Presidential Primer: 4 Candidates on 5 Key Issues

This is truly an election cycle like no other in modern American politics. There has never been a presidential race in which the two mainstream candidates were met with such dislike and distrust by the American populace. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, with their gaffes and perceived dishonesty, have inspired voters all over to not only cross party lines for this election, but abandon their parties indefinitely. And then of course, to make the choice even harder, there ARE those third-party candidates…

Since the American populace seems to have abandoned partisan reasoning this cycle, a little insight into a few key issues might be good.

Guns and the Second Amendment, specifically the introduction of tougher gun control legislation:

Clinton Trump Johnson Stein
For Against Against For

This dichotomy is pretty clear. The left leaning Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein believe that while most gun owners are law-abiding citizens, that there are too many criminals to have such weak gun laws in certain states. They also both believe in closing gun show loopholes.

On the other hand, Trump, the Republican nominee, and former Republican governor, now Libertarian Gary Johnson are much more pro-2A. Both believe that disarming citizens only means that the government and criminals have weapons, and both personally believe that guns are a deterrent to crime (which is true, depending on your study of choice).

If guns are your single voting issue, pick Johnson or Trump.

Marijuana, specifically regarding recreational use:

Clinton Trump Johnson Stein
Unclear Unclear For For

Marijuana is one of the more interesting issues in 2016. According to a Gallup poll taken in October 2015, 58% of Americans support legalizing marijuana for recreational use among adults. This number has been on a rise for years as the public slowly but surely bats off the reefer madness that’s gripped American society for close to a century.

All candidates support the use of marijuana for medical purposes, citing the many benefits and lack of true dangers. In fact, Gary Johnson was briefly the CEO of a marijuana marketing economy and has been a noted user of marijuana. In true Libertarian fashion, he doesn’t believe the state has a right on what we take into our bodies. Jill Stein holds a similar view, and adds that the most dangerous parts of marijuana usage are ones we created: the risks of getting caught with it, and the having to deal with a black/unregulated market to acquire it (in most states).

However, you won’t find a wholly transparent answer from the Republican or Democratic candidate.

Hillary Clinton believes that marijuana is not harmful, and that it doesn’t constitute an offense worthy of jail even if it is illegal. She has been careful not to co-sign on any sort of idea that she would pursue legalizing it, but there are many that believes that if she wins and no longer needs to scrap for votes, her and the incoming Supreme Court Justice she picks will gladly let it happen for the sake of liberalism.

Donald Trump, in true conservative form, believes that marijuana isn’t harmful, but that it’s legality is chiefly an issue for states to resolve.

If legal recreational weed is your one calling card issue, vote Johnson or Stein. But bear in mind Clinton or Trump have been intentionally vague on their views.

Increased military spending

Clinton Trump Johnson Stein
Against Against Against Against

With over $500 billion spent on defense annually, this may be the issue in which the viewpoints of all 4 candidates most closely matches how the American public feels. Each of the candidates is against increasing spending on the military, but for various reasons. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both believe that the Pentagon has a spending problem and could optimize our military AND reduce costs. Both personally believe THEY could aid the Pentagon in doing such.

Gary Johnson has a slightly more verbose take on the issue. He believes that if the United States were to stop meddling in the affairs of others and “nation-building”, that we would be able to cut defense spending by up to 43% (Casey Research) while still having adequate national defense. Jill Stein very much embodies the Green platform on this issue, believing that our continued involvement in affairs overseas sends us further down a financial rabbit hole. She also thinks our continued involvement with foreign affairs only defame our country. Not quite an isolationist, but someone who thinks we need out of our current engagements ASAP.

This isn’t the single issue to base your vote on. All 4 candidates would like to cut spending and apportion that money elsewhere while still maintaining our strength.

Climate change, specifically: Is human activity causing climate change?

Clinton Trump Johnson Stein
Believes this to be true Does not believe this to be true Believes this to be true Believes this to be true

The divide here is fairly simple. All of the candidates other than Donald Trump believe that climate change is real, is the result of human activity, and is one of the biggest issues facing humanity today. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, naturally seems the most devoted to saving the environment. Clinton promises a strong, pragmatic approach to restoring the environment. And Gary Johnson believes that a healthy environment frees the way for unbridled free market enterprise, and thus it’s imperative to protect.

This issue all falls down on what you believe in. If you don’t believe in climate change, or believe addressing it is a waste of time, Donald Trump is your man. If it’s your main issue, vote Stein. And if the rhyme and reason work for you, either Stein, Johnson or Clinton seem devoted enough to the environment.

Race relations and the criminal justice system, specifically: Is the criminal justice system unfair to black people?

One could certainly argue this issue pertains to all minorities, but on this issue in America today seems to focus mostly on tensions between African-Americans and law enforcement.

Clinton Trump Johnson Stein
Believes this to be true Does not believe this to be true Believes this to be true Believes this to be rrue

Clinton, Johnson, and Stein all offer their condolences to the African-American community, saying that they recognize both that African-Americans are treated unfairly by the criminal justice system, and that law enforcement today needs to undergo reforms to better serve all communities.

This is in stark contrast to Donald Trump, who while not giving a specific viewpoint on this issue, is a staunch proponent of law enforcement and has been known to say “give power back to the police”. (Macneal)

On this issue, the choice is clear: if you would like to see changes in police-civilian interactions, specifically African-Americans, vote for anybody but Trump.

And, if none of these candidates are doing it for you, feel free to write-in a candidate. No reason to doubt in such a strange year, Mickey Mouse, Captain America, Bernie Sanders or D’Brickashaw Ferguson can’t rock the vote.

Sources: Casey Research, “The Best Presidential Candidate No One’s Heard Of,”, Oct. 2, 2011

Macneal, Caitlin. “Trump: We Must ‘give Power Back to the Police'” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 03 Aug. 2015. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.

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