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Presidential candidates offer all kinds of ‘first’ possibilities

Ideally, it all should be irrelevant, and I wouldn’t be writing about this if not for a constant flow of Clinton’s supporters making a big deal out of her chance to become the first woman president.

Americans might elect our first woman president, but there are several other "firsts" among the candidates as well.
REUTERS/Scott Morgan

What an interesting election cycle we are having! We may be able to elect our first woman president (Carly Fiorina or Hillary Clinton), first Hispanic president (Sen. Ted Cruz or Sen. Marco Rubio), first Jewish president (Sen. Bernie Sanders), first socialist president (Sanders again), first “third-in-a-family” president (Jeb Bush), first “former president’s spouse” president (Clinton again), first “never-held-any-elected-post” president (Donald Trump, Fiorina, or Ben Carson), first Seventh Day Adventist president (Carson again), and at some point we had a shot at electing our first Indian-American president (Bobby Jindal). So many possibilities, so many choices — but why does it matter? We are not trying to add to the Book of Firsts, are we?

Ideally, it all should be irrelevant, and I wouldn’t be writing about this if not for a constant flow of Clinton’s supporters making a big deal out of her chance to become the first woman president. And recently even Clinton herself said that she would make a better president because she is a woman. What? We are constantly told that women are equal to men so they can do the same things men do, such as become CEOs, serve everywhere in the military, lead countries, and so on. But now we are told that women are better than men?

More diversity in GOP lineup

Interestingly, the Republican field is an example of diversity and would have been praised as such had it been a Democratic field. Republicans have plenty of young candidates as well. Instead, many Democrats call all the Republican candidates clowns and scary. If Republicans were reacting this way to a Democratic field of this nature, they would have been called racists and sexists. The Democratic field is (or used to be) almost the direct opposite: There were four white men (one of them is Jewish, though) and Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic nomination was supposed to be simple: Clinton was the presumptive nominee and Democrats just needed a few figureheads for show to give an impression of a genuine nomination process. Instead, Sanders is going strong — but why?

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He actually explained it himself: Democrats have to bring more people to voting booths to win. And that, of course, means bringing more inexperienced, uneducated, young voters because others vote anyway and mostly have their minds made up. But those are the voters who can be brought in only by promising them pie in the sky — and that is what Sanders is doing: free college education, more child benefits, higher minimum wage, free medical care, decriminalization of marijuana …. Despite his claims that he cares about the middle class, most of these measures will benefit the young and I think that is the goal, because they can’t analyze the promises and distinguish between facts and fiction. (Remember that the human brain fully develops only by the age of 25 and the last parts of the brain to develop are the ones that are responsible for critical thinking — and that skill, as I learned recently, is not being taught well in colleges anymore.) But at least Sanders honestly if mistakenly believes in his dreams.

A bandwagon of giveaways

It seems to me that Clinton, on the other hand, does not believe in anything except for her ability to get what she thinks she is entitled to and would say anything to get it. So during the Democratic debates, it was clear that she was jumping on the bandwagon of “giveaways” because it is her only choice to win the nomination. In fact, one entire debate looked to be about who could promise more. It doesn’t matter that none of those promises will ever come to life because a Republican Congress will never support them (and no one seriously doubts that Republicans will keep control of at least the House); it doesn’t matter that all those promises are out of reach because the country doesn’t have the money. All that matters is that people like hearing that they may get free stuff (and I have to admit that some people even like hearing that other people will get free stuff), even if it is a fiction, much more than they like hearing that they have to work hard, even if it is a reality.

So for Democrats the choice is between Clinton and Sanders — i.e. in my estimation between an untruthful, self-centered candidate with zero accomplishments and multiple failures and whose single advantage seems to be being a female — and a self-proclaimed socialist who can’t see the difference between America and Denmark and thinks that money grows on trees (in the billionaires’ gardens, that is). The other candidates never counted, and now only one of them remains (Joe Biden was clearly frightened into refraining from running), leaving a pathetic field of two and a half candidates.

Where were the hard questions?

Of course, debates also go as expected, based on media’s favorites. While Democratic debates were a giveaway with minimal attempts to raise hard questions or ask candidates to express opinions of each other, the Republican debate moderators were constantly pushing candidates to bicker and argue with each other. How come we didn’t hear “Secretary Clinton, please name a few of your accomplishments that benefited America,” “Governor O’Malley, please explain the sad situation in Baltimore in light of your being its council member and mayor for fifteen years,” and “Senator Sanders, do you know that students must pass vigorous entrance exams to colleges in Europe in order to get free tuition?”

Well, it is obvious that the media are not doing their jobs, so there is even more reason for all of us to do our jobs as citizens and voters. We should see past rhetoric about gender, past fear mongering (and I mean both Trump’s and anti-Trump ones), past political correctness, and past partisanship. We should distinguish between real threats, such as terrorism and unchecked illegal immigration, and the fake ones, such as war on women or drowning in a hundred years. And we should demand real solutions from the candidates, not the politically expedient ones – and that is the most difficult thing to do.

Ilya Gutman is an immigrant from the Soviet Union who now lives and works in Marshall, Minnesota.  

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