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Destler Dodge

The 2016 presidential election is unique when compared to its predecessors. The introduction of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and alternative right Donald Trump has pushed the already polarized Democratic and Republican parties to even further extremes.

Only four short years ago, President Barack Obama campaigned for re-election against then Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Although each party had its clear policy distinctions, no one questioned the validity of each party’s platform or the fitness of a candidate to lead. Now the current election cycle seems to be a far cry from the Democratic and Republican parties' former platforms.

The Former Democratic Party

Back in 2008, Obama was a superstar progressive that rallied scores of minority and millennial voters to the polls. He had new ideas, a fresh perspective and a “Yes We Can” slogan that gave hope to a suffering generation that the Bush era was finally over and a new era would begin.

Then four years later, the honeymoon bells stopped ringing and voters were faced with the harsh reality that recovering from the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression can only happen at a snail’s pace. In 2012, the Democratic party was less concerned about starting a new political revolution than trying to resell Obama to its weary voters. His second campaign slogan, “Forward” — better described as “Steady as she goes” — was an effort to encourage voters to be patient for the prosperity to come. Although did not retrieve back all the youth voters he rallied in 2008 they were still a deciding factor in the election as statistics by Pew Research Center shows.

The Former Republican Party

After their defeat in 2008, many Republicans felt threatened by the drastic changes to federal powers Obama had implemented, such as the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). Many blue-collar conservatives felt that House Republicans were becoming weak on fiscal policy and wanted a more aggressive push to reduce the deficit while ensuring traditional values were kept in American homes.

Entering from the far-right stage was the Tea Party: a pro-austerity, ultra-conservative wave of radicalization in the Republican party. There first champion was Ted Cruz who helped win decisive victories in the senate primary races according to the Washington Post. They wanted to reduce spending and the national budget, lower taxes and keep the government the hell out of their business — and were willing to shut down the government to do it. The invasion of the Tea Party mustered internal turmoil within the GOP, leaving more orthodox Republicans — such as presidential candidate Mitt Romney — struggling for power. 

2012 Candidate Platforms  Barack Obama Mitt Romney
Economy

Increase taxes on the wealthy

Modest budget cuts

Lower taxes

Extensive budget cuts

Healthcare Protect the Affordable Care Act Repeal the Affordable Care Act
National Security

Cut defense to balance budget

Build diplomatic ties with China

Remove boots from the ground and focus on drone strikes

Build diplomatic ties with UK and Israel

Increase defense spending

Aggressively stop Iran’s nuclear program

Social Issues

Supports same-sex marriage

Pro-choice

Promotes traditional marriages only

Pro-life

The Democratic Party and Their Nominee Now

 The US News and World Report claims that Hillary Clinton is either a progressive or a moderate depending on who her audience is. In 2008, Hillary Clinton marketed herself as the moderate Democrat, someone who stresses bipartisanism by meeting in the middle and working with Republicans. However, the trend toward polarization of party ideology had already begun. Obama’s calls for progressivism appealed to young voters seeking significant political change, whereas Clinton’s conventional approach seemed out of date and out of touch.

Then after her bitter loss to Obama she inevitably was forced to go further to the left. She started supporting full marriage equality for same-sex couples as opposed to just equal benefits. Then, with the introduction of the even more radical Bernie Sanders, a movement for democratic socialism came and the party sparred within itself to accommodate a new generation of ultra-liberal voters. It wasn't until Clinton shed her identity as a moderate altogether and joined forces with the progressives that she presented herself less like a third-term Bill Clinton but more of a third-term Obama, allowing her to siphon lingering voters not ready to make the shift into socialism.

The Republican Party and Their Nominee Now

Trump has spent most of his life as a liberal Democrat up until the last decade, claims the Washington Post. Trump and his brand have donated to numerous Democrats' campaigns, including Hillary Clinton's. Trump has been quoted supporting abortion, the legalization of drugs and increasing taxes on the wealthy. It was not until the tail end of Bush’s presidency and the first election of Obama that Trump took a more conservative turn, beginning with the birther controversy.

According to The Atlantic, after the failure of the Tea Party, the very same low-income, white, blue-collar workers that had been frustrated with the GOP have now completely lost faith in the Republican party. Entering the farthest right of the stage is Donald J. Trump and the alternative right movement, a radical right-wing ideology that completely rejects mainstream conservatism. In response to the wave of fiscally progressive policies and expansion of government under Obama, these Republicans want to take back their country and “Make America Great Again.” Trump answers their calls through isolationist policies that put America first, bring back jobs from overseas and tells the rest of the world who’s boss. Additionally, to the dismay of the traditional Republican party, Trump’s spitfire rhetoric appeals to voters' emotions.

2016 Candidate Platforms Website: www.hillaryclinton.com Website: www.donaldjtrump.com
Economy

Raise taxes for the wealthy

Invest in clean energy, infrastructure and technology

Provide tax relief for small businesses

America first trade policy

Reduce taxes across the board

End job-killing regulations on industries

Healthcare

Supports Planned Parenthood

Paid family and medical leave

Expand the Affordable Care Act

Repeal Obamacare

Allow purchase of insurance across state lines

Maximize flexibility of states with block grants

National Security

Supports Iran Deal

Work with allies to build coalition against ISIS

Build stronger ties with Cuba

Increase size of the military

Use Cold War tactics to defeat radical Islamic ideology

Disagrees with Iran Deal

Social Issues

Reform the criminal justice system

Comprehensive background checks

Fight climate change

Supports right-to-carry

Ensure Law and Order in inner cities

Protect the Constitution

Political parties will continue to evolve in their efforts to win over voters. Where this will take our country is yet to be seen.