The Greatest Show on Earth: the 2016 Republican Primary Race
by Caleb Rhodes on Friday, October 2nd, 2015
The 2016 Presidential campaign is heating up after the second Republican debate on September 16, 2015. The primetime debate, headlined by none other than business tycoon Donald Trump, consisted of the top 11 Republican candidates at the time. By Trump’s side was fellow candidate and neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson. These two candidates are part of a growing trend of unconventional presidential hopefuls, who break from the norm of career politicians.
Trump’s main strategy comes off as a disregard for etiquette and an unabashed courage to espouse opinions that are often uninformed or simply disrespectful. Whether referring to Mexicans as “rapists” and “criminals”, or women as “fat pigs” and “disgusting animals” with the oft repeated defense that he doesn’t “have the time for total political correctness,” Trump appears that he truly could care less. Honestly, who could blame him when he leads Carly Fiorina by 9%, with 24% support, according to a September 21st CNN poll?
Trump’s callous behavior draws voters in, but the question is why? Why does a quarter of the GOP support someone with no political experience? Logic says politics is for politicians, but in this primary we are seeing a paradigm shift to the unconventional. Logan Troy (II) believes “America is so obsessed with reality TV that we want to turn politics into reality TV.” While this idea describes the amusement derived from Trump’s comments, if entertainment were the only factor, then wouldn’t all candidates just turn on the charm? Mr. Emmott provides a more thematic explanation, suggesting that Americans “feel deeply threatened by the turbulent economic situation of the past 8 years [and] see the rise of ISIS and the migration crisis in Europe as an indication that the world is becoming unstable and threatening to the US.” This kind of fear causes people to, for example, turn to Trump’s ideology of building “great walls” to keep Mexicans out. Unshackled from the dance of politics, Trump can make these bold statements that, to a casual American, might seem reassuring. Questions about the Iraq war or implementation of common core (a contested national educational standard) might bog down Governor Jeb Bush, who has to account for his track record, but perhaps not Trump. The beauty of the unconventional candidates such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson as Marshall Sloane (II) comments, is that “due to their previous careers outside of politics, [the candidates] are seen as people who have done well in other areas and can translate those skills to government.”
What makes a candidate unconventional is entirely subjective. Jessie Smith (III) thinks a candidate is unconventional when he or she “say[s] and support[s] ideas and solutions that are either unheard of or unaccepted in this country.” This line of thought would classify someone like President Obama as conventional. Although he ran on the idea of change, he hasn’t really challenged the status quo (though I’m not saying that his achievements, such as ObamaCare, aren’t notable). Obama, like many before him, hasn’t really hosted serious discussions on “race, inequality, the environment, the proper role of money in politics, and the balance between governmental power and corporate power,” as Mr. Emmott notes.
Throughout American history some presidential candidates have always been at odds with convention, either in their policies and doctrines or their backgrounds and personalites. This current campaign features both Republicans Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and to a lesser degree Carly Fiorina, and Democrat Bernie Sanders who all have shown themselves to be “unconventional” in many ways. We can only wait and see how the election turns out. Perhaps unconventional will evolve into the new status quo.
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