A series of special blog posts on the 2016 US Election from a team of experts from the University of Reading's Department of History and Department of Politics. 

Why Hilary Clinton’s stance on Iran is similar to that of JFK

By Darius Wainwright

In April 2015, Iran pledged to halt its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Washington had imposed this embargo on Tehran since the 1979 deposition of the pro-western Iranian monarchy. The agreement reached in Switzerland was doubtless significant. Economically, it brought a country with significant commercial potential out of the international wilderness. Politically meanwhile, it helped unite forces fighting against the so-called Islamic State. Current US President Barack Obama claimed the deal had made the world a ‘safer place’.[i] His Secretary of State, John Kerry, argued that the agreement reached with Iran helped to stabilise the Middle East, a region long fraught with tension.[ii]

Yet not everyone in the Democrat Party shares Obama and Kerry’s enthusiasm for the Iran deal. The former Secretary of State and current presidential nominee, Hilary Clinton, has expressed concern at the nature of the agreement. While agreeing to the deal in principle, she has chastised the White House for not obtaining more concessions from the Iranians and has instead called for greater US scrutiny to ensure Tehran adheres to its pledges on nuclear cultivation.[iii] Recent press reports have accused the Iranian government of still enriching uranium, while also arresting and executing more opponents of the Islamic Republic than ever before.[iv]

 

Such scepticism towards Iran is not uncommon in the Democrat Party. John F. Kennedy was notably wary of close US-Iran ties, in direct contrast to other key actors in 1950s and 1960s American politics. As the Iranian Shah, Reza Pahlavi, was vehemently opposed to communism, many in the GOP and the State Department regarded ties with Iran as key to the Cold War in the Middle East. From 1953 onwards,

This formed part of the JFK Administration’s wider ‘New Frontier’ stance to foreign affairs, where democracy promotion in developing countries was seen as key to winning the Cold War. A task force, comprised of National Security advisors McGeroge Bundy, Walt Rostow and Robert Komer, as well as Secretary of State Dean Rusk, was appointed by Kennedy to deal with Iran. In a May 1961 meeting, the task force offered the Shah US support on the condition that he streamline Iran’s armed forces, delegate government responsibilities and distribute land owned by nobles to peasants.

 

However, the Kennedy Administration’s approach towards Iran was short lived. The Shah had grown suspicious over JFK’s motives. The Iranian monarch was convinced that through these reforms recommended by the task force the White House sought to replace him with an American stooge. In July 1962, the Shah began to tighten his control over Iranian governmental affairs. He sacked his pro-US Prime Minister, Ali Amini, and replaced him with his close confidante, Asadollah Alam. The Shah proceeded to outmanoeuvre the Kennedy Administration. In 1963, the Iranian monarch implemented a reform programme of his own called the ‘White Revolution’, which aimed to socially and economically advance Iran. Contrary to the series of reforms proposed by Kennedy’s task force, these did not intend to promote a more egalitarian Iranian society. Rather than being run by ordinary workers, key industries, such as agriculture and manufacturing, came under the control of the Shah’s acolytes.

Similarities can be drawn from Kennedy and Clinton’s stance towards Iran. Both have recognised the importance of US ties to the country to achieve the wider American foreign policy aim of geopolitical stability in the Middle East. Yet both Democrats feared that too much Iran-US collaboration would fail to lead to internal change in the Middle Eastern country. The lesson for Clinton – should she seek a middle way in the US approach towards Iran – is to look at the failings of Kennedy’s tactics and foster more of a rapport with her Iranian counterparts. That way, US foreign policy aims can be achieved in a region that is just as important to the American government today as it was over 50 years ago.

 


[i] Gregory Korte, ‘Obama: Iran deal makes US safer’ USA Today, 17 January 2016, http://www.usat oday.com/story/news/politics/2016/01/17/obama-iran-deal-makes-world-safer/78931152.

[ii] Tom DiChristopher, ‘John Kerry: the world is safer thanks to Iran deal’ CNBC, 21 January 2016, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/01/21/sec-of-state-kerry-iran-was-hurtling-toward-a-full-fledged-nuclear-weapon-program.html.

[iii] Mark Lander, ‘For Hilary Clinton and John Kerry, divergent paths to Iran nuclear talks’ New York Times, 2 May 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/politics/for-hillary-clinton-and-john-kerry-divergent-paths-to-iran-nuclear-talks.html?r=0.

[iv] ‘Iran’s human rights situation worsening, says UN special rapporteur’ The Guardian, 16 March 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/16/un-rapporteur-human-rights-situation-in-iran-worsening

 

 

 WHY DONALD TRUMP’S STANCE ON IRAN SIGNALS A SHIFT IN GOP THINKING

By Darius Wainwright

Since 1945, American policymakers have regarded the maintaining of diplomatic dialogue with Iran as crucial to their wider interests in the Middle East. In the early and middle stages of the Cold War, the US government regarded ties with the Iranian government as necessary to countering the Soviet Union’s presence in the Middle East. Presently however, the United States’ political motives for engaging with Iran differ. The emergence of Islamic fundamentalist groups such as the so-called Islamic State – who oppose the US and Iran in equal measure – concerns both countries. It is this mutual anxiety that compelled the United States and Iran to sign an April 2015 agreement, where the Middle Eastern country halted its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. These had been in place since 1979, when the pro-western monarchy in Iran was toppled by a popular revolt.

Yet not everyone involved in American politics possesses a belief that the United States and Iran share mutual interests. The Republican Party presidential nominee, Donald Trump, opposes the agreement reached by the US and Iran. According to Trump, Washington should be wary of dealing with Tehran. The deal agreed by current President Barack Obama is financially stacked in the Middle Eastern country’s favour, reflecting the fact that Iranians are supposedly better negotiators than their American counterparts.[i]

 

Such orientalist rhetoric is far removed from the stance taken towards Tehran by Republican Presidents before 1979. Indeed, the 1952 election of Dwight D. Eisenhower is regarded as a ‘watershed moment’ for US-Iran relations.[ii] The international standing of Britain – the dominant western power in the Middle East since the Eighteenth Century – was on the wane, compelling US policymakers to take a greater interest in the region’s affairs. To both Eisenhower and his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, relations with Iran were pivotal to American diplomatic interests in the Middle East. Arab Nationalist governments, closely aligned to the Soviet Union, emerged in Egypt, Iraq and Syria during Eisenhower’s presidency. Ties with the anti-communist Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, then, were crucial to maintaining the United States’ regional standing. The American government sought to bolster the Iranian monarch’s grip over Iranian affairs. In August 1953, the then Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddeq – who had challenged the Shah’s authority by calling for Iran to remain neutral in the Cold War – was removed from office by a joint CIA-MI6 backed coup. Subsequent years would see the Eisenhower Administration approve the supply of considerable amounts of American military equipment to the Iranian armed forces, elevating the Middle Eastern country to a prominent regional power.

