With the 2016 US Presidential election only a month away, the non-stop media has intensified to a fever pitch. Amidst all this sensationalism and noise, it can be difficult to obtain a sound understanding of the candidates, their policies, and the election itself – TBNG’s 2016 election cheat sheet is here to make sure you know all the essential facts.
When is the election?
This year’s election is set to take place on Tuesday, November 8. Since 1845, US Presidential elections have always taken place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. In addition to the Presidential election, 34 Senate seats and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are also up for election.
Who are the candidates?
Unless you’ve been living in a small hut atop the Himalayas, you probably know that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the nominees for the Democratic Party and the Republican Party respectively.
Thanks to the perceived unpopularity of both major party candidates, third party candidates are enjoying their strongest support in years this election: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party have both been gaining popularity in the recent months, although neither of them has reached the vote threshold required to participate in Presidential debates. Despite only managing to garner 2.4 out of the 15 per cent of votes required to participate, Jill Stein attempted to crash the debate and had to beescorted outfor not having the appropriate media credentials.
What are their policies?
This year’s election is unique because both candidates have come up with campaign platforms which are more extreme than what their parties are used to. Here is a brief rundown of major issues that the two major candidates are running their campaigns on.
Clinton faced a strong challenge from Bernie Sanders during the primaries, and in an effort to attract his supporters to her side, she has come up with campaign promises which are more liberal than ever. One example of this is making college tuition free for all American citizens and forgiving the debt of students who have already taken out loans, which was a major pillar of Sanders’ primary campaign.
Clinton’s other promises include increasing tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, introducing paid maternity and family leave, as well as increasing regulations on Wall Street banks and other large corporations.
Trump’s campaign announcement speech – in which he insulted Mexicans and claimed he would force Mexico to build a border wall – will probably be viewed by future generations with a mix of terror and awe. This policy is part of his 10-point plan to aggressively curb immigration: some other points include the mass deportation of illegal immigrants and reforming the legal immigration system.
His other proposed policies include simplifying the American income tax structure, reducing the current seven-income bracket model to a three-income bracket one. He also intends to repeal Obamacare, the nationalized healthcare plan introduced by the Obama administration in 2010, and improve the Veterans’ Association, which takes after the needs of American war veterans.
How will the election affect Singapore?
The most important issue at stake in this election for Singapore is trade. Historically, Singapore and the US have enjoyed strong trade links: In 2013, Singapore was the United States’ 13th largest export market and 26th largest import market, with exports and imports totalling US$49 billion.
Singapore is also one of the key partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major trade deal involving 12 countries which aims to lower barriers to trade. It is currently awaiting ratification by the US Congress before it can come into full effect. However, both candidates are opposed to the TPP. Trump called it a “terrible deal” on Twitter, during the Republican debate in 2015 and writing in an op-ed that “[the] TPP is the biggest betrayal in a long line of betrayals where politicians have sold out U.S. workers.”
Trump has also adopted an increasingly anti-free trade stance, calling the World Trade Organisation (WTO) a “disaster” and stating that he would increase tariffs on imports from countries like Mexico and China. Despite supporting the TPP during her time as secretary of state, Clinton has since revoked her support for the pact, stating that there were “too many loopholes” in the agreement.
With both candidates opposing the TPP, it is unlikely that it will be adopted by the USA in the near future. To Singapore, whose economy is heavily reliant on free trade, this comes as a major blow. The main aim of free trade agreements such as the TPP is to create a bigger market for countries to export their goods and services to. As China is already not part of the TPP, the absence of a major player like the US will drastically reduce the size of the market which other TPP members can export to, hindering the agreement’s effectiveness. During a recent visit to America, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Obama agreed on the need to ratify the TPP, and PM Lee recently said that failure to ratify the agreement would be a “major strategic setback for the region”.
This year’s election is shaping up to be the most important one in recent years. The sheer gulf between the principles, policies and ideas of both candidates mean that the winner will determine both the future of the USA and its role in the global system. With so much riding on the outcome of the election, the rest of the world can only watch with bated breath to see how things unfold.