Barry Goldwater, a United States Senator from Arizona, is best known as the Republican Presidential Candidate for the Election of 1964. While this is what most people know him as, the truth of the matter is, his greatest legacy is his contribution to the political realignment of the Democrats and Republicans.
Unfortunately for Goldwater, this was neither the legacy he wanted nor asked for. In his article “He Knew He Was Right,” Louis Menand demonstrated how tragic Goldwater’s run for president was. It was plain to see that Goldwater was doomed to lose from the start. Lyndon Johnson was the clear heir to the presidency after Kennedy’s assassination, as he was both the Democratic nominee and Kennedy’s vice president. In addition, Goldwater was easy to attack due to his stance that tactical nuclear warfare was a viable option during war, but Goldwater’s biggest vulnerability was the fact that he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It wouldn’t be hard to point to this as the reason that Goldwater suffered such a catastrophic loss, and a good thing too, right? You wouldn’t want the president to be opposed to civil rights, would you? The only problem with that is that Barry Goldwater was completely for civil rights, even going so far as to be a member of the NAACP and the Urban League. His opposition wasn’t based in discrimination, but rather, in the fact that he believed that I wasn’t up to the federal government to dictate that the states follow the civil rights mandate. Unfortunately for him (and to a greater extent, the Republican Party,) this caused a massive shift in the electorate. “Goldwater’s longest-lasting political legacy was to drive African-Americans out of the party of Lincoln.” As a direct result of Goldwater’s stance against what he believed to be an overreach of federal power, he suffered a major loss against Johnson and made sure that black voters seldom vote for the Republican Party.
The race for the White House continues and its as fiery as its ever been. The two front runners, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton finally stood face to face and dueled in the public arena of ideas. On last Monday night, we had the pleasure of witnessing the first of three debates to help decide the President for 2016.
Unfortunately, when I say pleasure, I’m actually being facetious. This debate was a joke, full of bickering and childishness usually reserved for school ground arguments, not for people attempting to gain the highest power in the land. While I’m not pleased with the antics on display at this debate, I still have to live with it, so I may as well address their points.
Donald Trump, as usual, was wrong about many of the things that he spoke about, but I wanted to focus on his statements about Ford. He used the auto company as an example of companies outsourcing to other countries, and in that, he’s not wrong. Ford indeed is moving its small cars division to Mexico, but it’s not to the detriment of the U.S. workers. Their factories in Michigan is simply shifting production.
Hillary Clinton is not devoid of error, either. It seems that our Democrat nominee enjoys attacking Trump over his support for the Iraq Invasion, despite the fact that he didn’t. While he certainly didn’t oppose the war before it began, even going as far as to hesitantly agree to it, following the invasion he took quite a bit of issue with it, mainly on the grounds of its economic impact. Plus, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stone. Hillary Clinton also supported the war.
The main question of a debate, however, is who won? For me, it was Hillary Clinton. While I severely distrust both candidates, I can’t trust a candidate that doesn’t pay his taxes. Hillary dug in against Trump’s failure to produce his tax returns and when she accused him of not paying his income tax, he replied with “That makes me smart.” How can I trust a candidate to regulate taxes when he believes the best thing to do is not pay them? You certainly can’t balance a budget with no income.
One of the more crucial elections in American History is the Election of 1960. While this election shaped the course of American History for the following eight years, the election itself changed the way in which people would run for president from then on. In his book, The First Modern Campaign, Gary Donaldson outlines the entirety of the battle between the presidential candidates, Democratic Nominee John F. Kennedy and Republican Nominee Richard M. Nixon. In his book, Donaldson describes many key factors of the race, including the problems that Kennedy faced being Roman Catholic, Nixon’s attempts to campaign in every state, and the role of television in the election. However, for those that don’t have the time to read through the book, here’s a video covering the highlights.
Many would argue that the key deciding factor in this election was how Kennedy harnessed television (this being the first election in which it was done) and his public image to win the election. While it may not have been the most importing factor in winning the election (after all, Nixon exhausted himself with micromanaging every aspect of his massive campaign), it definitely didn’t hurt Kennedy. In fact, for quite a few people, it was the deciding factor in how they thought the debates turned out. Most who tuned in through radio believed that the debated either ended in a draw or that Nixon was the winner. Those that viewed the television broadcasts, however, thought that the disheveled, sweaty figure of Richard Nixon paled in comparison to the tan, well-rested, confident figure of John Kennedy. The final tally of the popular vote ended with Kenney holding 49.7% of the vote and Nixon holding 49.6%. Guess it just goes to show the effect of technology in an election.
