The 2016 general election is fast approaching, though some might wish it would get here faster since we have been hearing from the candidates and potential candidates for a year now. To think Canadians were tired after 11 weeks! But this election is important, for good reasons.
Let me say beforehand that not all of the problems Americans face can be laid at the feet of the president, or any president for that matter. Culture has shifted to a degree I haven’t seen since my very young days in the 1960s. This shift is due to causes that go well back beyond Barack Obama, to the early and mid-20th century. Christianity has been significantly liberalized, the Bible as an authoritative source undermined, political thought moved from an essentially conservative (in the modern sense) to a liberal orientation, and economic policy from more free market to a more anti-market stance. All of this began to be discussed in the 19th century and was realized in the 20th century.
The last 8 years
We have seen a massive increase in regulation that affects substantial portions of the economy – healthcare, banking, the environment, etc. – and without any clear offsetting benefits to match or surpass the costs. Those costs are to real people.
In addition, we have experienced what can best be called an incoherent foreign policy. Now, I am no warmonger. I can see both sides regarding the war on Iraq, even in Afghanistan. But at the same time the president seems to be more than willing to make the United States appear so weak that others are encouraged to take violent advantage. Yes, we should “talk” as long as possible, but we should also be as prepared as possible – and make it known that we are. We feel less safe.
Immigration policy is in disarray – yes, partly due to Congress, as all policies usually are. The president has blatantly ignored existing immigration laws and made up his own. I believe we should welcome legal immigration, but it must include necessary background checks.
Back to regulation. The Clean Air Act regulations recently rolled out may well kill coal and lead to higher energy prices. The Obamacare regulations that actually implemented the statute are proving to be a drain on the wallets of most citizens who will pay higher premiums, higher deductibles and higher penalties and get less service. Our economy may look good on the surface, but the number of people not in the workforce is at an all-time high. And our deficit has ballooned in the last eight years.
Finally, the president has tended to support any and all identity groups who claim to have been offended or harmed, no matter the facts that emerge. He has even done it to people of faith on behalf of the abortionists, when he refused to accommodate religious organizations that objected on religious conscience grounds to the healthcare mandate to provide possible abortifacients.
The Democrats have only two viable candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Sanders is a socialist with a narrow populist appeal. Clinton is a self-interested and ambitious politician with no principles to speak of. But she will win the nomination.
Of the Republicans, in a recent average of several national polls (Oct. 20) Donald Trump leads the pack as of now with 26 percent, followed by Ben Carson at 21 percent, Marco Rubio at just below 10 percent, Ted Cruz at around 8 percent, Jeb Bush at 7.5 percent, Carly Fiorina at 5.7 percent, Mike Huckabee at 3.8 percent, Rand Paul at 3.3 percent, and so on.
Within a few weeks or months, we will be looking at only five left, at most. Of the top candidates as of now, Rubio and Cruz are certifiably conservative. Bush is, I think, mostly conservative, though he has not helped himself on Common Core, immigration, or his mediating tone in debates (that should be an asset, but in today’s world it isn’t). Carson is something of an enigma while Trump’s ideas (his tax scheme, his “specific” immigration policy, etc.) are worrisome and problematic.
The issues that will resonate with voters are the same as usual, and they have a special significance this time around. The top issues are the economy and jobs, healthcare, terrorism, foreign policy, immigration, the deficit, and taxes, in that order, with 37 percent of voters reporting the economy and jobs as their top concern.
Thus far, the Republican candidates have been rather vague on the economy and jobs, most saying only that they don’t like Obama’s policies but not giving many details of their own, except a few tax plans. It is hard to say how voters will respond to tax plans if the tax plans are not connected strongly to economic growth (only three percent listed taxes as a major concern).
Healthcare is of course centered around Obamacare. I haven’t heard the Republicans say much at all about what they would do, and without a well-thought out plan, they are better off saying nothing. The deficit issue is actually very important, but because it is not currently felt, it is ignored by both voters and candidates except in vague statements. I suspect foreign policy and terrorism will rate more highly as the election cycle continues. But the top Republican and Democratic candidates have yet to show me much in terms of knowledge of or capability to deal with those issues.
I also haven’t heard much on the regulatory burden – and I wish I would. This has a very tangible effect on ordinary citizens, but it comes in such small doses that apparently people don’t “feel” it. So politicians don’t address it much.
If we want significant change, this election is probably our biggest opportunity in some time. I urge citizens to become informed on issues and candidates and then (only then) vote.
Remember, too, that though you are (hopefully) a Christian, candidates come with a whole range of views, some you like, some you don’t. You have to weigh them all and choose the one you believe can actually promote the overall good of the nation within the bounds of law.
Marc Clauson, Ph.D., is a fellow of the Center for Political Studies and professor of history and law at Cedarville University.