It was during Richard Nixon’s presidency however that US-Iran collaboration reached its zenith. In part this was down to the wider US diplomacy of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Crippled by the on-going conflict in Vietnam, American policymakers adopted the Nixon Doctrine, pledging to extensively support – but not directly intervene in the affairs of – international allies. More crucial though was the close rapport shared by both leaders. Before becoming President, Nixon was a frequent guest of the Shah, with the Iranian monarch donating heavily to the Californian’s ill-fated 1960 presidential campaign. In a May 1972 meeting in Tehran, Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, gave the Shah and his advisors a ‘blank cheque’.[iii] This not only gave the Iranians access to an unlimited supply of advanced American weaponry (nuclear weapons aside), but gave Iran the freedom to exercise US foreign policy in the Middle East on Washington’s behalf.

 

Of course Republican Presidents since 1979 have been less willing to engage with Iran. The replacing of a pro-American monarchy with an Islamic government sceptical of the west was bound to increase tensions, as was the November 1979 storming of the US Embassy in Iran and the taking of hostages. But where Trump differs GOP Presidents of the past – before and after 1979 – is his disregard for the value of a US-Iran diplomatic dialogue to US Middle Eastern interests. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush – despite the latter including the country in his ‘axis of evil’ – maintained an unofficial communication with the Iranian government. The former used clandestine deliberations to temper the activities of the Tehran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, while the latter relied on Iranian intelligence during the US-UK invasion of Afghanistan. A Trump win in November clearly would signal a dramatic shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East. Ties with Iran – historically a crucial tenet of US diplomacy in the region – would no longer be seen as crucial.

 


[i] Roham Alvandi, Nixon, Kissinger and the Shah: the United States and Iran in the Cold War (Oxford, 2014).

[ii] Steve Marsh, ‘Reinterpreting the policies of the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations towards Iran, 1950-54’, Journal of Cold War Studies 7/3 (2005), 79-123.

[iii] Ishaan Tharoor, ‘Donald Trump repeats stereotype of about Iranians when attacking Obama’ The Washington Post, 3 April 2016,https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/04/03/donald-trump-repeats-stereotype-about-iranians-when-attacking-obama/



 

 

 

 

ISOLATIONISM IS HILLARY CLINTON'S FOREIGN POLICY PROBLEM

By Dr Mara Oliva

As First Lady, Senator for New York and Secretary of State, the Democratic Presidential nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has a long foreign policy track record. She has travelled extensively, visiting more than 112 countries while at the State Department. If elected, she will have more foreign policy experience than any other President since Richard Nixon. Yet, such familiarity may not play in her favour.

Clinton is perceived as a military hawk, an advocate of US involvement in world affairs. She voted for the Iraq war as a Senator. As Secretary of State, she pushed for US intervention in Libya, lobbied President Obama to take military action against Bashar al- Assad in Syria and was an unenthusiastic supporter of the nuclear deal with Iran. In March 2016, she gave a major foreign policy speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (APAC) where she stated her support for Israel and completely ignored the plight of Palestinians. She is also in the difficult position of having to distance herself from the decisions made by her husband and former President, Bill Clinton, (particularly those related to free trade deals - NAFTA was signed in 1994) as well as President Obama's policy, without appearing to be rejecting her past and party.

As the primaries have shown us, an isolationist mood prevails in a large segment of the electorate today. Both the far right, represented by Donald Trump, and the far left, represented by Bernie Saunders, have been promising a retreat from globalisation in order to focus on domestic economic problems. If Hillary wants to win, she needs to reassure progressives, independents and liberal democrats (who have been voting in large numbers for Saunders during the primaries) that despite her record, she is willing to abandon, at least partially, her internationalist and interventionist foreign policy outlook.

 

 Her first step in appeasing these groups is her open questioning of international trade agreements. Mrs Clinton (like Trump) has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), a trade deal she once championed as Secretary of State, having argued that it was a crucial point of America's "pivot" to Asia.

But if history teaches us anything is that rejecting free trade and withdrawing into isolationism, not only fails to solve domestic economic problems, but also endangers national security. For more than 70 years, free trade has kept America in charge of world's economy and it is essential to the survival of the American Way of Life.

The 1898 Spanish-American War put an end to the illusion that the US was a self-sufficient nation protected by two oceans and two friendly neighbours (Canada and Mexico). Coming out from a terrible economic recession caused by surplus production, the country finally realised that isolationism was self-defeating and it needed to take a bigger role in world affairs. Unsurprisingly, the main battle of "this splendid little war" fought over Cuban independence took place in Manila, the Philippines, at the doorstep of the China market. One million customers could take care of American economic problems while learning about the American Way of Life and converting to Christianity. America's informal empire was born, and under President Theodore Roosevelt, the country quickly turned into an industrial and naval power.

 

Very much like today, the country's economic and international political standing was hit by the re-emergence of isolationist feelings in the 1920s and 1930s. American involvement in Europe had brought war in 1917 and unpaid debts throughout the 1920s. In 1929, the stock market crashed and each passing month brought greater hardships. Having grown weary with the course of world events, citizens were convinced that the most important issues to tackle were domestic.

President Hoover and his administration responded with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. The Act raised tariffs, provoked retaliation from the rest of the world, and exacerbated the Great Depression. It took FDR's New Deal and the massive industrialisation generated by WWII to get America back on its feet. At the end of the conflict, the US emerged as the world's strongest economy. Since then, it has played an active foreign policy role in order to prevent another economic downturn. Indeed, protecting access to free markets was the main reason why the US fought an almost 50 years long Cold War with the Soviet Union.

 

 Without free trade the American way of Life cannot expand. And if it does not expand, it shrinks and eventually dies. As in the past, the US cannot afford to withdraw back to isolationism. Mrs Clinton needs to make sure that what she promises for immediate political gain during her campaign does not come back to haunt her, if she gets into the White House.


COULD FOREIGN POLICY BE TRUMP'S WINNING CARD? HISTORY SEEMS TO SUGGEST SO.

By Dr Mara Oliva

Now that the conventions are over, it is time to look at the issues! In the next two thought provoking posts, Dr Mara Oliva looks at the role foreign policy has historically played in presidential elections and what it can tell us about the current race.

