One of the most interesting and unusual campaign that the United States has ever seen.
09.03.2008 - Mary Lynn Woods
The race to be the Democratic Nominee for President is certainly the most unusual primary race America has ever seen. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both Democratic Senators. Differentiating their platforms is a game of nuance. The similarities between their ideas regarding the war in Iraq, the economy, and health care, could make a very long list. Their opposing ideas are found primarily in the details of executing the plans that they mostly agree on. There are no significant differences between the candidates, so it narrows to a race determined by intangible traits. Without widely varying policy initiatives, deciding between Obama and Clinton becomes a decision of character, image, and charisma. Comparing their platforms, however, is essential in understanding what all the fighting is over. The hottest issues are health care, the war in Iraq, and the economy. Obama and Clinton both propose a plan for universal health care. They propose that the United States finance health care proposals through savings from increased efficiency in the health care system and the elimination of tax cuts for higher income families. Obama calls their plans 95% similar. Defining who is explicitly covered by these plans is where the candidates differ. Obama’s plan requires coverage only for children, but assumes that by making overall health care more affordable, adults will be included in this new wave of health care covered citizens. Clinton’s plan, on the other hand, requires that all U.S. residents gain health insurance. Obama and Clinton both want to quickly withdraw combat troops from Iraq, and leave some troops only for counter-terrorism operations. One of the facets of the campaign has been a retrospective look at both candidates’ records to decide when they began to speak out against the war in Iraq. Obama has opposed the war from the beginning. Not long after September 11th and then start of the war in Iraq by operation Shock and Awe, Obama’s position was not one of the more popular. Now, however, with many years of growing resentment against the war in Iraq, Obama is seen as the candidate who anticipated this perceived failure and is a symbol for change in America. Before Obama was a member of the Senate, though, Clinton voted for the initial invasion of Iraq. This part of her voting record is referenced when the Obama campaign wants to suggest that her politics are the way of the past and that Obama would help usher in a fresh new perspective. Though their positions on the war in Iraq are mostly congruent now, this ability to look at their voting records in hindsight is largely the point of separation for the two candidates.
The American economy is not the robust one of yesteryear. The dollar is losing value in relation to the Euro and the Yen, the housing market is getting knocked off its feet, and international companies find more security when they begin investing in currencies other than the dollar. Recession is a dreaded word that is finding itself on more and more economists’ forecasts. Clinton has proposed a $70 billion economic stimulus package to re-ignite a flailing economy. She also proposes a $30 billion emergency housing crisis fund to assist states and cities through the effects of mounting foreclosures on mortgages. Obama proposes a $75 billion plan to stimulate the economy. He suggests a $250 tax cut on every American worker to stimulate the economy. Clinton’s campaign emphasizes her EXPERIENCE in politics, often claiming the 8 years she served as First Lady as added experience in understanding complex matters of state. Obama’s campaign emphasizes a desire for CHANGE, suggesting that Clinton’s experience translates to antiquated policies, while he will bring a fresh perspective to the White House. Obama published a book in 2007 called The Audacity of Hope, which underscores this promise for change. Most unusual about this campaign are the candidates themselves. Never before have the front-runners for the Democratic Nomination for President of the United States been a woman and an African-American. Not to mention, that at this point in the election calendar, the parties’ nominees are all but carved in stone. Last week, more states participated in primaries across the nation on Super Tuesday, but a clear front-runner among the Democratic candidates is yet to be determined. The country’s attention is focused in large part on this exciting primary showdown between Clinton and Obama. But because they are from the same party, their platforms do not show a great deal of contrast. And due to this, news coverage of the two candidates relies on character differences to highlight each candidate’s individuality. So the defining moments of the campaign become less about substantive policy issues and more about personality traits. She cried at a press conference. He complained about her husband’s attacks on him. These bits of minutia are the small nuts and bolts of campaigns that are more or less quite similar.
In recent weeks, when the race should have been winding down and a selected candidate would normally be moving toward the General Election against a Republican, these candidates are still duking it out between themselves. Most recently, though, Obama and Clinton have been noticeably kinder to each other. They are intentionally not allowing these campaigns to be reduced to pie throwing contests. They are members of the same party and don’t want to sully the face of a fellow Democrat. Also, many people surmise that ultimately these candidates might unite on a ticket: one as President and one as Vice-President. In this scenario, Clinton is on the top of the ticket as President.
Their differences are often a matter of details rather than broad ideas, but these candidates are providing one of the most interesting and unusual campaigns that the United States has ever seen.
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