Stephen Melkisethian

Bombarded on the media everywhere in the world is the coverage of the United States presidency: the seemingly endless battle between Secretary Hillary Clinton and the renowned businessman, TV personality Donald Trump is coming to a close. Our previous two issues published last week also did provide an insightful look-in to these primary candidates (here is Trump, and here is Hillary). Throughout the US, vote-casting has also been around for several days, for people who simply unable to show up or to working governmental officials on Election Day; and an estimated 37 million people have already voiced their support for their deserving candidates, as of November 4. However, for the majority of the residents of the United States, tomorrow is the judgment day. For non-US speculators like I am, the run-up to the election has not been far from watching a reality show: you do not really like it; but hey, you have come this far.  It has been 5 months since Trump declared presumptive presidential candidacy for the Republicans, with Hillary following one month later for the Democrats, after a clear-cut, albeit controversial victory against Senator Bernie Sanders. However, their campaigns, both starting in summer 2015, have been going on very different tracks. Three presidential debates. Hundreds of campaign rallies. More than half a billion dollar of donations were sent to candidates. Now, with Rostra, let’s have some final thoughts before the National Election Day, when the faith of Americans in the next 4 years will be decided.

  1. Independent Parties Candidates

While the two nominees are fighting for the most powerful position in the political world, many people labeled them as the two worst ever US presidential candidates, evidently shown by their countless scandalous events. And of course, there are some alternatives that voters could look out for: independent candidates. Even when two main candidates showed considerably less favorability compared to nominees from previous elections, third-party candidates somehow failed to be properly appreciated and were extremely overlooked by the press. In spite of being given an opportunity to brand themselves as better candidates, they have not been performing well enough to deserve great recognition either. The two most frequently mentioned political candidates on this spectrum, based on polling results, are Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

  1. a) Gary Johnson

Although firstly pursuing Bachelors in Political Sciences as his main major, his successful start-up business made him turned into a successful businessman. At 41, he also decided to join politics and successfully campaigned himself to be the Governor of New Mexico, as a Republican. Johnson gave up business ownership and wholeheartedly devoted his effort to politics when he sold his corporation soon after. After stepping down from Governor Position after the second term in 2003, he was less active within political scenes, but still strongly endorsed Republican candidates for presidency. In 2009, he established “The Gary Johnson Initiative”, which was intended to support small government acts, most notably the combat against drug abuse. At the time, political analysts believed that the initiative would serve as a means for his potential run of 2012 presidential candidacy. He indeed announced his attention in late 2011 to run as a Republican candidate, but largely failed to impress voters with his proposals. As a result, in order to enhance his popularity, he decided to run for the Libertarian Party and was announced the representative for the Party in both 2012 and 2016.

In his second attempt at the presidential candidacy, he introduced his policies and beliefs with virtually no difference compared to what was held in his 2012 run. Previously a Republican Governor himself, he can be characterized as fairly conservative and a strong advocate of no-intervention system. He strictly asserted his intentions of downsizing the government and believed that the economy can be self-regulated. On tax matters, his ideas do conform to the proposals by Republican candidates – he suggested abolishing the IRS and eliminate regression tax system, which shall be replaced by his “federal consumption tax”, rather than taxation on personal income and corporation. Healthcare-wise, he also raises skeptics the economic inefficiency towards state-controlled healthcare regulations (such as mandatory vaccination), and the continuation of government-funded Medicaid and Obamacare. On the other hand, his positions on some other political issues are somewhat aligned with Democrats’ belief. For example, he agrees on current problems such as climate change and the legalization of marijuana. Cross-border trades and international economic agreements are also other proposals that he agrees with. On regulations, he strongly opposes the prohibition of personal arms. Regarding immigration issues, he wants to speed up the process of documenting immigrants. Finally, though conservative, he is in support of same-sex marriage constitutional rights and abortion laws.