In December 2015, a Pew Research Center's survey found that for the first time in years, national security rather than domestic economy was the leading concern of the American electorate. The poll had been taken a few weeks after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and specifically, terrorism was the issue that people were most concerned about. But just a month later, a new Gallup survey revealed that the economy was back up as a number one problem. 86% of Americans said the economy will be extremely or very important to their vote, a significantly higher percentage than any other issue. Concern about terrorism ranked high at 74% with foreign affairs further down the list at 61%.

The truth is Americans rarely vote on foreign policy issues. And this election seems to be no exception, unless something dramatic happens leading up to November. As we heard from both Conventions in July, income equality, middle-class and upward mobility stagnation are America's priorities. Yet, foreign policy could still play an important role and deliver some (upsetting) surprises.

Historically, foreign policy has often proved to be a winning card for the Republican party. In a threatening environment, Americans tend to elect the person that looks stronger and holds hawkish positions. They also tend to even more severely punish candidates perceived to be dovish. The GOP has been very successful in producing nominees who skilfully use a bold and sometimes aggressive rhetoric and project an image of competent leader. Democrats are often perceived as more inclined to support diplomacy, something not all Americans consider effective.

 

 In 1952, (similarly to today), a public weary of the burdens of shaping the international order, frustrated by a Democratic President (Truman) who did not seem to have a strategy for winning the Korean war (the death toll had reached 25,000 Americans), and anxious about the spread of a foreign ideology threatening the American way life, elected in a landslide GOP candidate and World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Combining his personal charm with his military experience, Ike presented himself as the perfect antidote to the corrupt and soft on Communist Truman Administration. Voters saw him as a strong leader who could get the US out of Korea and finally stand up to the Soviet Union.

 

The 1968 Presidential election was one of the most chaotic in American history. Though economy and civil rights played a key role for both parties, the renewed opposition to the Vietnam war, in light of the North Vietnamese Tet offensive, prompted Democratic President Johnson to announce that he was not running for re-election and left Democratic nominee Vice-President Hubert Humphrey with a problematic foreign policy legacy to defend, thus clearing the way for GOP candidate Richard M. Nixon. By promising a "honourable end to the war in Vietnam", Nixon told the American people just what they wanted to hear.

 

Foreign policy proved to be the defeating issue for President Jimmy Carter's re-election bid in 1980. Tensions between the US and the Soviet Union were high in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. By preaching for a more humble approach to foreign policy, Carter looked weak and hesitant. The Iran hostage crisis debacle made the American people question whether he was competent and strong enough. Republican candidate Ronald Reagan instead was bellicose and showed he was ready to be the next Commander-in-Chief.

 

Unlike Carter. President George W. Bush won his re-election in 2004 thanks to his successful foreign policy record. Americans saw him as a leader, someone who had led them in a war against terrorism and who had the respect of the military. The capture of Saddam Hussein reinforced this image and reassured people's concerns over the situation in Iraq.

Can Donald Trump exploit the current international situation to his advantage like previous GOP candidates? This election might not be about foreign policy, but it is a referendum of Obama's foreign affairs decisions. And Trump has been very good at capitalising on this so far. His proposals for foreign policy are, to say the least, controversial. From the nukes for Tokyo and Seoul to withdrawing support for NATO in favour of Putin's Russia, he has even managed to alienate his own party moderate wing. In March 2016, 121 self-described members of the Republican National Security Community signed a public letter pledging to work against Trump's election and blasting him as utterly unfit for the White House. As one of them put it, "He swings from isolationism to military adventurism in the space of one sentence."

 

 

 

Yet, he has managed to grab the attention of a considerable number of Americans. Perhaps not so much because of what he says, but how he says it. His acceptance speech at the GOP National Convention in July took the rhetoric of fear to a whole new level. The speech (like his campaign strategy) revolves around three staples: 1) Fear, 2) Anger & 3) Hatred. Accuracy of facts is irrelevant. What counts is to make the electorate scared enough so that it sees no other choice but to vote for the more bellicose candidate. The breakdown is easy. FEAR: appeal to the American people's emotions by telling them that the American way of life is in danger. ANGER: offer the public a culprit to blame, in this case President Obama and his corrupted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. HATRED: put America first by hating everything and everyone that does not embrace it and present yourself as the only candidate who will be strong enough, who will not indulge in academic-level diplomacy but would be ready to do whatever it takes to protect American lives. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton is stuck with Obama's legacy and her four years as Secretary of State to defend.

 

Will history repeat itself? Will fear prevail and push Americans to vote for the candidate that "seems" to be stronger? Hopefully not!

The Democratic Convention 

by Dafydd Townley

At this year's Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Hillary Clinton will be officially declared as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate. Despite the challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, it's been a relatively easy affair. Clinton had the support of the majority of the superdelegates - the elected holders of office, the party leaders, and the Democratic members of the Senate and Congress. She appears to have the backing of the entire party and can plan ahead with confidence. Such confidence is usually reserved for incumbent presidents searching for re-election. Not so in the case of Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

 

Johnson had been John F Kennedy's Vice President, and had assumed the office of the presidency under the 20th Amendment of the Constitution when Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. Bobby Kennedy, John's brother, had been the Attorney General during his brother's presidency and was extremely popular among the various officials of the Kennedy administration. As a result Johnson was severely worried about the possibility of Kennedy and his supporters performing a coup at the 1964 Convention. Such a coup would lead to Kennedy usurping Johnson as the Democratic candidate and ending Johnson's long political career. Johnson, fearful of the additional concerns of radical elements within the Democratic Party who wanted a more militant and politically dangerous Civil Rights Bill, asked J Edgar Hoover for help.

 

 Hoover and Johnson had been neighbours for a number of years in Washington, and both men shared a perverse interest in potentially harmful gossip. Johnson knew that Hoover was a potentially important weapon in maintaining his own political survival. He ingratiated himself with Hoover, telling him shortly after taking office 'as far as I'm concerned, you're my brother and personal friend. You have been for twenty-five to thirty years.'[1] Hoover obliged Johnson's request not least because he disliked the Kennedy brothers, but because he was insecure in his position as Director of the FBI. Hoover was fast approaching mandatory retirement age for federal employees and knew that by agreeing to help Johnson he could avoid being forced into retirement.

 

Johnson was particularly worried about Martin Luther King's influence on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The MFDP were claiming to be the legal delegates for Mississippi as the regular Mississippi Democratic only allowed whites to vote. Instead a deal was brokered by civil rights leaders and party members to nullify the Mississippi delegation's vote. The MFDP were unhappy because it appeared as though the party was condoning segregated voting in Mississippi. The official Mississippi delegates refused to agree to any deal and almost all of them left the Convention.

