Economics Society: Should We Care About The US Election?

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With the U.S. election fast approaching, should we be concerned by a vote taking place 3,632 miles away from Upper Dicker?

The world continues to be an unstable and precarious place. International hostility is widespread with ISIS and the conflict in Syria continuing with unprecedented ferocity, as well as amplified tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Given America’s notoriously interventionist foreign policy, the unfolding presidential election is guaranteed to impact and potentially alter conflicts all over the world. The candidates running for the presidency have expressed a diverse range of views which will inevitably have implications stretching far beyond America’s borders.

But the presidential race has begun.

 

How Does The US Election Work?

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With the first caucus being held in Iowa today, the presidential nominations are closer than many recognise. The US Presidential election will be held in November 2016, voters choosing between Democrat, Republican and - potentially - Independent candidates. However, the events leading up to the Presidential election can be just as influential as the election itself.

During the coming ten months, candidates spend millions on engaging voters - a process which seems fairly dissimilar to the British electoral system. Not only will the next ten months be entertaining, but also will mould the international environment that we have no choice in being effected by. 

So, what is likely to happen during this Presidential race?

In order to run for the presidency a candidate must be a citizen of the United States. He or she must also be at least 35 years old and must have lived in the US for at least 14 years. While, legally, anyone who meets those requirements can run for Presidency, it is often the case that candidates have extensive political experience and most tend to have been Governors or members of congress.

Before the final shortlisting in November however, candidates are nominated and there are two systems a state can use to decide the candidate; these are either the primary or the caucus.

A 'primary' is where residents simply cast their ballots, whereas a 'caucus' is a local gathering where voters openly decide which candidate to support.

The caucus format favours candidates who have a dedicated and organised following because a small band of devoted volunteers can exert an influence in the open setting of a caucus. A caucus can even be four people conferring in a meeting room, and coming to an agreement.

Caucuses are fairly straightforward for Republicans, however Democrats insist on a complicated mathematical system which involves physically having voters stand in the section of their chosen candidate.

States choose whether they want to hold primaries or caucuses, and most states hold primaries, however ten states, including Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota and Maine, use the caucus system to vote in candidates instead.

 

Who Are The Democratic Candidates?

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The Democratic Party has an interesting mix of two leading candidates, with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders being the two front-runners.

It would be wrong to call Bernie Sanders an outsider, however taking polls into account, the former First Lady is the favourite in winning the nomination. Nevertheless the opinions of the masses could change.

For one, Bernie Sanders is described as a Socialist Democrat, which is incredibly rare in the US, receiving support similar to the sort that Jeremy Corbyn has received in the UK. He has recently made a number of points within debates that have particularly resonated with voters, and new polling suggests that Bernie Sanders is in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton in Iowa.

These results came as Clinton upped her attacks on Sanders over his mixed past votes on gun control measures, and at the same time Sanders appeared to be getting more aggressive about Bill Clinton and his role in his wife's campaign.  

Sanders had been the longest-serving independent in U.S. Congressional history. This means he has a lot of experience, which is preferred for the nomination candidates, and if Clinton were to underperform in Iowa, it could easily lead to a loss for her in New Hampshire, which has consistently been Sanders’s strongest state.

Hillary's reputation has suffered as a result of a number of scandals her opponents are highlighting, and while she might be seen by many as a pro-military 'Hawk' candidate, Sanders is a 'Dove' - he does not believe in military intervention and wants the countries that surround Syria (Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, etc.) to be more involved in tackling ISIS rather than arguing for increased action by the American military. 

Clinton meanwhile, having been First Lady and Secretary of State, certainly has an abundance of political experience that makes her a popular candidate and attractive to the media both in a positive and negative light.

The following are key points of interest in judging her presidential prospects.

    •       She led Mr. Sanders by a substantial 35 percentage points—64% to 29%—among non-white voters nationwide who expect to participate in the primaries, a December Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found.

    •       Mrs. Clinton’s strength among minority voters could prove a big boost in the contests that follow Iowa and New Hampshire. African-Americans comprised 55% of Democratic primary voters in South Carolina, according to exit polls of the state’s 2008 contest. 

    •       More people are aware of her, because of her strength in public speaking as well as having sought the presidency before.

 

And What About The Republican Candidates?

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The Republican party, also known as 'The Grand Old Party' has seen many candidates run for Presidential nomination in 2016.

Currently leading the polls is billionaire businessman Donald Trump. He has created a political tidal wave in the party, shocking the establishment and causing outrage around the globe - most notably for his proposals on barring Muslims from entering the U.S.

Trump has said he would deal with terrorist group ISIS by bombing the oil fields that they control to cut off their oil supplies, with oil being a major source of income for ISIS.

He also has plans on building a multi-billion dollar wall on the Mexican border to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into the U.S. and insists that this multi-billion dollar wall will be paid for by Mexico.

Although Trump is unlikely to gain the support of hispanic voters in his country, he has gained much support from the grassroots voters of the Republican Party.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a hispanic American whose father was a Cuban immigrant to America, is leading the Tea Party Movement agenda within the Republican Party. Many see his fiscal policy as extreme, including a large reduction in the influence of the government in a free market approach.

Cruz has also advocated a potentially regressive flat tax on income and has suggested that the best way of destroying ISIS would be to carpet bomb their capital, Ar-Raqqah, a policy which could result in unprecedented civilian casualties in and around the ISIS stronghold.

However extreme this idea might seem, Cruz's proposals have resonated well in the polls as many Americans see Obama’s current strategy of precision bombing on ISIS targets as ineffective.

Next is Marco Rubio, a charismatic, young, hispanic American of Cuban origin.

Mr Rubio appears to be a more traditional conservative in comparison to Trump and Cruz, and therefore has the backing of the Republican establishment, but many of his policies overlap with that of Trump and Cruz, including his support of a flat tax and of preserving the military might of America. 

Tailing all of the above is Jeb Bush, a member of the high achieving Bush dynasty which has already seen two Presidents.

Bush has the war chest of the establishment behind him and is seen by many political commentators, as well as members of his party, as the best Republican prospect to compete with Hilary Clinton. If he were to gain the nomination, 2016 would see a clash of American political dynasties that could make for a very interesting election indeed.

 

So, What Should I Look Out For?

American presidential elections can be understandably seen as a complex democratic exercise. The lengthy two-year process by which candidates are currently elected, which includes a series of debates, primary elections and caucuses across all 50 states, before proceeding to the general election, creates scope for a variety of possible outcomes.

The 2016 election seems more unpredictable than ever, with potential presidential candidates presenting views that range from those of Bernie Sanders to that of Donald Trump.

As highlighted earlier however, the 2016 Presidential Election will hinge on foreign policy, despite the prominence of domestic economic issues that have proved crucial in most American elections of the past.

The volatility and instability shown within the current global economic and political climate is forcing international issues to the forefront of this election, especially given Hilary Clinton’s previous position as Secretary of State during the first Obama administration.

If nothing else then, the unprecedented complexity and unpredictability of the forthcoming U.S. presidential election makes it more important than ever to take notice of. 

Although it may feel like a distant issue, the ramifications of the election's outcome is soon to effect us all, and is well worth observing with intrigue for the next ten months.

 

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