An Examination of the Top 2016 Presidential Candidates

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Bradley Dick

By Zach O’Brien ’18, Contributor

The 2016 presidential race has an unprecedented amount of candidates. This particular race is interesting not just because of the amount of candidates, but also their backgrounds. They range from neurosurgeon, to CEO, to military veteran, and former First Lady.

The current leaders of the Republican Party are Donald Trump (Real Clear Politics average of 27.2) and Ben Carson (RCP average of 21.4). These two are the top of a 16-candidate playing field. Leaders of the Democratic Party include Hillary Clinton (RCP average of 47.8) and Bernie Sanders (RCP average of 25.7).

Donald Trump is a name people often either instantly scoff at or praise without any understanding of his presidential race. Many portray him in a cynical light, professing he is running for nothing more than publicity. This may be true, but there are cogent arguments against it. He has consistently lead the Republican Party, never dropping from the top slot, which many attribute to both his success in the business world as well as his knack for speaking his mind with little to no filter. Unfortunately, Trump also sometimes makes responses that are interpreted to be of misogynistic nature, which, unsurprisingly, is unattractive to most. While Trump may lack certain social skills, it cannot be argued that he doesn’t know how to strike a business deal. He has purchased buildings for $1 million and flipping them for upwards of $500 million. Even though a country cannot be run the same as a business, Trump’s ability to chip away at the deficit is appealing. As stated above, Mr. Trump receives a great amount of mocking from people who have not followed his campaign. This is because he is already a very public figure, who has been famous for many years. It is interesting that the candidate most public to begin with would be the one accused of running for naught but publicity.

Trump has a particular set of skills that could help solve our financial problems, but these could be hindered by his occasionally poor communication with the American people. His presidency would be a hit-or-miss situation. He would either do very well or very poorly.

On the other side, we have Bernie Sanders, an outspoken socialist who has risen to the second place slot in the Democratic Party after a very sudden and unexpected entry. He is often asked to address the challenge of running as a socialist, which he doesn’t see as much of an obstacle. Replying to Anderson Cooper when asked about this, he says he will “win once people understand what Democratic Socialism is.” He claims it is “immoral and wrong, that the top one-tenth of the 1% own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. That it is wrong today, in a rigged economy, that 57% of all new income is going to the top 1%.  That when you look around the world you see every other major country providing healthcare to all people as a right, except the United States.” Now, if a few hundred years ago a few random people woke up and found billions of dollars sitting in their living room for absolutely no reason, Sanders’ claim that this wealth gap is “immoral and wrong” would be much more accurate. We all know, however, this is not the case. Although it is true that some of these fortunes are invested and passed down from one generation to the next, it is just as common for those extremely wealthy people to have worked extremely hard for their money. If he were to make the case that Oprah’s fortune is “immoral and wrong,” I would love to hear it. This statement also implies that if she were to hand her fortune to a family member, and that the fortune was to travel down many generations through careful investing, it is immoral and wrong. As for his claim that the United States needs to provide healthcare to all people as a right, I would reply that healthcare constitutes a tenth of the national debt, and if you bundle healthcare and social security they account for a third of the debt. Maybe if a few trillion dollars magically appeared in his living room this idea could work, but that seems a bit unlikely.

Sanders’ aggressive claims to fight for the poor and working class have earned him many supporters. He is also very outspoken on issues of education, claiming that “All public colleges and universities should be tuition free.” That sounds great, doesn’t it!? A free college education for all! As with most too-good-to-be-true statements, this plan crumbles under the most basic scrutiny. Only one question has to be asked, “Who will pay for it?” Don’t get me wrong, having a strong education foundation is the key to any country, but this “free for all” belief is unrealistic. A basic response might be: “Increase taxes on the rich to pay for it”. An undebatable fact that is often completely disregarded or blatantly twisted is that the top 10% of earners in America pay well above 50% of the Federal income tax. The country is still in enormous debt, even with this massive taxation on the wealthy. For the sake of fairness, let’s pretend this plan was implemented. What would happen once the fortunes of the rich had been sucked away? It is not a sustainable solution.