 

Under the guise of being protection for the Johnson, the FBI sent agent Cartha DeLoach and a team of thirty agents to the Democratic Party's National Convention in Atlantic City in August 1964 'at the direction of the president.' Through a combination of informant coverage, infiltration of various groups, and by agents acting as reporters, the Bureau's Special Squad gained information on the various rival groups to Johnson's nomination. DeLoach reported back to Johnson by telephone with minute by minute update on the activities of Johnson's potential opponents, while the agents also remained 'alert to exploit opportunities for penetration of key dissident groups in Atlantic City and to suggest counter measures.'[2] As a result Johnson's special advisers such as Walter Jenkins would be able to keep Johnson one step in front of the MFDP and other potential opponents.

  

DeLoach later told Special Assistant William Moyers that it was 'a pleasure and privilege to be able to be of assistance to the President' and that he had 'only to call on us when a similar situation arises.'[3] When questioned about these activities by the 1975 Senate review of US intelligence agencies, the Church Committee, DeLoach maintained that such surveillance was essential to unearthing intelligence on possible violence and necessary to protect the president. Nonetheless, the warrantless surveillance and use of the FBI to undertake such a mission was unlawful and beyond its statutory remit, and a precursor of the Watergate affair. Johnson would later go on to again use the FBI to illegally investigate political opponents and dissident groups such as the anti-Vietnam war movement and the Ku Klux Klan. It's unlikely that Hillary Clinton will need to any time soon.

____________

[1] Lyndon Johnson to J Edgar Hoover, November 29, 1963, found in Michael R Bescholss (ed), Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-4, (New York, 1997), P58

[2] Cartha DeLoach to Mr Mohr, FBI Memorandum, August 29, 1964, found in United States Senate, Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Final Report together with additional, supplemental, and separate views, (S.Rpt. 94-755) [Hereafter referred to as Church Report] 'Volume 6: The FBI', (Washington: Government Printing Office, April 26, 1976) P623

[3] Cartha DeLoach to William Moyers, Letter, September 10, 1964, found in Church Report, 'Volume 6: The FBI', P510 

The Republican Convention  

It's convention season! This is the time of the year when national delegates get together at their respective party's convention to officially nominate their candidate for the US Presidential Election. First up is the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where Donald Trump will be nominated as a contentious candidate. The Ohio city has spent $50 million according to sources on security, mindful of the violence that has followed rallies supporting Donald Trump. The preparations have increased significantly following the deaths caused by policeman in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the sniper attack on policemen in Dallas. Usually the Conventions are incidents that are full of energy and celebration as delegates pledge their support for the Party's candidate. But concerns have increased significantly that the Republican Convention could turn violent. It would have to go a long way to rival the aggression and protests that took place at the most violent convention in living memory - the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

 Illinois National Guardsmen outside the Conrad Hotel. 

The 1968 Democratic Convention is famous for the battle of Michigan Avenue, when Chicago city police and Illinois National Guardsmen clashed with protestors. The scenes at the Convention were yet another indication of the violent nationwide schism that had manifested itself during the 1960s over the US involvement in the Vietnam War. The anti-war groups had lost their apparent leaders in Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Both men were assassinated in the months leading up to the Convention, and the peace movement had lost its rudder. By the time of the Convention the New Left and the political Left favoured peace candidate Eugene McCarthy. The incumbent President, Lyndon Johnson, had decided not to stand for re-election as the support of his party and the public turned against him. Instead, the establishment looked to Vice President Hubert Humphrey to be their candidate. By the time of the Convention neither candidate had a majority of delegates, which led to frantic behind the scenes dealing by Lyndon Johnson the Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley.

When the convention opened on August 26, 1968, the protestors had been in the city for several days and had already clashed with the heavy-handed city police. Daley had bragged that Chicago was 'the city that works' and was adamant that no protests were going to ruin the convention. However the fragmentation of the Democratic Party was unravelling before the nation. Over the four days of the Convention the supporters of Humphrey, McCarthy and Senator George McGovern of Dakota worked against each other to secure the nomination. In truth, there was little to challenge Humphrey who was Johnson's preferred candidate, but the Party was split on the issue of the future role of the US in the Vietnam War. But if it was organised chaos inside the Convention Hall at the International Amphitheatre, it was pandemonium outside on the streets of municpal Chicago

Chicago city policemen block the marching protestors on Michigan Avenue. 

The protestors consisted mostly of the Yippies, the Youth International Party, and MOBE, National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. The Yippies, radical left wing students, had already held their own convention and voted a real pig, Pigasus, as their candidate. When he was paraded in the city centre, Pigasus and several Yippies were arrested by the police. This had set the tone for the relationship between the police and the protestors throughout the convention. The police, aided by helicopters with searchlights and loudspeakers, drove out approximately 3000 protestors from Lincoln Park on the night of August 27, injuring about 60 and arresting 140. Meanwhile close to the Conrad Hotel in Grant Park, protestors displeased with prospect of a continuance of the war shouted 'Dump the Hump!' As they marched towards the Convention they found that the hotel had been surrounded by National Guardsmen, armed with bayonets. Urged by Democrats to not engage the troops, the students dispersed peacefully.

 Chicago policemen engaging the protestors.

 The following day was a different matter. 15000 protestors convened for a MOBE event in Grant Park and were charged by police when a protestor lowered the American flag.  The rally continued after police left and the protestors marched again towards the Conrad Hotel and the Convention. This time the Chicago police were there to meet them. As the marchers chanted 'The whole world is watching!' the police fired tear gas into the crowd and charged, swinging their billy-clubs with alarming precision. The brutal and horrific police violence was broadcast all over the world indicating a total breakdown in law and order. Over 175 were arrested and more than 100 were injured. The tear gas was so dense that it wafted inside the hotel reaching the thirteenth floor apartment of Humphrey. Near midnight, amid the delegates' condemnation of the police brutality outside, Humphrey was elected as the Democratic candidate. Unfortunately for the Democratic Party in the forthcoming election it was associated with the violence and chaos of the Chicago convention. In a decade where there had been social upheaval, assassinations and street protests, the Democrats failed to portray itself as a party of law and order. As a consequence Republican candidate and former Vice President Richard Nixon, who had promised to end the war in Vietnam, won the law and order debate that surrounded the 1968 presidential election.

 


 Yippies with their presidential Pigasus

 Chicago police arrest Pigasus.