So, Trump’s campaign got in to a bit of hot water (though, to be honest, when is it not?) over a tweet that Donald Trump Jr. posted. In this tweet, he compares the Syrian Refugee problem to a bowl full of skittles in which three are poisoned. This upset many people, though this isn’t the first instance of a comparison like this being made. In 2014 a similar image was shared by feminists, a group that commonly identifies with the left. Apparently its only wrong to compare people to candy if you’re on the right.
Regardless of whether or not it’s okay to simplify the Refugee Crisis, I’m going to go ahead and do so, though not through the Skittle Analogy. I think the problem can be better examined through the Trolley Problem.
Do you leave 5 people to die due to your inaction, or do you save them, but at the same time kill someone who was never in danger in the first place? In this analogy, the refugees can be compared to the 5 people laying on the tracks in the way of the trolley (though 5 would be far too low of a number. A more appropriate number would be in the thousands.). We can choose to do nothing and doom them to death. If we do choose to save them, however, we endanger our own people, dooming at least a few of our own to die. As much as we want to be polite and say that refugees don’t cause problems, there is repeated evidence of them doing so. As a person, I say the lives of thousands outweigh the lives a few (after all the chance of dying in a terrorist attack are 1 in 25 million, but what about as a leader? What about as a person whose only job is to protect the few? There the solution becomes a lot more muddied, and it would become easier to justify not pulling the lever.
There really is nothing quite as infuriating to someone who is heavily invested in politics as someone who cannot seem to muster up an ounce of interest in the political. After all, it’s up to the common man to decide who runs the country, both locally and nationally. Unfortunately for the more politically-minded among us, for better or for worse, it simply may not be in human nature to operate politically.
According to Louis Menand’s article in The New Yorker, “The Unpolitical Animal,” most people have very little interest in politics and, as such, their votes have very little reason behind them. Much of the article follows the work of Philip E. Converse and his study in how people operate in the political sphere. From the work that Converse did, three main theories have been extrapolated. The first, and by far the most disconcerting, is the theory that the votes of the electorate are simply arbitrary. This is not because people go and pull whatever lever is shiniest on election day, but rather because they operate from ignorance. The electorate simply can’t understand politics and is more easily swayed by slogans and sensational new.
The next theory follows that the electorate, while not being extremely well versed in politics, is able to make informed decisions thanks to those that are politically literate, aka the political élite. The battleground of politics is now no longer a conflict between the masses but rather a competition between the élite to gain the favor of the public through various cues, such as slogans, infographics, or the increasingly popular meme.
The final theory is that people use mental shortcuts known as “heuristics” to make decisions. While this is not as great as being truly informed, its close enough to get the job done. The people rely on the voices of those they trust to help them form an opinion and then vote according to their gut. While they may sometimes get it wrong and vote against their own interests, those on the other side will also make the same mistake, so that overall it evens out.
Presidential elections are widely believed to be a battle of ideas between two equal candidates for control over the most powerful nation on the planet, and for the most part, they are. For this election, however, this is not the case. For democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the deck is heavily stacked in her favor.
As John Cassidy explains in his article for The New Yorker, in nearly every poll forecast, Clinton holds the lead over her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump, but her grip on the voters is slipping. The cause of the gap decrease between Clinton and Trump could be for a number of reasons but two stand out, one being the bad press that Clinton has received over her email scandal, and the second being just a natural resettling to numbers prior to the Democratic National Convention. Despite her falling numbers, she remains ahead of Trump in most polls.
In terms of character, many people just like Clinton more than Trump. Actually, it could be better said that they dislike her less than Trump. According to Huffington Post’s favorability polls, which rates a candidate’s favorability by adding up the percentage of people who view the candidate favorably with the percent that do not, Trump is viewed as +20 unfavorable, while Clinton is only +14 unfavorable. While the difference is not small, it certainly is enough to make a difference.
Finally, Clinton holds an advantage in states with a high number of electoral votes. In predicted electoral votes, she holds the clear advantage with 244 electoral votes leaning in her direction. The few things Hillary Clinton is required to do are maintain current numbers and win a tossup state or two, and the presidency is as good as hers. If she’s lucky, Trump could make it easy for her with some of his classic blunders.