We’re in the middle of the presidential primaries, elections that determine the delegates to the party conventions as well as the platform and the eventual nominee for the presidency. The primaries always produce plenty of laughs and no small amount of anxiety, but this year is special with candidates who are extreme in policy and personality.
The Republican candidates are: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich.
Trump is a real estate developer and reality TV star whose ability to command the attention of the press is exceeded only by his ignorance of world affairs. His large ego feeds a braggadocio that is exceptional, even for an American. On stage, he has assured audiences that they needn’t be intimidated by his high IQ, and in debates, he’s bragged about the size of his penis. He enjoys a rabidly loyal following among working-class white men who are in mourning for the privileged status their fathers had. Their sense of indignation is easy to understand as Ronald Reagan put a stop to working-class prosperity, and real wages have continued to decline steadily since. Trump has a good chance of winning the nomination, although little chance of becoming president.
Cruz is a senator from Texas. He is more conservative than anyone on the planet who is not an absolute ruler. He is best known for shutting down the entire government over a budget dispute. His colleagues in the Senate openly dislike him. One of them has even said Cruz could be murdered on the floor of the Senate and no one would be convicted. For fear of Trump winning, that colleague has now endorsed Cruz.
Kasich is a popular governor from Ohio who is just a tiny bit to the left of Cruz. He has an attractive personality and is loved by everyone except the Republican voters. He has been mathematically eliminated from the contest but continues to campaign in the hope that the Republican establishment will change the rules and name him the winner. It could happen. They fear Trump, but they hate Cruz.
Candidates for the Democrats are Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both of whom use their first names in advertising. Bernie (his followers wear T-shirts that say “Feel the Bern”) is in his second term as a senator from Vermont and his second year as a Democrat. Before entering the presidential race, he was an Independent and called himself a socialist which, until recently, spelled political doom in the U.S. (but we seem to have outgrown that). He has a huge following among the young in part because he promises them free college tuition. He leaves it to the fine print to reveal that this plan depends on the individual states – most of which are governed by conservatives – to pay for it.
Hillary has been First Lady, two-term senator from New York and Secretary of State under Barack Obama. Before the race started, her presidency was considered inevitable. When she was First Lady, she was ridiculed for admitting to imaginary conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt, America’s most preeminent First Lady. Now Hillary says her political idol is Angela Merkel.
In platform, Hillary and Bernie are very similar, particularly on domestic issues, but in execution they couldn’t be more different. Hillary is an extreme pragmatist, voting with the majority most of her time in the Senate and compromising with other countries, allies and enemies alike. This has made her a lot of friends and enabled a lot of progress – although it has not come without a cost. Bernie is a dedicated idealist, refusing to give an inch on his principles. When senators were rated on their practice of working with the opposite party, Bernie was dead last.
Even after the New York primaries, the elections are not only about candidates, but also about primaries, polls, conventions, and the delegate selection process. Judy Woodruff (PBS), Susan Page (USA Today) and Reid Wilson (Morning Consult) are in the know.
In any event, one of the five remaining candidates will be the next President of the United States. Hillary would be our first woman president and Bernie the first Jewish person to hold the office. Although Ohio has been the home of eight presidents, Kasich would be the first since 1921. Cruz would be our first president of Latin-American ancestry. Trump, well, he’d be unique in just about every imaginable way. Nuff said.