With pressing issues such as illegal immigration, energy and oil, tax reform, homeland security, veterans services, welfare reform and free trade (just to name a few) at the forefront of most presidential elections, what makes this election different from 2012, 2008, and the many elections that came before it? For one thing, more people are not only voting but are becoming more politically involved than in past elections. Around the world there is a growing interest in youth and politics. Some political groups are changing to respond to the growing number of young people who want to affect the political system. More youth than ever before are actually becoming engaged in local community campaigns and other political activities. Youth can change the world through politics by becoming actively, meaningfully and substantially involved throughout political parties and beyond. More people in the elderly population are also voting—even some who have never voted before. By the same token, there are hundreds of people who are going to the polls who were previously uninterested in politics and/or did not want to become educated on the issues.
In fact, 2016 presidential election may well be the most important since 1860, for one very simple reason. The 45th President could potentially be selecting up to four new Supreme Court Justices to replace the aging Ruth Bader Ginsburg (82), Anthony Kennedy (79), Stephen Breyer (77) and recently deceased Antonin Scalia – almost half of the nine-person lineup of the United States Supreme Court. With a historical 25-year average tenure, these lifetime appointments will directly determine the political, ideological and socioeconomic direction of the country for the next three decades, and indirectly thereafter.
Fast forward to the 2016 presidential primaries – which are occurring in the wake of significant international and domestic terror attacks that have alarmed voters – what issues do Americans care most about today? Results from the most recent NBC|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll conducted online from Jan 4. to Jan.10 suggest that “jobs and economy” and “terrorism” are both named by around a quarter of voters as the issue that is currently most important to them. The terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, and now Brussels (just to name a few) and many more are enough to strike an ongoing fear in the heart of our country and in the world making national security and foreign policy shoot up to the top of most everyone’s list. Our current deficit sits at 18 trillion dollars and is slowly climbing as our government spending increases. Corporate Inversion is becoming outrageous and our country is losing jobs as a result due to the corporate tax rate. (the highest in the world) We need consistent solid economic growth to change the destructive path we are on. Recent societal changes such as gay marriage and other controversial issues such as abortion and income inequality (which has sadly become worse) are also at the forefront of people’s concerns. There are many angry voters who claim they are “fed up” with a corrupt political system and government policies that don’t seem to be working. People respond to tough talk and outsider candidates who don’t accept money from super pacs like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump; though not traditional, are resonating with a lot of people by channeling their fears and concerns.
This year’s presidential nominating season has upended conventional political wisdom in any number of ways – from the dominance of Donald Trump, followed by Ted Cruz and John Kasich on the GOP side to the surprisingly tough battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. The contested races also are driving record turnout among Republicans and higher than usual turnout among Democrats compared to 2012. Combined Republican turnout has been 17.3% of eligible voters – the highest of any year since at least 1980. Democratic turnout so far is 11.7% – the highest since 1992, with the notable exception of the extraordinarily high turnout in 2008. (Those figures may change, of course, depending on how the rest of the campaign plays out; history suggests that once one party’s nomination is locked up, turnout in subsequent contests tends to fall off.) This year’s primaries have sparked record turnout by Republican voters and stronger-than-usual turnout by Democratic voters, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. More than 17% of eligible Republican voters participated in the first 12 primaries of 2016 — the highest turnout since at least 1980, the Pew Research Center analysis shows. The way this campaign is shaping up, it looks like we are going to have a much shorter primary season and longer general election. So what will happen in November? Only time will tell.
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