The US Primary Candidates 2016
This chart extends to all areas of political thought — not just to the confines of the US campaign. Accordingly, the placement of the candidates is in the context of universal political landscape. The chart will be adjusted if and when there are significant policy shifts. We are receiving many requests for the inclusion of the leaders of smaller parties. These will be added to a new presidential election chart after the major party candidates have been determined. Meanwhile you may be interested in our 2012 presidential chart.
Voter reaction against the party mainstream and Washington insiders couldn't be more in evidence, as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders confound the apparatchiks and pack out the town hall meetings. The GOP, having lost its way since the end of the cold war, has little that's unique to unify its supporters. Wall Street? The Obama/Clinton Democrats couldn't have been more supportive. Militarism? Think only of Libya, Syria and Iraq. Civil liberties? Have you checked out the extended presidential powers in the NDAA, further surveillance provisions and Obama's unprecedented pursuit of whistle-blowers? With liberal Republicans a long-extinct political species, and the party shifting relentlessly rightwards, the GOP became the home to Christian evangelicals. There's little to distinguish the deeply traditional conservative Christian Republican candidates, yet the profane Mr Trump is paradoxically enjoying the largest share of white evangelical support. Never mind that he's clearly more at home with the gospel of Ayn Rand. A recent U-turn on abortion was all that the blustering billionaire, a man of apparently few fixed principles and no guiding ideology, needed to attract many of the party's Christian conservatives. His economics are sometimes less right-wing than the other GOP candidates; Trump for a time even supported single-payer health care. Is he really a Tory … or a wig? He defended Obama's bank bailouts — anathema to the other GOP contenders. Contradictions notwithstanding, he successfully targets the heartland of the anti-tax, anti-immigrant, pro-security social base of the party. He's a populist in the Berlusconi mould, and the more outrageous his statements the more his supporters love it.
Style more than substance separates Trump from Hillary Clinton. After all, Trump was a generous donor to Clinton's senate campaigns, and also to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary is nevertheless disingenuously promoting herself as the centrist between an extreme right-winger (Trump) and an 'extreme left-winger' (Sanders). Abortion and gay marriage place her on a more liberal position on the social scale than all of the Republicans but, when it comes to economics, Clinton's unswerving attachment to neoliberalism and big money is a mutual love affair.
Quite why Sanders is describing himself to the American electorate — of all electorates — as a 'socialist' or 'democratic socialist' isn't clear. His economics are Keynesian or Galbraithian, in common with mainstream parties of the left in the rest of the west — the Labour or Social Democrat parties. Surely 'Social Democrat' would be a more accurate and appealing label for the Sanders campaign to adopt. While Sanders claims to admire particularly the Scandinavian model, he neglects to point out that a characteristic of all social democracies is a low defence budget, reflecting not only a degree of anti-militarism, but also social spending as a priority. Beyond tinkering, though, Sanders has no appetite for significantly cutting the Herculean defence budget or criticising imperial adventures. His urging for the World's most authoritarian country, Saudi Arabia, to assert a stronger military presence in the Middle East is a bizarre position for a social democrat to hold. These odd clusters of attitudes are reflected in our placement of Sanders. Domestically the man is an undoubted progressive — not the least for his courageous attack on corporate campaign funding. But on foreign policy, you could expect a President Sanders to be strikingly similar to his predecessors.