The Oddities of the U.S. Presidential Race

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Race has many unique features that have not been found present to the same degree in previous elections. The field has finally been narrowed down to three main contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic camp and Donald Trump, the last man standing on the Republican side. While all three candidates have very different policy positions, the similarities in many respects between Hillary Clinton, the front running Democrat and Donald Trump who has left the other Republican hopefuls in his wake, are quite astounding.


Bernie Sanders has been a Democrat and a committed socialist from a young age and has consistently maintained the same position, very much to the left of the Democratic policies of social and economic equality. Sanders has maintained a libertarian socialist view of the political world which is his platform in his presidential bid. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both moved across the political spectrum with their position on a multitude of issues moving from one end of the spectrum to the other, and sometimes back again, over the years, this inconsistency being their first commonality.


Clinton started out her political life during her student years as a Young Republican, working as a campaign volunteer in the unsuccessful candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964. She later described herself as being a conservative in the mind while being a liberal in the heart at the same time. The Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King served to raise further self-doubt in her mind. She attended the 1968 Republican Party Convention and upset by what she saw as a “veiled racist” message, left the Republican Party after the convention. She changed her views to the extent that she became a supporter of the Democratic anti-war presidential campaign of Senator Eugene McCarthy. Clinton has remained a Democrat toeing the party line since that time and supported her husband, Bill Clinton in his successful gubernatorial and presidential campaigns.


Trump on the other hand dedicated his early life to achieving business success, developing into an important property developer and show business personality which resulted in his name and views gaining national attention. He supported the presidential candidacy of Ronald Reagan, while at the same time donating money to both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Trump underwent a change of views and joined the Reform Party that had been started by Ross Perot, an earlier fringe anti-establishment presidential candidate. Extreme right wingers gained influence in this party, and despite considering a presidential bid in 1999 during which he won two primaries, Trump dropped out and left the Reform Party. As early as March 2011, Trump was considering a run for the presidency in 2012 and was ahead of eventual Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney in the polls, although he later elected not to campaign and enter the primaries.


The campaigns of both Clinton and Trump have not been short of controversy right from the outset.


Clinton’s problems started with her controversial action when she was the Secretary of State with regard to the assassination of the U.S. Ambassador in the Benghazi attack on the embassy, where she took responsibility for failed security measures. Subsequent revelations that she ran her official emails on her own private computer and server, rather than on a secure State Department system are still having a backlash on her candidacy that may still result in her being disqualified by the Democratic party bosses.


Trump on the other hand has become known for controversial impromptu statements such as banning Muslims from entry into the United States to building a wall across the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out, offending many potential voters. Besides these off the cuff and often insulting and hurtful statements, Trump does not seem to have much of a foreign policy position, other than to say U.S. allies should help bear the cost burden of the support and protection the United States provides. This has angered a wide range of American allies such as Saudi Arabia who are very much dependent on U.S. protection.


The commonality between Trump and Clinton also continues on to their personal lives in some strange ways. Both have Jewish sons-in-law, while Trump’s daughter has converted to Judaism and lives an orthodox observant life, Clinton’s daughter has opted for a dual religious marriage. The fathers of both sons-in-law have served time in prison.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner’s father was arrested on charges of tax evasion, illegal campaign donations and witness tampering in 2004 and was eventually convicted of the above-mentioned charges. Clinton’s son-in-law, Marc Mezvinsky’s father pleaded guilty to fraud in 2001 and spent five years in prison for scamming $10 million out of family and friends in a Ponzi scheme.


The position that any United States Administration has with regard to its dealings with Israel are regularly a cause for speculation and controversy. Neither Clinton nor Trump have come out with a definite position in this sensitive area, but both have vacillated between unqualified support for the Netanyahu government to serious criticism for many of its policies. The fact that both have Jewish sons-in-law is very often touted as a factor that will influence their policies, although this possibility could be overstated.


Both candidates claim that their experience is a key component to becoming an effective President of the United States. Clinton sees her experience in government over many years as an essential to navigating her way as President while Trump touts his business experience and successes as a far more important and effective qualification. Many aspects of Clinton’s political career reveal a secretive personality which might be the root cause of the Benghazi and email scandals. The actual facts of the Whitewater scandal and other controversies have never been fully released or explained. Trump is equally secretive about his actual financial position, claiming to be worth around $10 billion, while Forbes rate his worth at around $4.5 billion. Trump is also being pretty cagey about revealing his tax information which will give voters a clearer picture. An analysis of Trump’s business career by The Economist in 2016, concludes that his “…performance [from 1985 to 2016] has been mediocre compared with the stock market and property market in New York”, noting both his successes and bankruptcies. He does not run a public company; so exact details are often very sketchy.


The final commonality we will look at is their position and potential candidacy as viewed by their respective party bosses.


The State Department Inspector General has recently found that Hillary Clinton was clearly in violation of the Federal Records Act, amongst the other findings with regard to her email actions, must surely have the Democratic Party very concerned. While there is no certainty at this stage, the possibility exists that she could face criminal charges in respect of her actions during her tenure as Secretary of State. Party bosses might well decide to disqualify her as a candidate and seek a compromise candidate as they are not over enamored with Bernie Sanders and his extreme socialist views.


The negative view many Republican Party leaders have of a Trump candidacy is an open secret. There are continual calls for party unity, but the fact remains that Donald Trump has ruffled many feathers amongst a wide range of American voters which has the party bosses more than worried. While Trump has emerged as the only presidential candidate from the Republican Party primaries, it would appear that certain senior figures in the GOP would like to find ways to disqualify him as a candidate.


While both Clinton and Trump might have a number of policy differences about how the United States should be run, the many similarities might mean that there would not be much to choose from between and a Hillary Clinton Administration and one headed by Donald Trump.