The US Presidential campaign has been mesmerizing to watch from this side of the world. A year ago I started getting news feeds across my Facebook page about a candidate espousing free tertiary study, a living wage, free health care and jobs for everyone. It felt like a flashback to my idealistic days at Lewis and Clark College when we philosophized about a world that offered everyone an opportunity to achieve to their potential. I figured he was an old socialist who had been elected to office for decades as the voice of conscience rather than anyone who actually accomplished anything. Kind of like the Green Party here.
Little did I realise that Bernie Sanders was a legitimate contender for the Democratic nomination. He has a long and respected career as a representative who gets things done, speaks eloquently and has stayed true to his message. Since that time his support base has grown exponentially to threaten Hillary Clinton’s nomination as the Democratic candidate.
There were no surprises that Hillary Clinton would run for office. Her election as a New York senator and work as Secretary of State under Obama has kept her in the public eye. As a colonel in the US Army, my brother-in-law spoke very highly of how well she worked with the military on several security issues. She was collaborative and decisive, a potent combination in order to take decisive action. However, she is considered to be too much of a professional politician and there is a distrust of whether power is her motivator rather than accomplishing good deeds in office.
At the same time I started hearing about Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump also threw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination. Quite frankly, I thought it was a publicity stunt to promote Brand Trump and all of its associated businesses. I couldn’t imagine how the actual job of president would appeal to a man who is used to getting his own way, doesn’t like to negotiate or compromise, and likes decisive action. Bureaucracy and Trump? Impossible.
Ted Cruz and Mark Rubio seemed more likely candidates. Both are conservatives, come from strong US states, and are seasoned politicians with proven records of accomplishments. And as both are Hispanic (Cuban) they could bring in much needed support from the Hispanic/Latino vote to the Republican party.
I no longer vote in the US elections even though I am eligible to do so. New Zealand is my home and it seems high handed to vote for representation for others and that doesn’t affect me directly. For me, democracy means you get what you vote for. If you like what a candidate stands for but they can’t accomplish anything you’ll get a leader that represents your values but won’t be able to implement them in policy. If you’re voting against a politician you’ll have leadership that may not be what you want but definitely isn’t what you don’t want.
It appears as though the Democrats are happy with their candidate choices and are only faced with who they think will be able to be more effective than President Obama has been in his last term of office. The Republicans are in a trickier position. Do they nominate a candidate who has no desire to follow their directives but holds mass appeal to their electorate? Or do they appoint a candidate who will follow the party line but is second choice to a charismatic outsider?
My bet is on Ted Cruz getting the nomination. There might be disappointment but voters will stand by their party values or at the very least vote against what Hillary Clinton represents.