AGORA: Dems and Reps, Post-Iowa

Dan Georgakas and Constantinos Scaros weigh in on the 2016 presidential race, as the candidates, straight out of Iowa, head to New Hampshire for the election season’s first primary and second preliminary electoral contest overall. 

 

GEORGAKAS PRESENTS HIS POINT OF VIEW

Dino, by the time these comments appear, Iowa will have had its caucuses and the nation’s first primary will be pending in New Hampshire. Now seems a good moment to review the political perspectives of candidates who remain real contenders for their party’s presidential nomination.

The Democrats are the traditional party of change and innovation. Democrats believe the basic economic system is sound but needs significant reforms. Hillary Clinton is a centrist Democrat who leans to the left on social issues involving feminist, racial, and sexual preference issues and leans to the right on foreign policy and national surveillance issues.

Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist running as a Democrat, believes our economic system requires fundamental change. Socialist changes are not thought of as societal leaps imposed from above but incremental actions rooted in a massive electoral base. Sanders’ immediate focus is universal health care, affordable higher education, and greatly curbing corporate wealth and political power via taxes and strict regulation.

The Republicans traditionally support the economic status quo and are wary about unintended consequences of drastic economic and social change even when based on good intentions. All the Republicans endorse trickle-down economics of some kind. Jeb Bush and John Kasich, both experienced as governors of major states, are centrists but believe more economic restraint on corporations is required and a number of social problems need to be addressed before they get out of hand.

Donald Trump is a political mish-mash. He is to the left of Clinton on health care and foreign policy issues but is against basics like having a minimum wage. One can only speculate on how he would handle political power as he is notorious for making outrageous, often inaccurate statements on issues such as military spending and immigration. Trump supporters have to believe the common-sense businessman with no political experience will prevail over the reckless campaigner.

Ted Cruz is an extreme right-winger who believes the reforms of the New Deal were primarily mistaken. He urges a return to policies common in the first decades of the 20th century without comment on why they didn’t work. He favors “carpet-bombing” as a means of defeating ISIS.

Marco Rubio, elected as part of a conservative wave in Florida, has moved toward the center on some issues, but many of his proposals such as a single tax replacing the income tax are long-standing conservative bromides that would increase the tax burden on 90% of Americans. Chris Christie, elected governor of New Jersey as a strident conservative, is another make-believe centrist. His gruff, hands-on style of governance makes it difficult to believe he did not know about the Bridgegate shenanigans. Christie’s assertion about shooting down Russian planes suggests he will say whatever he thinks will help him build an image as a political tough guy.

Rand Paul is a libertarian Republican, meaning that on foreign policy and individual rights issues he shares many views with Bernie Sanders. On the other hand, he wants to reduce government as much as possible and to lift virtually all controls on big business.

Ben Carson rejects economic and social change. He shares many of Cruz’ positions with views even more heavily laced with religious fundamentalism than those of Cruz. Carson has shown little grasp of foreign policy and his bungling of his campaign staffing suggests he is not a good executive.

Dino, I wonder if you think my descriptions of these positions are accurate and what you might want to add about any of the candidates.

SCAROS RESPONDS

As usual, your facts indeed factual, and your analysis is sound. In a world in which writers – professional and otherwise – cherrypick facts and tailor their writing to suit their agenda, your comments are an oasis in the desert of distortion.

There is really no specific point with which I disagree, and so rather than challenge your conclusions, I will add to them.

I think Trump is less a proponent of trickle-down economics than people realize. Far more upset over the threat of his rise to power than the politically correct left is the country club right. There is the segment of the Republican Party that is primarily focused on making and keeping as much money as possible. To that group, Trump is a nightmare. Not only is he worlds removed from their dream candidate – a Mitt Romney or a Jeb Bush – but he is also less willing to play ball with them than Hillary Clinton, who like her husband, talks a good game when it comes to liberal social issues, but is far more a corporatist than many people realize.

In 2008, the Republicans made a big deal about Barack Obama’s sideline comment to observer Joseph “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher about “spreading the wealth,” and they went on a paranoid rant as if Obama was the second coming of Karl Marx.

In reality, Obama didn’t raise taxes one penny during his first term, and reverted them to the Clinton rates of the 1990s (with the top rate at manageable 39.5%), which are lower than the rate to which Ronald Reagan had cut them the previous decade.

Trump, however, openly says he will in fact spread the wealth. He says he’ll raise taxes on the very wealthy: “the Wall Street hedge fund guys aren’t going to like me,” he promises.

Trump is also a populist who wants to bring back jobs to the United States and will punish American corporations that manufacture products overseas in order to cut costs and maximize profits. In that respect too, Trump gives the country club Republicans fits.

Of course, as most Americans are not politically aware, those on the left have no clue that the Republican Party has been trying to foil Trump’s chances from winning the nomination from day one. In their eyes, they think the GOP powers-that-be view Trump no differently than the Bushes, Cruz, Christie, or Rubio. A closer look, of course, reveals otherwise.

As far as the rest of the Republican prospects go, it’s a shame that only one of them can win the nomination, because I think this is the best crop we’ve had in quite a while – maybe since 1980.

On the Democratic side, it’s really a two-person show between Hillary and Bernie. I like Bernie, though I think his ideas are quite unrealistic. He is much like a child that went swimming at Coney Island in July and doesn’t understand that it’s too cold to do that in February. Pure of heart, but not a good grasp of reality.

Hillary, as I’ve written many times before, troubles me because of her character, not her politics. You’re right – she’s a centrist. But she’s a phony centrist. Granted, politicians of all stripes often talk out of both sides of their mouths. But some more so than others – Hillary and Mitt Romney readily come to mind – have turned inauthenticity into an art form.

Besides, I don’t think Hillary is nearly as smart as they make her out to be. She is not dumb, by any means, and she certainly has boatloads of experience, not to mention a husband who led this nation for eight years. Nonetheless, she is overrated in her intelligence and capabilities.

Finally, I would love to see Mike Bloomberg enter the race. Speaking as an American who wants to see the political process at its best, nothing would be better, and purer, than a Sanders-Bloomberg-Trump three-way race. Not to mention how great it would be that all three are from New York. It’s about time the largest city in America reenters the presidential political fray.

WHAT’S YOUR OPINION?