American politics is traditionally splayed out on a spectrum that simplifies the complexities of political opinion to one of two directions. Politicians in the United States fall somewhere on this line, between the extreme right and extreme left wings. The modern left, or liberal, side of the spectrum is typically represented by the Democratic Party and the modern right, or conservative, side of the spectrum is typically represented by the Republicans. However, polarization [the increasingly divisional nature of politics and the increasing distance between the right and left due to shifts in the political beliefs of certain regions or demographics groups] has caused much of the traditional right-left balance to become asymmetric.
Much of the media prefers to represent the Democratic and Republican parties as two sides, equal and opposite, as it makes analysis and discussion simpler and easier for the news people to report and their viewers to comprehend. However, this is a misleading assertion; today’s GOP has become incredibly skewed due to an extreme influx of big-money and the effects of a new, angry, and perverse populist movement known as the ‘Tea Party’.
This shift on the political right has greatly affected the candidacies of such presidential prospects as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz; their empty rhetoric and angry xenophobia feed into the racist undertones of their supporters. Hidden behind these promises are ‘small government’ principles that serve to satisfy their wealthy supporters by delivering huge tax cuts for the rich by slashing social services and destroying the middle class. The most devious trick of all the hoaxes perpetrated by the GOP, however, is a more subtle one.
Many Americans would agree that the policies of Donald Trump are extreme, but seem convinced that there is reason to be found on the right, convinced that the policies of Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and especially John Kasich would not be just as destructive to the United States economy, society, and foreign policy as the current front-runners.
This is a misconception perpetrated by a media environment that desperately wants to believe that there is symmetry, that the rational, thoughtful assessment of evidence which is often found on the left is matched by anyone on the right.
For example, Marco Rubio has positioned himself as a young, well-spoken, and moderate alternative to the angry populism of Cruz and Trump. However, during his short tenure in the Senate, he clearly demonstrated his far-right conservative style. In a February 12th, 2013 vote, Senator Rubio voted not to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a bill from the 1990s that strengthens federal penalties for rapists and wife-beaters and ensures that families suffering from abuse have access to protection and social services.
This vote received support from almost 80% of the Senate. A Senate that not only had a Republican majority, but has been considered by scholars to be one of the most obstructive of all time. The 113th Congress, in session when this bill was passed, had the lowest approval rating since Gallup began polling on this issue in 1974. Marco Rubio was not voting with his party or the American people – he was simply demonstrating that he adheres to the same brand of extreme-conservatism being sold by the rest of the GOP candidates.
Another candidate who has received a lot of love from centrists is John Kasich. Governor of a swing state, Kasich believes that he is most suited to unify the partisan country and set most of his presidential hopes in the relatively moderate New Hampshire primary, where he placed second. However, Kasich’s economic policy is “terrible, arguably worse than the rest of the GOP field,” according to emeritus professor of Economics and International Relations at Princeton and frequent New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
Krugman went on to explain that Kasich adheres to an anti-Keynesian doctrine of hard money, balanced budgets, and extreme fiscal conservatism. According to Krugman, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2008, had Kasich been elected instead of President Obama in 2008, the “Great Recession,” which came about with the financial crisis and subprime mortgage crisis and was rectified through stimulus packages and low interest rates, would have looked a lot more like the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Although he represents a break from the Republican Party on certain social issues, his economic policies pose an extreme risk to this country’s future; his unwillingness to stimulate the economy and his stubborn objection to running a deficit would, at the first sign of economic trouble, lead to an exacerbation of the problem that would cost millions of Americans their jobs.
According to CBS News, one GOP candidate said, when discussing the stance on admitting Syrian refugees, “I don’t think orphans under five should be admitted into the United States at this point. You know, they have no family here.”
This is not a quote of front-runner Donald Trump, discussing the extreme hatred he senses from mosques, or Iowa victor Ted Cruz, who wants refugees to pass a religious test proving that they are Christian before they are admitted to the United States.
The quote above shows callous disregard for the lives and well-beings of the thousands of displaced people who deserve our empathy and assistance. To assert that there is no place for orphans under five years old, from whom no danger is posed, is radical and shameful. The United States shares much of the blame for the crisis in Syria, and we ought to do a lot more to aid the people that are suffering because of our misguided foreign policy. The very least we can do, other than doing nothing, is to take in the poor, helpless, orphans who, at such a young age, pose no threat to the United States.
Also in this quote, Governor of New Jersey and former Presidential candidate Chris Christie espouses his belief that these orphans should be turned away because they have no family here. The fact that they are orphans leads one to believe that they have no family anywhere; sending them back to a war torn country controlled by a genocidal extremist group is not only irresponsible, but it rejects the fundamental ideals upon which America was built.
Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H. W. Bush, posits himself as the rational and reasonable alternative to the mania of Donald Trump. He is an establishment stalwart who placed fourth in the New Hampshire primary. His website asserts that he is best poised to challenge Hillary Clinton in the general election due to his appeal to the center and his moderate and reasonable views on limited government.
Jeb proposes a number of ways to cut social services, increase military spending, increase big business subsidies, and cut taxes on the rich. Implementing all of these policies would increase the cost of governing by billions of dollars, in a country whose government is already chastised relentlessly for over-spending. Bush’s website even contends that he will “make the federal government live within its means.” How does Bush plan to increase governmental costs by lowering taxes without running an even greater deficit?
The answer is by practicing what some have termed “voodoo economics.” As a candidate that claims to be the voice of reason and logic, some would expect more of him than made-up policies not supported by any semblance of mathematical understanding or prudence.
Jeb’s plan is to increase the country’s growth to four percent, thereby increasing the tax revenue even while lowering taxes. The problem is that Jeb plans to more than double current growth, an unprecedented feat under a leader from either side of the aisle, and he has no real plan by which to achieve this goal. Bush is relying wholly on deception and misdirection; by lying to his supporters about what is possible, he is as far from a moderate politician as one can be. The fact that he uses softer words than Donald Trump has no association with the lunacy of his underlying policies.
The Republican candidates for the presidency are all different voices of the same misguided, far-right conservatism that believes in oppressive social policies, foreign policy decisions like those that led us to the Iraq War, and economic policies intent upon raising up the rich, lowering the poor, and creating a system in which our country is at constant risk of an economic crisis.
To assert that any GOP candidate’s policies are fundamentally distinct from the openly heartless positions of Ted Cruz or are not rooted in the same lies and hatred upon which the Trump campaign is based is to buy into a fallacy created by candidates who do not value the intelligence of their constituencies. For a person who considers themselves center or left wing to vote for any of the current GOP candidates is to prove them right.