Hilltop Voices: Erin Melton on the 2016 presidential campaign announcements

In case anyone has failed to notice, campaigning has in fact begun for the 2016 presidential election. There has been much speculation in the past months as to who would officially announce their candidacies and when. Four noteable candidates have declared so far.

First to announce was Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas Monday, Mar. 23. He made his speech at Liberty University in Virginia, a landmark of evangelical Christianity. His major campaign idea seems to be liberty. “Liberty for whom?” you may ask. Well, I am asking the same question. Cruz’s justification for every major speech point was American Protestantism, thereby universalizing his faith as that of all Conservatives in the United States. He explicitly called for the mobilization of born-again Christians.

Here and there, Cruz actually discussed his political agenda, rather than his relationship with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not only does he want to repeal every single word of Obamacare; he wants to install a flat tax, allow taxes to be done on postcards and abolish the Internal Revenue Service. It seems that he would, in fact, be taking care of tax returns and tax regulation single-handedly and from the Oval Office upon winning the presidential race. He even applied the American Dream to immigration—what an idea!

I must praise Cruz for his use of parallelism. In his unending attack on the current administration, he consistently began his disparaging sentences with “Instead of.” In the end, I was truly drawn in by his implied comparison between himself and the founding fathers. Cruz 2016? Not quite.

Second to announce was Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. On Tuesday, Apr. 7 in Louisville, Paul announced his plan to return the country to its past prosperity with a focus on the problematic economy and an assurance that the Constitution will restrain the government and its spending. In fact, the majority of his speech opposed the actions of either the Obama administration, focusing on things like Obamacare or foreign borrowing, or the government as a whole, regarding things like Congress’s failure to be scrupulous in reading bills and the need to limit congressional terms as the problem. However, he failed to mention how he aims to fix the problems he was all too enthusiastic to bring to our attention.

The speech seemed hopeful when he began discussing his economic plan, but he never actually explained how he aims to achieve employment for all who want jobs. What he did do was try to gain credibility with the fact that two of his sons work minimum-wage jobs while in school. If you are considering not having kids, take this card out of Paul’s book and have them in order to manipulate them into doing things that will serve your political needs instead! He explained that he wants to lower corporate taxes in order to encourage companies that have taken business abroad to relocate domestically. I do appreciate his desire to bridge the education gap that has been widened by income inequality. He then tied this back to that all too elusive American Dream.

Paul also invoked the power of the Constitution…and the Bill of Rights, separately. Even better is his later claim to believe in the founding documents. I know that this confuses me because he seemed not to be very sure just what they are.

“Justice, opportunity and freedom” are the tenets of his campaign. Apparently, these will become attainable for all when the United States defeats its ultimate enemy.

“The enemy is radical Islam—haters of mankind,” Paul said.

At least he is eloquent.

Third, but not least, to announce was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, she did not trap students in an auditorium or go to her home state to do so. On Sunday, Apr. 12 she put out a two-minute video officially declaring her much-expected candidacy. Her main platform is “Getting Started,” and her video features a number of marginalized and economically disenfranchised groups starting new chapters of their lives.

Clinton’s video has an underlying theme of unifying the United States. She invites the American people to go on a journey toward economic equality with her and claims that she will be the nation’s champion. As much as I love her positive, inclusive message, Clinton’s focus is on families. While I realize that this is necessary in order to gain votes, it may be off-putting for young workers and students.

Hillary Clinton is the only of those who have declared so far whose announcement did not attack the current administration. If that does not scream class, I do not know what does.

Finally, we have Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who announced Monday, Apr. 13 at Freedom Tower in NYC. While his overall announcement was more positive than our two other Republican candidates’ speeches, he just could not resist criticizing Obamacare without offering an alternative and claiming that its repeal would somehow create many jobs. President Obama is not alone under attack; Rubio has already expressed his negative opinion of Hillary Clinton’s campaign ad.

Rubio praised the United States as the land of opportunity, calling upon the American Dream (are we noticing a theme yet?) with the story of his family’s improbable success. In light of the apparent availability of success to families like his own, he enthusiastically expressed his desire to bring about another “American century.” Unfortunately, his story is absolutely an exception to the norm.

He did eventually get to his political agenda. He expressed a need to reduce student debt, and in that aspect, he has my full support. Rubio also hinted at getting rid of degrees that do not produce job-ready graduates, and as an English major and French and religious studies minor, I am sure that he could not have been referencing my humanities degree at all.

Rubio expressed his sentiment that the Christian family is the most important institution in the United States, reminiscent of Cruz’s insistent Evangelical agenda. Ah, the refreshing smell of the exclusionary invocation of religious values. In the end, he warned the country against returning to the failed ideas of past leaders. However, I seem to recall his early insistence on returning to an American century. Perhaps he wanted to be ironic. At least his entire speech was not criticizing the Obama administration.

Former Florida Governor and Republican Jeb Bush, is expected to announce his candidacy soon.

All political bias aside, we should all pay attention to these candidates and use our wonderful right to vote in the 2016 election. We are a large-and-in-charge generation; we should use our incredibly forceful voice! I mean, why would you not want a cute “I Voted” sticker? Happy election season!

Erin Melton

Erin Melton is a senior Literature and Theory major and French and Religious Studies minor. She is the chief copy editor and loves camels.

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