The “Student Blog Post” series invites students from my PLS 321: Electoral Process course to author their own blogs about recent election events.
The presidential debates are the most entertaining and the most watched events during presidential elections. Whether it’s primary or general season, many Americans rely solely on these debates to determine which candidate they will vote for. Thus far, during the 2016 presidential primaries, there have been four debates. There have been three Republican debates and one Democratic debate. I will be focusing on the recent CNBC Republican Debate, which aired on October 28, 2015. I will discuss the candidate’s strategies and voting behavior in response to this debate. These debates are aimed to push candidates to discuss issues and allow voters to determine two objectives. First, voters will get the chance to understand the candidates position on a particular issue; and second, voters will be able to align themselves with the candidate that they believe stands with them on that particular issues. The problem with this analysis is that it’s missing the third and most important component that determines the voter’s alliance with the candidate. For the voter to be able to achieve the two objectives, they need to be knowledgeable enough to understand their own position on the issues.
During the third Republican debate, the candidates set forth many solutions to specific issues such as income taxes. Income taxes impacts all American voters and voters will need to understand the candidate’s position on taxes in order to align themselves. During this debate, candidates such as Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul set forth a flat rate tax proposal ranging from 10% to 15%. Other candidates set up brackets ranging from 10% to 35% depending on income. Mike Huckabee set forth a third proposal of eliminating the income taxes altogether. This proposal, also known as the Fair Tax, creates a federal sales tax at the rate of 23% with monthly rebates for low-income households. All these proposals have been debated; however, the underlying question is that does the average American know the difference between a flat rate tax and a Fair Tax? Can an average American decide which tax plan benefits them?
Average American voters do not have the knowledge base in order to understand candidate’s positions to the fullest extent. They rather rely on the candidates themselves in order to be persuaded on those positions. The candidates strategize based on the assumptions that voters lack knowledge. During this debate the candidates did not define their plan, rather all concluded that their individual plan would benefit average middle-class Americans. In truth, all candidates sound the same when it comes to substantive issues. They all conclude that they will create jobs, increase economic growth and balance the budget. They understand that average American voters are not qualified enough to dissect each particular issue and come to a calculated conclusion on that issue.
To conclude, knowledgeable voters can understand what the issues are, what the candidates position on those issues are and most important of all, what a voter own position on those issues are. American voters should not just only watch these debates to simply enjoy the entertainment, they should first understand specific issues and create a checklist that will calculate the benefits that they will earn under each candidate. The more knowledgeable the voters are, the more pressure is on the candidates in persuading voters on the positive outcome that their plans provide.
Arman Ghomi is a political science student at Cal Poly Pomona who enjoys cooking, debating, and working in politics in the future.