A strong point of Sanders is his advocacy for the necessity of a solution to global climate change and other ecological crises. He backs his arguments with strong scientific evidence and legitimate concerns. He reminds us of the immediate dangers, such as the potential for rising sea level to completely wipe out major coastal cities. If he would actually be able to begin to solve these issues, it would be a huge plus for his presidency.

Sanders’ campaign revolves around ideas that look great on paper, but do not hold up to basic analysis. He would probably do more harm to the country than good, and even though he is near the top of the polls, I find him to be one of the weaker Democratic candidates.

Back on the side of the Republicans we have Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who, much like Bernie Sanders, entered the race out of nowhere and quickly became one of his party’s favorites. Because of his race, he is often asked about “race relations” in our country. When asked why he does not speak about this topic more often, he replies: “I am actually operating on the thing that makes people who they are. The skin doesn’t make them who they are, and it’s time for us to move beyond that.” Anybody with a basic education at all will obviously agree with him. He is often praised for his cool, calm, and collected demeanor while delivering responses in debates and giving speeches. I have read one of his books, America the Beautiful, and I think he is a very knowledgeable man. Whether he has what it takes to effectively run a country and be a strong global leader, only time will tell.

Carson has stirred up a significant amount of controversy in the area of gun control and mass shootings. He makes claims such as the disarming of people in Germany allowed Hitler to carry out his regime with an ease that would not have been possible had the people been armed. A now famous and controversial statement he made was in reference to the mass shooting at Oregon. He claimed that if a gunman were to threaten him in the same situation he would yell: “Everybody attack him! He may kill me but he can’t get us all!” This inspired outrage amongst news stations and social media. Everybody seemed to be claiming that he was blaming the victims of the shooting, which is an absurd suggestion. He was responding to the question of what he would do, not what those victims should have done. As for the Hitler comment, it is used as a basis to make sure that all people have the right to remain armed. I have no objection with the 2nd amendment, as long as a plan is provided that will address the issue of mass shootings. It is often proposed that the main cause of these shootings is a mental health crisis in America, and not just the guns. If this were the case, then with his background in neurology he might be able to bring to the table on this issue what Trump can on issues of finance.

Mr. Carson could be a very effective president, and I am interested to see whether or not he will overtake Donald Trump in the polls and potentially earn the nomination from his party. I do wish he had better answers to the issues of gun violence in America, but he may prove his ability to solve these issues in the future.

Finally, from the Democratic Party, there is Hillary Clinton. I intended to provide more objective analysis of each of the candidates, however I must focus on the extreme issues involved in her past. Hillary Clinton is, unarguably, a very dishonest person. There are many examples of her blatantly lying to further her image and avoid punishment. A quick introductory example is when she once claimed she was running from sniper fire in Bosnia, until a video was released showing her walking serenely across the Bosnian tarmac and greeting people as she went.

Another glaring example is the scandal with her private email server. This scandal included many lies within itself. She claimed that she found it “easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails,” however she used multiple devices, so this explanation is false. She then claimed that she did “not email any classified material to anyone on my email.” It was then discovered that there were classified emails, so Clinton changed her story. She insisted that the material was not classified “at the time.” Once again, it was concluded that the material was in fact classified at the time, so she changed her story. She said she could not have known it was classified, which is ridiculous when we know she receives training on how to identify classified material. After all of this, she deleted tens of thousands of emails that she claimed to be personal. I am not sure how much you trust her word, but considering how much she has already lied about the situation I would not trust this statement. She is under investigation by the FBI because of this issue, and in my book anybody under serious scrutiny by the FBI is not a very appealing presidential candidate.

Although Clinton may have strengths to bring to the table, I cannot be comfortable allowing somebody who is this dishonest to be elected president. Her severe lack of integrity alone drowns out her positive aspects. Now, before I am put in Trump’s shoes and accused of misogyny for so harshly criticizing the only woman on this list, note that I am not criticizing her because she is a woman. I am criticizing her extreme lack of integrity.

All four of these candidates have strengths and weaknesses of their own, and it will be very interesting to watch their campaigns continue to develop and grow before the presidential election. I would not consider myself a Republican or a Democrat, but in this presidential race, I find the Republicans to have stronger candidates.



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