The famous incident that caused a significant U-turn to his current presidential campaign was his careless comments on his foreign policy, where he was asked on his solutions on how to deal with Syrian crisis if he is to be elected. How disappointing the response was, as he did not even recognize the city of Aleppo, where the heart of the Syrian refugee crisis is. The inability to acknowledge a central location of US military operation deterred his performance en route to the presidency, and coupled with the uprising concentration on Clinton and Trump, have made him less of a viable option towards more serious matters.

  1. b) Jill Stein

­Born and raised in “The Windy City”, Chicago, Stein did not come from a political background. She graduated from Harvard in 1973 in sociology, psychology and anthropology. She was academically gifted and pursued teaching and practicing medicine for the majority of her career. She decided to lead the “Filthy Five” campaign in 1998 as her first experience in activism, which crusaded against the emissions of contaminants from coal plants in Massachusetts. She continued her campaigns by initiating numerous non-profit organizations which primarily focused on the battle against pollution, improvement of health and the establishment of sustainable environment programs. Besides her commitment to activism, she also published articles and made public appearances, taking part in open discussions with subjects related to public health and pediatrics. Stein decided to enter the field of politics, while campaigning for the finance reform of “Cleans Election Law” in Massachusetts, and revoked by the Democratic Party. She opted to join as an independent party candidate under the Green Party. In 2011, she actively campaigned for the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Her most successful political career achievement came when she was announced as the representative of Green Party in 2012 presidential election, but her effort hardly paid off while only officially getting 0.36% of domestic support (equivalent to only below 500,000 voters).

Her political ideology revolves rather much on liberal concepts, and comparatively much more to Gary Johnson. While having similarities in the approach the government should take such as the liberalization of LGBT rights, immigration and climate change, she took some different attitude towards other issues. Regarding her economic proposals, she was strongly against the coalition of corporations on Wall Street and planned to heavily place tax burdens on financial instruments and transactions. Meanwhile, on her policy plan, she pushed for the creation of sustainable infrastructure and called for efforts for building more environmental-friendly measures. However, she strongly opposed US military presence overseas and intended to reduce government expenditure on such non-developmental sectors. The combination of this policy measures are directly aiming towards to a structural change in employment, which would partly bring citizens from working in defense and military into a more value-enhancing sustainable sector, so as to improve employment within the country. She is also a voiced advocator of continuing Medicare and Obamacare, while promoted governments to tackle on contraceptive and reproductive care as well.

Jill Stein, as likable as it might seem, failed to deliver when it matters most. When she was asked about the concerning issues surrounding education, most notably student debts, she evidently showed lack of understanding for fundamental economics. She argued that the adoption of a quantitative easing (QE) program, which is the initiatives of what the government did for bankrupt corporations on the aftermaths of financial crisis, should be used to bailout students from debts. It is even more absurd to think that this proposed educational reform was described by her as “simple”, and QE was considered “a magic trick”. Furthermore, she also got involved into of some her minor scandals such as her reluctance to release tax returns for consecutive years, even when she both actively fighting for presidency. Her foreign policy beliefs did not help her to gain any kind of domestic support either. She openly criticized US military involvement of the Syrian crisis and continuously denounced human rights issues within the country.

That concludes our introduction of all candidates, covering the total of 3 issues. I do realize myself that I am/we are aware of honorable mentions as well, such as Darrell Castle from Constitution or Evan McMullin from Independent. Much to our acknowledgement, these other 20 candidates, combined, will only contribute marginally to the outcome of the official election (3 percent, rounded, on NBC poll conducted in October). Although as much as we dislike to admit it, the real battle would still be Trump vs. Clinton; however Johnson vs. Stein (albeit not that clear) might be worth watching as well, and it will be fascinating to see how the rise of independent parties will contribute to the succeeding elections.


