Not “politics as usual”

The death of Justice Scalia raises the stakes of 2016’s presidential election.

By Melinda Henricks, Staff Writer

If you thought that politics could get ugly, hold onto your hat; we are in for the ride of our livespolitically speaking. The recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia has Democrats and Republicans jumping through hoops, hoping to fill the vacated Supreme Court seat. President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a highly-qualified U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge for the District of Columbia, for the position. It has been more than two decades since the Supreme Court has been controlled by a democratic majority. Republicans have stated that they will stall the vote until a new, and hopefully Republican, president has been elected.

The March 28-April 18 RealClearPolitics average of polls shows that Obama’s job-approval rating is evenly split 48 to 48 percent in his last year of office. The Affordable Care Act seems to be the president’s biggest achievement and failure, with many believing that he did not go far enough with the implementation of the details regarding care, costs and service. Recent Gallup Poll history demonstrates that this is a much better rating than many former presidents have earned. Of the recent two-term presidents, Bill Clinton had a 60.6 percent approval rating and Ronald Reagan left office with 55.3 percent approval; on the low side, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush ended their tenure in office with a 34.4 and 36.5 percent approval rating, respectively.

We are experiencing many new phenomenons in terms of the candidates. People in the 18-35 age group are impressed with Bernie Sanders, believing that “Bernie is honest and transparent and will pay attention to their concerns,” according to First Draft Political News. A free college education and government-paid health care are major concerns, and Bernie is responding to these needs by offering tuition-free public colleges and universities, reduced student-loan interest rates, universal pre-K, and affordable child care. In fact, these issues are among some of his most popular ideologies for success. Recently, his popularity is on the rise with an uphill battle being faced in states with the largest number of delegates.

According to First Draft Political News, “the LGBT community and black and Hispanic women are still swayed by Clinton’s electability and her leadership skills.” Additionally, Hillary Clinton has stood her ground and supported the issues of these communities. Clinton’s biggest downfall is that she has repeatedly shown her ties to big business and transparency has obviously fallen by the wayside. The episode of wiping her personal e-mail clean has left many questioning her honesty and threats of indictment loom large.

Given all this, many are surprised that Clinton and Sanders are now neck and neck overall. Clinton, however, is ahead after significant wins and a show of support from the loyal, southern, African-American community. She leads Sanders 47 to 46 percent in a national USA Today poll heading into Tuesday’s New York primary. So far, Clinton has won 1289 delegates and Sanders has won 1045. In addition, Clinton leads Sanders in pledged superdelegates 469-31.

On the Republican side, we have Donald Trump, whom at first was the little engine that could. Trump’s popularity is causing a huge division in the Republican Party, with some party leaders executing plans to derail him. “The more he defies his party, the more voters cheer him on,” Stephen B. Morton of The New York Times said. The Times added that anti-Trump republicans supporting efforts to elect Ted Cruz, who currently lags behind Trump, are now stepping up their game with a plan B. Sen. Cruz is now garnering support and is picking up steam, but Trump leads the delegate count with 756. Cruz’s 559 puts him in second, and Kasich is a distant third with 144.

According to LA Times writer Joseph Tanfani, “Conservative or dark money groups are now going after the GOP hopefuls to ensure a Republican win.” At some point, many expect that Republicans will run an Independent Party candidate if all else fails to stop the locomotion of Donald Trump. Although all candidates pledged to support the Republican nominee, Trump now states that “his supporters will resist if someone else were nominated.” According to New York Times writers Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, “this statement has many concerned as it appears to mean that Mr. Trump encourages or condones violence.” Personal attacks and the arrest of Trump’s campaign manager have left many with doubts about his ability to carry the Republican nomination to fruition. Winning the election may now be out of the question for him as his popularity fades and support for Cruz builds.

Anti-Trump republicans have until late May to use the Libertarian Party as a means of introducing new candidates to the race. Moreover, anti-Trump supporters will use the last six weeks between the primaries and the mid-July convention to woo individual delegates. However, Trump is using the force directed against him as a strategic defense, asking the public: How is the current state of affairs in this country working for you and your family? This has given pause for reflection to many.

Whatever happens now is anyone’s guess. It appears that all previously set rules are now flying out the window on both sides. The death of Justice Scalia changed the stakes tremendously. This has created a warpath for Republicans like we have never experienced.  All of the candidates should chalk their cues as the coveted Supreme Court seat remains the “mystery guest” and has tremendous impact in the upcoming election. If there was ever a time to get involved and make your voice heard, this presidential election will be that time.


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