating of 8% .


Chris Christie- The outspoken and boisterous governor of New Jersey plans to throw diplomacy aside in the name of addressing hard hitting truths surrounding controversial topics. The fact that he was elected in a heavily democratic state shows that he has infectious leadership abilities and the potential to be accommodating to opposing views. His poll ratings are a measly 1%, but this number is expected to rise over time.


Mike Huckabee- The former governor of Arkansas plans to root his campaign in Christianity, preaching the religion’s more controversial social conservative messages. He is a Republican through and through, but is particularly polarizing in his strong views opposing gay marriage, abortion, and universal healthcare. Polls: 3%


Marco Rubio- The son of a Cuban immigrant who worked his way up to the top of the American political system becoming a US Senator, Rubio hopes to be the young charismatic leader to unite the Republican Party and the country. His optimistic message of hope rooted in conservative principles is seen as inspiring, but his moderacy leaves him lacking a definitive base to campaign upon. Polls: 7%


Ben Carson- Working as a neurosurgeon with no political background, Carson hopes to represent the true common citizen’s approach to politics, as he calls out his governmental gripes from the perspective of a working man. He has strong conservative values, but has not rooted his campaign in specific political ideas as he is not very informed on the subject. Nonetheless, his harsh protests against Obama’s work resonate with the people, earning him second place in the polls at 20%.   


Donald Trump- The pop culture celebrity of the Republican Party. Unrelenting media coverage of this successful businessman’s every move on the campaign trail has changed his public image from what many considered to be an attention hungry hot-head trying to pull a publicity stunt, to a legitimate Republican frontrunner. There is no mistaking his abhorrence for President Obama, and his election opponents, both Democrat and Republican. His loose lips have exposed his extreme and often offensive views towards our nation’s key social issues, but his business prowess and willingness to speak his mind have turned him into a key candidate. He is first in the polls at 33%


There is far less competition on the Democratic side of the presidential campaign, with the only two major candidates being Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.


Hillary Clinton- The former Secretary of State, US Senator, and First Lady has long been a recognizable name in American politics, even moreso now as she attempts to be the nation’s first female president. Her campaign is rooted in support of the middle-class, minorities, and the feminist movement, earning a strong following across many key demographics. Even though she is the current democratic frontrunner, she will need to distance herself from her not so cleanly public opinion in order to be a leader capable of renewing America. She is first in the Democratic polls at 42%.


Bernie Sanders- This current US senator represents the strongest voice of true liberalism in the election, whose political views border on socialism. He advocates for the use of government to level the playing field of financial inequality. Even amongst liberals, his extremely one sided views limit his popularity, and thus he is not very likely to emerge victorious. Polls: 24%


More confusion amongst the American public frequently arises surrounding the actual election process. As of now, candidates are touring around the country, participating in debates and delivering speeches in an effort to boost their popularity. Come springtime 2016, primary elections will be held to determine two finalist candidates, one Democrat and one Republican, to compete for the presidency. These candidates will attempt to win the majority of votes in as many states as possible. When a candidate wins a state, all of the electoral votes from that state, equal to the number of congressional representatives the state has, go in his or her favor. Campaigning will be particularly heavy in the “swing states”, which are states that do not have a predictable outcome of voting Republican or Democrat. These states include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada,North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The final winner will be determined by which candidate has the majority of electoral votes.


Although the actual election is over a year away, the race is hotter than ever with candidates all across the political spectrum using every day to fight for that coveted seat in the Oval Office. Whether or not you will be voting when Election Day rolls around in 2016, you now have enough information to be an informed citizen on one of the most important topics regarding our country.