As of the time of this article, most US pollsters have finished conducting polls of election, but are they definite indicators for the prediction of the winner? Well, if you do some online research, there are also some devoted studies on the predictive ability of polls. However, as useful of a source of information to voters and speculators as they are, it is good to remind that polls are no indications of assuring who will win the next presidential election (although, as we have learned in Statistics, within an x percent of confidence, there is enough statistical evidence to infer that *insert name here* will win). Barack Obama, in 2008, also warned us to never trust the poll – and he actually showed why, by having won over Clinton for the Democratic nomination when myriads of polling results indicated otherwise.

According to the New York Times, as we approach the Election Day, it is much more evident that we are witnessing the convergence of votes towards the two main candidates. The majority of the polls, even those of heavily-biased Republican media outlets such as Fox News and Rasmussen, widely displayed Clinton’s dominance in terms of winning the number of polls. Surprisingly, she actually has barely lost the advantage since August! Nonetheless, with the sudden release of leaked emails that are related to Clinton merely days before the election, there is no guarantee that how much of an effect this might have on the overall results, especially when the details of those confidential messages are not even released yet. It does indeed seem that Hillary does not own as a significant lead as she used to on the weeks of Presidential Debates. On the polls that were conducted after the email scandal, the margin between two candidates has contracted; some polls even showed equal support for both candidates from participants.


(Screenshot taken from the New York Times)


The reliability of polling has been put into question many times, but over the course of the history, most pollsters have been very accurate with their collected results. However, data from polls are not always perfect, and how evident it was in predicting the outcome of Brexit! Michael van Rhee, one of our longest-serving member of Rostra, has an extensive article on the history and power of polling, so be sure to have a look as well.


Ah well, although we are thousands miles away from the dreamland America, the Dutch media also apportioned a huge amount of their broadcast time talking about the US election. Updates, reactions, documentaries, and even parodies, have been featured throughout the course of this presidential campaign.

Our university was also delighted to welcome two US correspondents, Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal and Tom-Jan Meeus, to join a “Room for Discussion” session to provide a final look and an in-depth picture on how Americans would think about the election. The main spotlight, as they claimed, would not be only completely on who will take presidency, but rather which party will hold the majority of Congress and Senate seats as well; especially as we have witnessed many proposls of the Obama administration being discarded by a Republican-dominated Congress. Nobody could quantify how much of a negative effect that is to America; but the problem could have been easily mitigated had not there been disagreements between the Houses.

The guests agreed that, this US election, in principle, is completely different compared to most previous ones. The momentum of this election was largely based on negativity and hostility, and the selection of candidates is to simply answer “who is the lesser of two evils”. Since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the middle class, representing a huge proportion of voters, has been “dismantled”, and largely influenced by special group interests. So it is totally understandable that there is anger, there is frustration, and there is also dissatisfaction; but what America needs less of right now is actually two candidates whom represent that. Trump, a businessman, if elected, will not receive any kind of support from either Democrats or Republicans, as to the execution to some of his foolish proposals. Clinton, even if she wins, will be always overshadowed by her email scandals, so there is no guarantee that her policies would win some credibility from the opposition. Regardless of who wins the election, America (and the world) will be traveling on a very, very bumpy road, carrying for the next 4 years.

Although none of our guests carried out the predictions, I do believe that only judging by strategic moves made by both parties, the Democratic nominee is holding a good advantage. Firstly, talking about demographics, it has been significantly shifted towards the last couple of decades. Statistically speaking, Tom-Jan Meeus mentioned that only 70% of voters in 2008 were white, compared to 84% seen in 1992. The Democrats since then have done a terrific job in taking advantage of the decrease (in terms of percentages) of white voters – more Asian-, Latino-, and African-Americans are actively involved in having their own say. However, if you look more carefully into these demographics, those people are the most conservative and fundamentalist of them all (Hollywood star Tom Hanks did a great skit on showing how similar Republicans are to African-Americans), so Republicans should be held accountable for not capturing these populations by simply self-destroying themselves by their comments on race- and religious-related issues.

To conclude, we have our very own Dutch way of conducting a poll as well.

Good night America, because you are going to need it.