 

CONGRESS TO CAMPUS: A BRIEF REPORT

On February 29, 2016, the Department of History hosted the prestigious event Congress to Campus. This day-long event - organised in association with the US Association of Former Members of Congress and the Eccles Centre at the British Library - brought together politicians, scholars, students and wider public audiences to discuss US political and institutional history. Former members Ken Kramer (R-Colorado, 1979-1987) and Larry LaRocco (D-Idaho) provided students with insight into the American political system through sharing their real-life experiences as candidates and office holders. They were joined by Professor Phil Davies (British Library), Dr Nigel Bowles (University of Oxford), Professor Iwan Morgan (UCL), Dr Mara Oliva (Reading) and over 150 students to discuss the current political scene in anticipation of the 2016 elections, partisan polarisation and disputes over immigration, healthcare, energy and foreign policy.

Dafydd Townley, a current PhD, reports on the event:

The Congress to Campus visit by former Representatives Larry LaRocco and Ken Kramer offered a great opportunity to students. The congressmen talked about their times in office and how the issues of their day could be seen in today's political debate. Congressman LaRocco spoke about how his personal interaction with President Bill Clinton led to him being invited to go jogging with the president. This personal support for Clinton's budget led to Rep LaRocco being targeted by Republicans in the midterms and he subsequently lost his seat. Both congressmen were willing to talk about the issues that the students brought up in an open question session: gun ownership, race relations, and the 2016 US presidential election were all subjects that were tackled. The differences between the two parties were evident in their sometimes lively debate. They made themselves available for photographs and a more informal talk during the coffee and lunch breaks. It was a great opportunity for students to get an insider's detailed look at the political process in Washington. For those who studied American political history at Reading through either the American Dream or Cold War modules, it was a wonderful chance to see and hear eye witnesses from those involved.

 The opening table: (l-r) Prof Phil Davies of the Eccles Centre at the British Library, Congressman Ken Kramer, Dr Nigel Bowles from Oxford Uni, Congressman Larry LaRocco and Dr Mara Oliva

 Congressman Kramer poses for a photograph with a student

 Congressman LaRocco with Dr Mara Oliva's Special Subject: The US and China students

 

HILLARY'S CAMPAIGN? CRANKING UP, BUT SO FAR IT'S… 'MEH'

by Mark Shanahan, Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading.

HTTPS://UNIREADINGHISTORY.COM/2016/04/23/HILLARYS-CAMPAIGN-SO-FAR/

 With those words, Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed the adoring loyalists gathered to hear her victory speech at the end of a bruising New York primary. On the other side of the political fence, Donald Trump was winning all but one New York county. In a normal election year, the two front runners would be switching focus by now, putting the primaries behind them and getting set for November's presidential election. But heck, this year has been about as far from the 'norms' of campaign politics as you can possibly imagine. The cleavage between the traditional Kingmakers of the GOP and the disaffected grassroots has let through the ideologue Cruz and the demagogue Trump to do battle for the hearts of conservatives, while in the liberal corner Hillary's expected stroll to Philadelphia in July to be placed at the head of the Democrat ticket with all due pomp and ceremony has become a jagged, ragged marathon, with a grizzled Brooklynite at her heels, and sinking favourability ratings stacking up around her.

The Clinton who launched Hard Choices, a policy manifesto dressed up as a reflection on her time as Secretary of State, released in 2014, could never have thought her path to Philadelphia could ever be quite so rocky[1]. In 2014, as well as providing a masterclass in International Relations, her memoir hit all the electoral sweet spots necessary for her to connect with the Democratic voting audiences she needed to secure the nomination. Women, youth, LGBT+, economic equality, climate change. In her non-manifesto, Hillary addressed them all and sounded, well, presidential.

But with Democrats feeling the Bern all along the Primary trail from Iowa right through to this week's bun fight in his birth city and her adopted state, Hillary hasn't sounded quite so poised - or quite as energised as the Vermont Senator who sat in Congress as an independent. On my personal scale of one to 10, Hillary's campaign has so far been… 'meh'.

Bernie has exposed her Wall Street leanings, Gen Y (and even Gen X) don't see her as sufficiently liberal. There's the problem of Bill, and the GOP has been relentless, though so far unsuccessful, in its pursuit of her over role when US consular staff were killed in Benghazi and the ongoing issues over her use of a private email server. She's a more than a little tainted as a candidate, and it's showing in her polling. According to Gallup last week, Clinton's net favourability among Democrats is +36. The poll was taken as she ramped up in New York, and shows a slip from +63 early last November[2].

Here's a candidate who needs women to vote for her if she's to win. She needs minorities and she needs the purple middle-grounders who will vote based on personal preference rather than party allegiance. So far, she hasn't done as well as expected.

 

 But maybe the tide's turning. Looking forward to the Maryland Primary on April 26, Hillary's polling well. Overall, she's ahead of Bernie 58-33%. She's polling 75% of the African American vote, leads with both male and female voters and, crucially for her, is ahead 48-43 with voters under 45 alongside her 66-27 advantage with older voters[3].

If Maryland was projected nationally, Clinton would trounce any of the GOP candidates who could be ranged against her. But of course Maryland isn't quite the national touchstone, despite sending Democrat senators to Congress, while electing a Republican Governor at home. But next week's Primaries should be good for Hillary and the Bern may finally burn out. As well as a substantial lead in Maryland, Clinton leads in Pennsylvania - the week's big prize - and Connecticut. There has been no public polling in Delaware or Rhode Island, but she's expected to prevail there[4].

After that, it's time for Hillary to really start looking Presidential again, to start tackling the issues rather than negative campaigning against a party rival. Getting dragged into a negative, dirty campaign plays straight into the hands of her opponent. From July to November she'll have to look, sound and think like a President. She hasn't quite cracked that yet.

________

[1] H R Clinton, Hard Choices: A Memoir, Simon & Schuster (London, 2014)

[2] F Newport, 'Clinton's Image among Democrats at New Low', Gallup, April 14, 2016, accessed April 22, 2016

[3] Public Policy Polling, April 19, 2016, accessed April 22, 2016

[4] 'State of the Race', ABC News, accessed April 22, 2016

 

 

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN 2016

by Dafydd Townley

https://unireadinghistory.com/2016/04/08/the-elephant-in-the-room/

The race to be the party candidates for the 2016 election has been fascinating. It has confused poll analysts, political scientists, and broken from historical trends. All of this and it is only April. As onlookers we are still in doubt as to who will finally represent the Republican and Democrat parties in the general election after the national conventions in July. The prospective election leaves many questions unanswered, not least of which is 'What is the future of the Republican Party?'

Meltdown. Civil War. Chaos. All have applied to the Republican Party over the last three months in particular, and continue to do so. The current state of the Grand Old Party (GOP) is of a party fighting to find its identity. The leadership of the GOP is currently swallowing its pride and pledging its support to Ted Cruz, a senator who has called members of his own party liars on the senate floor. This is in opposition to a man who has managed to attract more voters to the Republican caucuses and primaries than before, and is causing panic attacks among the leadership as his possible victory in the race for the party candidacy looks likely.

