Thoughts on the Very Far-Out 2016 Presidential Elections

Katherine Hazen '18News Editor

If you pick up The Sophian on our publication date, we are 417 days away from the 2016 presidential elections. Campaigns, however, are already in full swing, with much of the nation’s focus on the GOP’s cast of 16 characters, specifically its frontrunner: Donald Trump.

Trump currently leads the pack with 27 percent support in the Iowa Republican presidential caucus poll, followed by Ben Carson at 20 percent – the candidate with the second least amount of experience.  Trump’s crude, misogynistic, racist remarks have captivated the American people, and corporate media’s sensationalist devotion to broadcasting them is not doing democracy any favors.

It is nearly impossible to avoid the campaign before it becomes more relevant, unless, of course, you set up tent at Walden Pond. Presidential hopefuls have resorted to Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat – the latter of which is perhaps the most jarring; seeing Jeb Bush try to maintain his professionalism while speaking into the iPhone of a young, underpaid staffer is uncomfortable at best.

It feels as though the campaign starts earlier every season.  When President Kennedy announced his plan to run, he did so almost a full year before the presidential election.  Announcing his bid early gave Kennedy a head start in the race to the White House, which is what long campaign cycles are supposed to do: give underdogs a fair chance.

Yet, in reality, it ends up costing so much more to sustain a campaign for that duration of time, which seems to be an emerging concern in this election.  Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (D) primarily union-funded campaign contrasts greatly with Hillary Clinton’s (D) Super PAC trust fund.  Donald Trump, whose most impressive accomplishment is keeping his toupee on his head for this many years, promises to finance his campaign all by himself as he is, to quote his campaign announcement in June, “really, really rich.”

Both Sanders and Trump appear to be running on a platform to reform campaign spending and lessen the influence of big money in politics.  People seem to like both candidates for similar reasons, namely their blunt speech; perhaps American voters perceive them as more real, a quality that Clinton lacks to a great degree.

Still, extraordinarily long campaign cycles do provide the benefit of allowing truly important issues to come to the forefront. Immigration became the central issue for the GOP candidates after Trump’s anti-immigrant “Let’s build a wall” rhetoric hit a nerve with voters.

For the Democrats, the Black Lives Matter movement challenges candidates to propose policy changes to amend the damage of the War on Drugs – a set of misguided policies that affected African Americans disproportionately – in addition to simply stating that black lives indeed matter. This traps candidates in a catch-22 of sorts: they are damned if they say, “Black Lives Matter,” and they’re certainly damned if they don’t.

Daunasia Yancey, founder of Black Lives Matter in Boston, engaged in a brusque exchange with Clinton, a video of which went viral in August. “What we’re saying is that it’s actually necessary for the president of the United States to have an advanced and nuanced understanding of race relations in this country,” Yancey told NPR.

Additionally, citizens across the country are asking the candidates what their plan is regarding the heroin epidemic that plagues the country; according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, opiate addiction takes 17,000 lives each year.  Hopefully, the extended campaign cycle provides candidates with enough time to prepare a plan to match the scope of the epidemic.

Despite that, in a country with an increasingly polarized political climate, an extended campaign cycle seems to do more damage than good.  The length of the campaign encourages ludicrous behavior and proposals from candidates, like Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) idea to build a wall along our northern border.  It’s as though the campaign for the highest office in the land has become a reality television show; personally I would be pretty entertained to watch Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump duke it out – as long as Bernie wins.