Many are Called …

By Bobbie Kirkhart

Image by DonkeyHotey. Creative commons (https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/626165049)
Image by Don­key­Hotey. Cre­ative commons

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.

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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.

 

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Bob­bie Kirkhart is vice pres­i­dent of the Athe­ist Alliance of Amer­i­ca and serves on the board of Camp Quest, Inc., a sum­mer camp for chil­dren of free­think­ing fam­i­lies. She is a past pres­i­dent of the Athe­ist Alliance Inter­na­tion­al as well as a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to U.S. freethought publications.