What will happen if Donald Trump wins the candidacy? Will there be a realignment of the GOP similar to that after the 1976 election? After the defeat of Gerald Ford in that year's presidential election the Republicans turned right under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, leaving the political centre ground to the Democrats. Trump has managed to garner support across the ideological spectrum despite being accused of not being conservative. While his proposed policies seem to vary from extremism to centre ground he is in opposition to the conservative, evangelical-backed Cruz. Does this suggest a move to the middle for the Republicans, a move that will reject the Barry Goldwater conservatism that the party has adopted for the last forty years?

In fairness such a reformation of the Republican Party has been on the cards since the 20110 midterm elections. The rise - and success - of the Tea Party has threatened to challenge the establishment-led Republican Party. The Tea Party's regionalised grassroots activism worked extremely well against small-majority Democrats who supported the Affordable care Act. It worked again in the 2014 midterms as Republicans adopted the methods that Democrats had until recently made so successful. The Republican Party holds an advantage in the House, in Congress, and at state level legislatures that it has not enjoyed since 1928. Why did it fail to get Mitt Romney elected in 2012? Why does it look as though Hillary Clinton will win the 2016 election? How will it go about changing things? 

 

As ever with American politics there is no simple answer. One significant factor is the gerrymandering of district boundaries by the Republicans at state level so that they win more seats than the Democrats even with fewer votes. It's an entirely legal move that the Democrats have been oblivious to. Just as important is that Goldwater conservatism is out of date. It seems ironic that conservatism is anachronistic but there is no real desire for the welfare state in the United States to be rolled back, even by Republicans. And that is the problem with the Republican Party - it fails to identify what it is for. It is perfectly fine to target individual politicians on policies it stands against such as the Tea Party locally did in 2010 and 2014, but it has continuously wasted opportunities to showcase what policies it supports on a national level. Compare that with the programs such as Obamacare that the Democrat presidential candidates have been able to promote.

The multiple strands of conservative need uniting behind one ideology to be truly effective in winning the race for the White House, and effective while in office. And that is where Trump stands out. Yes his idea of a wall along the Mexican border is ridiculous as is his assertion that he will make the Mexican government pay for it. Yes - again - his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States is not only unconstitutional but also impossible to administer. His appeal to the conservative electorate (and beyond) is that he is proposing something. A recognisable policy that has is almost tangible and measurable. Cruz? Low taxes. Free trade. It offers nothing that the electorate don't already enjoy under the current administration.

While Trump's politics may not be that of the traditional GOP it is something considerably more positive than that of Cruz, and that should be revelatory to the Republican elite. The party leadership has the opportunity to implement a top-down reformation that would give the party an identity that is both positive and unifying. A national message that is both negative in tone and ethereal in nature would end with further party fragmentation and the prospect of a bottom-up reformation led by Tea Party members. Will the Party be brave enough to attempt to regain the centre from the Democrats? Only Trump and time will tell.

 

THE EMERGENCE OF TRUMP AND SANDERS: NOT JUST A PHENOMENON CONFINED TO THE UNITED STATES?

by Darius Wainwright

https://unireadinghistory.com/2016/04/01/trump-and-sanders/

President Dwight D Eisenhower once threatened to leave the Republican Party unless it reflected the progressive, centrist principles that he advocated.[i] Were he alive today, it is fair to say that current developments within the GOP would have forced the former president to act on his threat. The race to secure the Republican candidacy for the 2016 US Presidential Election has seen the populist, radical Donald Trump appear as the frontrunner. The multimillionaire New York property mogul has courted controversy throughout his campaign, notably pledging to build a wall across the US-Mexico border to stem the flow of immigrants from Central and Southern America.[ii] Despite the incendiary nature of these comments - Pope Francis used a tour of the Americas to chastise Trump for his remarks - support for the star of the US version of The Apprentice has burgeoned.[iii]

 

Trump, now a forerunner for the Republicans

Equally, the race to secure the Democrat Party candidacy has been just as contentious. Hilary Clinton, regarded by the media as the frontrunner since announcing that she would like to run for the presidency, is facing considerable opposition to her bid to be the Democrat nominee from the leftist Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old Senator for Vermont. Tapping in to the American public's anger over particular issues, the tactics of both politicians appear to be moderately successful. As of the 29th of March, Sanders is polling at 42.3 points compared with Clinton's 51.3. Trump, on the other hand, is now the frontrunner to secure the GOP presidential candidacy, amassing an 11-point lead over his nearest rival, the Texan Ted Cruz.

 

Sanders, considerable opposition to Clinton for the Democrats

 It is important however to not look at political proceedings in the United States in isolation. Exploration of current developments in European politics suggests that progressive, centrist and mainstream parties on both sides of the Atlantic are facing similar challenges. As illustrated by a recent report from The Guardian, electoral support for parties occupying the centre of European politics has fragmented, with growing backing for movements on the left and the right of the political spectrum. In the December 2015 Spanish General Election, the populist leftist Podemos ('We Can') Party gain 21% of the vote, with the liberal Ciudadanos ('Citizens') Party polling at 14%.[iv] The electoral gains made by these two newcomers deprived the mainstream parties of the Spanish centre, the PSOE and the People's Party, of an electoral majority.[v] The recent Slovakian parliamentary elections, similarly, saw no one party achieve an overall majority. Instead eight parties from across the political spectrum were returned to the National Council, each with more than 10 seats.[vi]

Seemingly, the reasons behind the electoral success of these radical movements are similar to the factors being attributed to Sanders and Trump's victories in the US state primaries. Recent years have seen an exponential increase in the number of immigrants arriving in Europe, combined with a steady influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa seeking asylum.[vii] Far right parties, such as the German AfD, have exploited the significant anger amongst sections of the public towards these developments, adopting an anti-foreigner rhetoric. Such an approach saw the AfD make significant gains in the German regional elections in March this year.[viii] Left leaning parties, simultaneously, have sought to question the significant welfare and spending cuts advocated by many mainstream, centrist politicians across Europe. Utilising the Greek public's resentment towards these austerity policies, the leftist Syriza Party won a landslide election in Greece in September 2015.[ix]

Mainstream politicians on both sides of the Atlantic must therefore find an effective means by which to either tackle or circumnavigate these radical, populist challenges to their electoral dominance. To ward off the threat of Sanders and Trump - for only divine intervention would now prevent the latter from securing the Republican nomination - it is imperative for Clinton to soothe popular resentment towards issues such as immigration and unemployment. Already she has sought to heighten her social media presence in a bid to win back youth voters and has pledged to reform the immigration system should she be elected.[x] Failure to secure the presidency - or even failing to persuade the Democrat Party to support her bid - may compel Clinton to do what President Eisenhower threatened to do all those years ago and leave politics.

