Us presidential election: a guide

Politics nerds, politics newbs and everyone in between: there's no way you can avoid the US presidential election, so here’s The Student Room’s guide to the two major parties and their promises...

Candidate profile: Mitt Romney a.k.a the Romneyator

The Republican’s presidential candidate. He’s been everything from a Mormon missionary in France to a multi-millionaire business owner, and has a net worth of around $200 million (£125 million). He was elected as Governor of Massachusetts in 2002, and aggressively cut the state’s budget and funding to local communities. However, he also pursued businesses for their taxes and made healthcare substantially more universal.


The Republican Party in a nutshell
Formed in the 1850s from the ashes of the Whig party and the Free Soil Party, their unifying aim was to oppose the expansion of slavery in the US. They wanted free-markets occupied by free men—able to sell their labour where they pleased. This historical aim lives on in their modern politics. The Republicans see Americans as self-sufficient individuals and tend to favour spending less on government.

They often support

  • Free markets: they want businesses and individuals to succeed or fail by the forces of a free market, in the absence of government regulation.
  • Personal responsibility: they tend to see individuals as responsible for their own fortunes or failings. They therefore place less of an emphasis on government support for the poor and vulnerable, and less of an emphasis on taxing the rich. This is like a more extreme version of the UK Conservative Party’s ideology.
  • A massive military: the Republicans tend to support substantial military funding, which in 2010 constituted 4.8% of US GDP, compared to the UK’s 2.5%.
  • Socially conservative rules: they tend to be either against (or not actively in favour of) contentious social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and other socially liberal issues.
  • GUNS! They see gun ownership as a constitutionally protected right, harking back to the days where Americans were self-sufficient and protected themselves.

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Did you know
Mitt Romney’s 70-year-old cousin Merideth Romney was once held for ransom in a Mexican cave for three days!

Biggest fib so far
"Nearly half of all persons under 30 did not go to work today." (Mitch Daniels, Republican Governor of Indiana). Daniels is implying that there are no jobs for the under-30s, but really his statistic is only true because loads of people were at school or college! Oops.

Candidate Profile: Barack Obama

You haven’t heard of him? He’s been US President since 2009, and was State and US Senator before that. In his senator days he championed reforming healthcare and opposed the war in Iraq. Before moving into politics, he was a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years.

The Democratic Party in a nutshell
Major players on the political scene from the 1830s onwards, the Democratic Party’s ideology began with a commitment to favour the common American’s needs over the interests of big business. In that sense it’s close to the UK’s Labour party, placing an emphasis on the labourers and their rights. As with the Republican Party, this ideology feeds through to its modern agenda.

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They tend to support

  • Regulating markets: readily regulate markets in order to protect the interests of the ordinary American
  • Collective responsibility: they see the government as partly responsible for individuals’ fortunes and failings, or at least a duty for the government to assist in individual failings. This tends to mean more support for the poor and vulnerable and also higher tax on big business
  • Smaller military: than the Republicans, at least, though Democrats do still support substantial military funding
  • Socially liberal rules: Democrats tend to be in favour of liberal social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage
  • Not so pro-guns: Democrats tend to want tighter gun control, though not necessarily the banning of possession of firearms

Did you know
Obama is the ninth cousin of Brad Pitt!

Biggest fib so far
Obama claims that Mitt Romney plans to "fire" Big Bird from Sesame Street. Who could do such a thing? Not Romney, apparently—he only hopes to cut funding to the channel on which Big Bird is aired. This won’t be much of a problem, however, as Sesame Street doesn’t get much funding from the channel anyway. Hurray for Big Bird.

Election pledges

Republican Party

  • Reduce government spending by cutting the controversial ObamaCare, which was put in place to reduce the number of Americans without access to healthcare, and to reduce the amount spent on health care.
  • Build a military might "so powerful that no one would ever think of challenging it" (Romney: 24 Jan, Florida) by increasing military funding by 2 trillion dollars
  • Leave Afghanistan by 2014
  • Team up with Israel to place aircraft carriers close to Iran
  • Push a liberal-democratic agenda in the Middle-East
  • Pioneer 'pro-growth' (extremely low) taxes and intellectual property protections to boost fast-growing small businesses
  • Implement a 'voucher' healthcare scheme for the elderly. Currently the elderly get (mostly) free national healthcare, but the Republicans aim to give them credit instead with which they could purchase private healthcare.
  • Invest in the US’s poor infrastructure

Democratic Party

  • No tax breaks for companies who outsource jobs overseas instead of hiring Americans
  • Funding for developing a skilled American workforce
  • More protection for US diplomats
  • Maintaining superior military force so as to stop Iran’s nuclear plans
  • Leave Afghanistan by 2014
  • Taking funding freed up by ending war efforts and putting it into giving veterans the skills needed to become firefighters and policeman
  • Making healthcare more comprehensive and supportive of the poor and young people
  • Defending the right to abortion

Some relevant facts about Obama’s term...

The good

  • Obama has ended the use of US torture and rendition (indirect torture) without exception through law, by changing Bush-era policies and passing executive orders on the treatment of prisoners
  • He has managed to reduce nuclear stockpiles through the New START treaty with Russia
  • Developing ways for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship
  • Reformed tough minimum sentencing laws to reduce prison population, which currently stands at almost a quarter of the world’s prison population!
  • Reformed health care in the US. Meaning:
    • The US government will help people buy medical insurance
    • Will reform how insurance companies can act when claims are made
    • Will cap insurance premiums according to income
    • Health-insurance will cover all poor people. Right now you have to have a disability, be pregnant or elderly and poor to be covered
    • Force people to buy health insurance penalties so that demographics do not suffer due to opting out

The bad

  • He has, however, failed to close Guantanamo Bay—a controversial prison for terror suspects
  • He promised to half national deficit, when in fact it has been cut by roughly 15%
  • The US economy has had one of the slowest recoveries on record since 2009
  • His green energy manufacturing initiatives have not been particularly successful, and the cost of his high-speed rail initiative is spiralling out of control

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