Election 2012: A Guide for the Politically Clueless
As you may have heard through the grapevine, there is a presidential election going on this very moment! Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t vote so I don’t care,” “I support whomever my parents like,” “All that governmental stuff is too complicated,” or the immensely popular, “Politics are a snooze.” Yet voting is a huge privilege that our founding fathers fought for, and on Nov. 6 American citizens across the country will visit their local voting centers to cast their ballot for arguably the most important position in our government. Given that all of these arguments, debates, and discussions repeating the same old things can be slightly tedious, the majority of people want the bare-boned basics in order to make a final decision on who they believe is most qualified to lead this country. The Knightly News team has reviewed an immense amount of research on the election and boiled it down to this collection of rudimentary information, essentially creating a mini “Election 2012 for Dummies.”
Hopefully, no matter how un-political you are, you know that the current President of the United States is Hawaii native Barack Obama of the Democratic Party, and the Vice President is Joe Biden. Obama took office in January 2009, promising “hope,” “change,” and “unity” during his campaign. But large issues such as passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, unemployment, and a debt ceiling battle in the Capitol quickly took hold of his presidency. His time spent in office is often characterized as cleaning up a mess, having entered office with two unpaid wars, the worst economic recession in 80 years, a broken national health care system, a horrific housing market crash, etc. Yet his term also included significant accomplishments such as the killing of Osama bin Laden, job creation (5.2 million new jobs added over the past two and a half years), the rescue of the American auto industry, the ending of the war in Iraq, and the initiation of withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.
Obama has taken basic stances on issues supported by the Democratic Party platform such as support of abortion rights, insurance coverage for contraception, and legalization of same-sex marriage. (During his term Obama also repealed the military ban on openly gay members.) In terms of the environment and energy conservation, Obama is a big proponent of green energy. He prohibited deep water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and opposed the Keystone pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada to the U.S., but has pushed for more domestic oil and gas drilling overall. In terms of immigration, the government deported a record number of immigrants during Obama’s term, but illegal immigrants brought over as children are now exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply. His foreign policy includes strong opposition to any military strike on Iran, unless it proves to be the only way to stop the country from gaining nuclear weapons. He also signed a law to expand military and civilian cooperation with Israel. The term of Barack Obama has been plagued with high unemployment, with the country losing more than 800,000 jobs per month at the time he took office. He responded to the recession with an $800 billion stimulus plan, proposing tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers producing domestically, and tax penalties for U.S. companies outsourcing jobs. The unemployment rate fell to the lowest level of his presidency at 7.8 percent during September. Obama also looks to let Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples with joint incomes over $250,000.
The current Vice President of the United States is former Delaware Senator Joe Biden. Biden, who usually refers to himself as “Middle Class Joe.” He became one of the youngest senators ever elected to serve in the U.S. Senate when elected in 1972. During his six-term senate career, Biden served as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman.
Former Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney is the Republican candidate for the 2012 presidential election and Paul Ryan is his running mate. Romney is a Mormon, and has been very active in the Mormon church. Romney’s perspective can be seen as that of a financial investor due to his business background. He gained enormous wealth running Bain Capital, a private equity firm that grew to be one of the top in the country under his leadership. Romney also served as the President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Romney restructured the organization and managed to pull off Salt Lake City’s hosting of the Olympics with a budget surplus.
Romney’s positions are in opposition to those of Obama in terms of many social, environmental, and budgetary issues. He is pro-life, opposing abortion in most cases, and wanting to end Federal aid to Planned Parenthood. In addition, he wants to ban same-sex marriage with a constitutional amendment. His stance on energy and the environment includes easier access to coal, natural gas, and North American oil, as well as an acceleration in nuclear energy development and drilling permits. He does not believe that green energy is viable at this time and says that the causes of climate change, or global warming, are unknown. Romney favors the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border fence and refuses to give educational opportunities to illegal immigrants. In terms of foreign policy and terrorism, Romney wishes to deny any constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In order to dig America out of its current state of economic crisis, Romney plans to cut back on regulations and reduce corporate tax rates from 35% to 25%. He would implement more trade deals to spur growth, and replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. In 2008, Romney supported the bailout of financial institutions along with Obama as a necessary step to avoid collapse but opposed the auto industry bailout. He favors a constitutional balanced budget amendment, though his plan includes largely unspecified spending cuts.
Accompanying Romney in the 2012 election is running mate Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin native elected in 1999 to the House of Representatives in the state’s 1st District. During his time in the House, Ryan served as the House Budget Committee Chairman and created the “Ryan Budget,” also known as “The Path to Prosperity” in 2012. Ryan is an avid fitness buff and drove the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile when he worked for the company in college.
Hopefully you have learned something new about this year’s presidential candidates: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for the Republican Party, and the incumbent Barack Obama and Joe Biden for the Democratic Party. Perhaps this helped you to recognize that election season is an exciting time, and it is important to exercise our constitutional rights as American citizens to choose our leader and our future. If anything, perhaps you’ll finally understand Saturday Night Live’s hilarious political skits.
By Riley Muse, Staff Writer ’14