 

Clinton, stepping up her campaign in the face of Trump and Sanders' success

 Notes:

[i] 'Five liberal quotes from Republican politicians that will freak you out' <http://bluenationreview.com/six-liberal-quotes-republican-presidents-will-freak&gt; 23 February 2015.

[ii] All poll data from RealClear Politics.

[iii] 'Pope Francis questions Donald Trump's Christianity' <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2016-35607597&gt; 18 February 2016.

[iv] 'Why is support for Europe's mainstream political parties on the wane?' <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/29/support-europes-mainstream-political-parties-parliaments> 29 March 2016.

[v] http://www.theguardian.com/worl d/2016/mar/29/support-europes-mainstream-political-parties-parliaments

[vi] http://www.theguardian.com/worl d/2016/mar/29/support-europes-mainstream-political-parties-parliaments

[vii] 'The march of Europe's little Trumps' <http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21679855-xenophobic-parties-have-long-been-ostracised-mainstream-politicians-may-no-longer-be&gt; 12 December 2015.

[viii] 'German elections: setbacks for Merkel's CDU as anti-refugee AfD makes big gains' <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/13/anti-refugee-party-makes-big-gains-in-german-state-elections> 14 March 2016.

[ix] 'Greece election: Tsipras triumphant as Syriza returns to power' <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015 /sep/20/syriza-set-to-return-to-power-in-greek-general-election> 14 March 2016.

[x] 'Clinton tries to get the millennials on board' <http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/18/politics/hillary-clinton-young-voters-millennials&gt; 18 December 2015; 'America needs comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship' <https://www.hillarycli nton.com/issues/immigration-reform> 30 March 2016.

 

ALL HAIL THE GREAT DISRUPTOR! UNLESS YOU'RE CRUZ, RUBIO... OR A DEMOCRAT 

 by Dr Mark Shanahan - 2/03/16 

http://unireadinghistory.com/category/us-election-2016-blog-posts/ 

So, it's goodbye Super Tuesday and if we want to hang any name on your it would have to be 'The Donald'. Indeed, as the Great Disruptor sits in his gold bath filled with assess' milk, this morning, he probably has a huge smirk on his face. You'd think he might be pinching himself (though he'd probably pay someone to do that for him). But no, soon-to-be-GOP-nominee Trump wouldn't go for a pinch. It might imply he couldn't quite believe how easy this whole Primary race has been. And the Donald has never doubted himself for a moment.  

Super Tuesday, when eleven states host primaries and caucuses in the race to find the Republican and Democrat nominees, went pretty much to form, with the respective party front runners winning seven states apiece. That will have calmed the fears among the Democrat hierarchy, as Hilary Clinton cemented her lead, and now has three times the delegates of her rival Bernie Sanders. Finally, the Democrat race is running to form. Bernie the feisty socialist has awakened Hilary from her torpor, and her campaign, lazy and vapid at the start, has finally begun to fly. She's the consummate professional: the Washington insider from the right of the Democrat tent. But Bernie's popularism has played particularly well with the young, forcing Hilary into a number of policy changes to try and win some ground back from her opponent. There is a truism that says America doesn't do socialism. Indeed, it's nigh on impossible to see Bernie the popular pensioner carrying the day at national level. That looks less likely now, despite his four state wins last night, and the momentum is with the Clinton camp.    

But what about the man of pensionable age on the other side? Donald Trump goes marching on. He hasn't lacerated the Republican tent, his outsider stance has ripped it to shreds. Okay, so 'little Marco' landed Minnesota, and Ted Cruz will be mightily relieved to have held his own home state of Texas and picked up wins in Alaska and Oklahoma. But as every day passes they look ever-more the also rans.  

Trump, the narcissistic demagogue, may have holed the GOP ship below the waterline and the Republican hierarchy has only itself to blame. The wise ol' heads of the GOP have allowed his policy-free, media-friendly, ranting to completely starve every other candidate of the oxygen of publicity. Even when the others have had a chance to speak, they have either been attacking Trump or responding to his attacks. For hundreds of millions of Americans, Donald Trump has been the story of this election, and the identikit challengers from inside the tent have been repeatedly buried by his bullying scorn. 

Cruz will fight on, Rubio will limp into Florida and Kasich into Ohio in a fortnight. Ben Carson (remember him?) may well quit in the next few days. The Donald will preen, will pose, will peacock strut over weaker men, both in the race and in the party.  

Is he assured the nomination? Not assured, but pretty close. Can the GOP fight him? Seemingly not with his rival candidates. Maybe only through the wild speculation that would see House Speaker Paul Ryan acclaimed from the floor at the Republican Convention in July. A brokered Convention? We haven't had that kind of floor fight since 1948, but The Donald with a plurality versus Ryan the favoured son of the party would be contest of the century.

Perhaps, of course, they'll all unite behind The Donald - that's what he called for in his speech last night. But that would demand compromise and courtesy, shared decision making and shared authority. The authoritarian Trump doesn't do that. Within days he'll be back on Twitter bitching and bombastic as ever. He is the disruptor. He does politics differently. And those who don't do Washington - and there are huge numbers in the US estranged from the political system love him for it.  

Cruz is worried. Rubio is terrified. The GOP is side-lined. But if anyone should be worried it's Hilary Clinton. Trump is making up the rules as he goes along. And if the fight for the White House is played to his tune, who's to say he won't win.

 

LOOKING TOWARDS SUPER TUESDAY

by Dafydd Townley - 26/02/16

http://unireadinghistory.com/category/us-election-2016-blog-posts/

The American election campaign takes its first major step towards selecting the final candidates for the two major parties next Tuesday. Super Tuesday, as it has become known, is the day on which the largest number of state electorates indirectly votes for the Democratic Party and Republican Party candidates. In the past four weeks, only four states has made their choice so far - Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina - but on Super Tuesday fifteen states will go to the polls. Since 1976, when the term was first used to describe six states simultaneously holding primaries, Super Tuesday has given a clearer indication of the identity of the frontrunners for each party's presidential candidate.

