As far as Halloween costumes go, intentions can vary widely at any given party. The range includes innocent cow-onesies, superheroes, borderline-offensive homeless people, varying degrees of raciness (anything with the word “sexy” in front of it), and, of course, just plain ridiculous. When my friend and I dressed as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump this past weekend, we were trying to be funny. I thought it was pretty obvious, considering that I was wearing a bright pink pantsuit and terrible blonde wig, that this was all just for laughs. I was not trying to make any kind of political statement, and yet people expected me to. Looking the part was very easy, it was playing the part of the female Democratic candidate that was difficult. After watching several SNL skits, an incredible Jenna Marbles video and vines of her “just chilling in Cedar Rapids,” the only thing I could say for sure about Hillary was that she was probably not a fan of Monica Lewinsky. I did the best I could to impersonate her without really knowing anything about her, which in the end just made me feel guilty.
I know that I am not the only person of voting age in the United States who knows nothing about politics, but every time election season rolls around, I feel like a bad American. It is a privilege, and (according to some) a civic duty, to be able to vote in the upcoming presidential election. Even more significant than exercising the right to vote is voting intelligently. Thomas Jefferson once said, “We do not have a government by a majority of the people, we have a government by a majority of the people who participate.” It might be funny to dress up like the candidates for Halloween, but you won’t be laughing if you don’t agree with the policies of the next president. For this reason, it is important to at least be educated on the 2016 election, and I learned the hard way that watching YouTube videos isn’t the most effective way of learning about the candidates. Here is a quick guide to the top two 2016 presidential candidates:
Leading Republican Candidate: Donald Trump
The man of iconic hair and reality television show stardom Donald Trump is currently leading the GOP (“Grand Old Party,” fun fact) in the most current polls. He was born in New York City on June 14, 1946, and is the son of Fred Trump, a successful real estate developer. He worked for his father’s company while attending the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1971 he was given control of the company, which he renamed the Trump Organization. He remains to this day a very successful figure in American real estate, and has a net worth of $4.5 billion, according to Forbes. You may have seen the slogan of his campaign, “Make America Great Again,” on his new favorite hat. Some of his main political positions include:
- Simplifying the tax code: Trump has proposed a 1–5–10–15 income tax plan, which in short would require incomes of up to $30,000 to pay 1 percent, incomes of $30,000 to $100,000 to pay 5 percent, incomes of $100,000 to $1 million to pay 10 percent, incomes of $1 million and up would pay 15 percent. In other words, Trump plans to lower taxes for middle and working class people and increase taxes on wealthy private equity and hedge fund managers, who he says currently pay next to nothing.
- Healthcare: Trump plans on replacing the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as "Obamacare") with a free-market plan. He believes that competition among healthcare providers will lower costs. He also supports funding Social Security and Medicare as opposed to cutting them.
- Gun control: Trump supports the Second Amendment, and is opposed to gun control laws. Instead, he supports fixing the federal background check system and wants checking criminal and mental health records to be a reliable standard for distributing gun permits. He also plans to lift the ban on guns in military bases and recruiting centers, a controversial topic.
- Immigration: Some of Trump’s most memorable quotes from his debates include those about building a wall at the Mexican border. He has emphasized United States border security, and although some people including Senator Ted Cruz were happy that Trump brought attention to the issue of illegal immigration, many more were appalled at the manner in which he delivered his statements.
Leading Democratic Candidate: Hillary Clinton
The woman of many colorful pantsuits and equally iconic hair, former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton is currently at the top of the Democratic party, according to the most recent polls. She was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 26, 1947. She was a lawyer who graduated from Yale Law School in 1973, and married former President of the United States Bill Clinton two years later. During her time as First Lady, she made many efforts to be involved in public policy, especially in the form of the failed Clinton health care plan of 1993 (also known as “Hillarycare”). The Clintons are probably most well known among our generation for the “Lewinsky Scandal,” or the political sex scandal between President Clinton and one of his White House interns that lead to his impeachment in 1998. Hillary has been involved in her own controversies as well, including being accused of corruption for allowing the Clinton Foundation to accept donations from foreign governments, as well as exclusively using personal email accounts on a non-government, privately maintained server instead of accounts maintained by the Federal Government while conducting official business during her time as Secretary of State (she is accused of deleting over 32,000 emails and violating the protocols and procedures of the State Department, and could face serious criminal charges). Some of her main political policies for her second campaign for the Presidency include:
- Tax on capital gains: Clinton recently proposed a significant hike on capital gains taxes for some investors, which is intended to combat short-term investing. Her plan calls for a “sliding scale” of taxes on investments: short-term investments will be taxed at higher rates, and then drop in a staggered rate over the course of six years, eventually ending up at their current levels.
- Healthcare: Hillary plans to defend the Affordable Care Act, and wants to build on it in an effort to expand affordable coverage, lower co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs, and reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
- Immigration: Hillary supports a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants in the United States, believing it an “impossible scheme” to deport all those living here illegally. According to a statement made by Hillary in 2006, citizenship should be granted to “…those who are here, working hard, paying taxes, respecting the law and willing to meet a high bar for becoming a citizen.”
- Voting: Hillary is calling for huge changes in voting access laws, including automatically registering citizens to vote when they turn 18 and mandating 20 days of “early voting” in every state.
- Women’s Rights: Hillary has been a consistent advocate for women’s rights and even considers herself a feminist.
Does reading this article qualify you as an educated voter? Absolutely not. These are just two candidates of the many, and very small snapshots of what their policies entail. All of the candidates have huge plans for the United States, your country, and it is worth knowing enough to have an opinion of your own about the main issues they discuss. In the next year, the country will become more and more focused on the Presidential Race. Wouldn’t it be nice to be part of the conversation? Or at the very least, come Halloween next year, you will be able to speak on more than how Ellen DeGeneres taught you how to whip.