 The polls on Super Tuesday will consist of a system of candidate elections known as primaries and caucuses, a complex system of proportional representation. For the uninitiated the primaries are governed by each state and are a secret ballot, while the individual parties privately run the caucuses. The primaries and caucuses can be either open - any registered voter can vote - or closed - restricted to just registered party members. There are also a few semi-closed events, where registered voters for a particular party and unaffiliated voters can take part just to complicate matters further. The primaries and caucuses will run between February and the national conventions in the summer. 

It is at the national conventions that the two major parties officially select their candidates for the presidential election. This year the Republican national convention (RNC) is on July 18th to 21st in Cleveland, Ohio. The Democratic national convention will be the following week in Philadelphia. Traditionally the RNC has been held later in the year, but Republican leaders believe that an earlier convention gives their final candidate an advantage in the general election. In a similar bidding system as the Olympics, cities compete with each other to host the conventions. This year the Democrats chose Philadelphia, the same city where the Republicans held their national convention in the year 2000 where George W Bush was declared the Republican candidate. 

At both of these conventions party delegates attend representing each state. Certain states have a higher number of delegates allotted by the parties than others. For example, the number of delegates given to New Hampshire was 32 by the Democrats, and 23 by Republicans; Texas has been given 252 delegates by the Democrats, and 155 delegates by the Republicans. The results of the primaries and caucuses determine the number of voters for each candidate. These are called pledged delegates. In addition there are super delegates.

 

WHO'S WHO: THE 2016 DEMOCRAT AND REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

by Darius Wainwright - 20/02/2016

http://unireadinghistory.com/category/us-election-2016-blog-posts/

February 2016 marked the beginning of the Democrat and Republican primaries, where preliminary elections are held to decide who should run for office. In the United States, state level primaries are held from now until June, with Democrat and Republican delegates voting for their preferred presidential candidate. Ahead of the 1st of March - a 'super Tuesday' where 14 states declare which Republican and Democrat nominees they think should run for office - here is a brief outline of the remaining candidates.

 

The Republican candidates

 

Jeb Bush

  • Texan born former banker and entrepreneur. His Father, George H. W. Bush, resided in the Oval Office from 1989 to 1993, whilst his brother, George W. Bush, served an eight year term as President between 2001 and 2009.
  • His political experience consists of an eight-year stint as Governor of Florida between 1999 and 2007, being the first Republican incumbent to win two successive state elections in 1998 and 2002.
  • Bush has frequently expressed his support for the notion that Americans should have the right the bear arms. He was recently the subject of much mocking after tweeting a picture of his handgun on emblazoned with 'Gov. Jeb Bush'.[i]

 

Ben Carson

  • 64-year-old retired neurosurgeon. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 for developing a technique for controlling brain seizures.
  • Was registered as a Democrat until 1981, switching to the Republican Party up until 1999, when he registered as an independent
  • Re-joined the Republican Party in 2014 so he could nominate himself as a presidential candidate.

 

John Kasich  

  • Former Congressman for Ohio, commentator on the Fox News Channel and current Governor of Ohio. Was elected into the latter role in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.
  • In recent weeks, Kasich has enjoyed a surge in poll ratings, jumping ahead of Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. The New York Times attribute this increasing popularity to his positive disposition whilst campaigning.[iii]

 

 

Marco Rubio

 

  • Practicing attorney and junior Senator for Florida, assuming office in January 2011.
  • Declaring his candidacy in April 2015, the Florida Senator initially polled poorly. However, his performance in debates between the Republican presidential candidates during the autumn of 2015 saw Rubio's standing in the polls improve considerably.
  • Holds strong views against same-sex unions and abortion. Rubio also believes that Americans should possess the right to bear arms.
  • In favour of greater US defence spending, keen for the United States to play a more prominent role on the world stage. Rubio has frequently urged America to take a tough stance against countries such as North Korea, Russia and Iran that have historically had a fractured relationship with Washington.

 

 

Donald Trump

 

  • New York City native, businessman and star of the US version of The Apprentice.
  • Has gained notoriety throughout this campaign for his public utterances and policy suggestions. In response to the November and December attacks on Paris and San Bernardino, Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Likewise, the billionaire and media personality has proposed the building of a wall across the US-Mexico border to reduce immigration levels.
  • The utterance of such views has been met with stern criticism. Just this week, Pope Francis has accused Trump of being 'not Christian' over his beliefs on immigration.[iv]
  • Despite (or because of) this, Trump has proved popular with many working class American voters. He currently enjoys a 14-point lead over his nearest rival, Ted Cruz. His popular appeal amongst Republican grassroots has resulted in Trump, finishing second in the Iowa caucus and winning the New Hampshire primary.

 

The Democrat candidates

 

Hilary Clinton

 

  • Formerly US Senator for New York (2001 - 2009), Secretary of State (2009 - 2013) and former First Lady to husband Bill.
  • Ran for Democrat presidential nomination in 2008, but lost out to current US President Barack Obama.
  • Declared her intention to run for the Democrat Party candidacy in April 2015. According to the polls, Clinton was (and remains) the frontrunner. Yet in recent months, allegations that she conducted governmental business via her personal email account during her stint as Secretary of State has resulted in a drastic reduction in her lead.
  • Clinton narrowly won the Iowa Caucus, but lost the New Hampshire Primary to Bernie Sanders.
  • An enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama's attempts to reform the US health system, promising to continue his work in this area if elected. Clinton is also an advocate of women's rights, calling for an end to gender wage disparities.

 

Bernie Sanders 

 

  • Former Congressman and current Senator for Vermont.
  • Situated on the left of the Democrat Party, regarded by himself and others as a progressive and a socialist. His campaign so far has focused on reducing income and wealth inequality, whilst also pledging to impose a universal healthcare system if elected.
  • Similarly, Sanders adopts a liberal approach to social issues. He has called for worldwide efforts to try and reverse global warming, as well as advocating for the greater recognition of LGBT rights.
  • Sanders initially lagged behind the more moderate Hilary Clinton in the polls. However, Clinton's recent setbacks, compelled by an upsurge in support for the Vermont Senator and his victory in the New Hampshire primary, have seen this lead narrow considerably. Currently, there is only a 5.5% gap between the Democrat presidential nominees.

______

[i] Jonathan Jones, 'Jeb Bush's gun tweet is the portrait of the American nightmare' The Guardian, 17 February 2016,http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb /17/jeb-bush-gun-tweet-american-nightmare-gun-republican-trump.

[ii] All poll data from RealClear Politics.

[iii] 'A chance to reset the Republican race'. The New York Times, 31 January 2016,

http://www.Nytimes.com/2016/01/31/opinion/sunday/a-chance-to-reset-the-republican-race.html?_r=1

[iv] 'Pope Francis questions Donald Trump's Christianity' BBC News, 18 February 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2016-35607597.