Column: Looking at the different focuses, tones in political primaries

In this Sept. 16, 2015, file photo Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, appear during the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. (Chris Carlson, File/AP)

It is no secret that U.S. politics has become more and more divided along partisan lines over the past decade. The Democratic debate last Tuesday highlighted some of the major differences between the Democratic and Republican parties. Not only do the two parties disagree on solutions to issues, but when comparing their respective debates, it is clear they also disagree on what issues are of most importance.  

The most telling example of this comes from a comparison of the subjects discussed at the Republican debate and the subjects discussed at the Democratic debate. The only major subject both debates had in common was foreign policy, mostly focusing on the quagmire that is the Middle East.

After foreign policy, however, the most talked about subject at the second Republican debate was Planned Parenthood,  the organization that allocates about 3 percent of its resources towards abortion, doesn’t use federal funding for abortions, and doesn’t (contrary to what Carly Fiorina believes) keep a live fetus with its “heart beating” and “legs kicking” on a table to harvest its brain.

Several candidates bragged about defunding Planned Parenthood in their states. One candidate, Ted Cruz, is even attempting to shut down the federal government over Planned Parenthood.  But there’s definitely not a Republican war on women.

Somehow there were three questions in the second debate about vaccines. It is truly baffling that this is even a subject that needs to be discussed anymore, especially when determining who should be president of the United States. Research has proven that vaccines prevent diseases and do not cause autism. But some candidates hold delusional beliefs that vaccines are linked to autism (because apparently they know better than the entire medical field of the United States). 

All in all there was barely any mention of the economy, although tax policy was discussed several times. There was no serious discussion on how to help the middle class and create jobs. Instead, the audience was treated to a sideshow of attacks on immigrants, the medical field, the Supreme Court (most candidates were displeased with the court’s ruling on gay marriage) and, above all else, Barack Obama. 

Now compare this with the issues discussed at the Democratic debate. Much of the debate revolved around the economy and income inequality, a key aspect of the Bernie Sanders platform. Sanders argued for higher taxes on the top 1% and stressed the necessity of ensuring that new income is not going to only the richest Americans.  The candidates talked about encouraging small businesses and reigning in the excesses of capitalism to help the middle class.

The Democrats discussed paid family leave and health care, which are guaranteed rights in most, if not all, other major nations. They talked about climate change and their plans for reducing emissions and moving the country towards alternative sources of energy. College affordability was another important topic, with Clinton and Sanders both putting forward plans to make public college tuition free. The candidates also debated the best way to move forward with gun control and campaign finance reform.

The stark contrast between the parties was also evident in the tone of their debates. Overall Democrats seemed to be optimistic, generally debating their plans on how they would help bolster the middle class. Republicans spent much of their time attacking one another in addition to Obama and the Democratic Party instead of discussing serious issues. 

Instead of debating their own plans for helping the United States the Republicans spent most of the debate criticizing all of Obama’s policies from immigration to foreign policy to climate change.  Almost every idea each candidate put forward had something to do with undoing an act Obama had performed or was a ridiculous claim such as promising to deport all undocumented immigrants or rip up the Iran Deal. It would have been laughable if these politicians were not seeking the nation’s highest office.

Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley pointed out the drastic differences in his closing statement, “On this stage you didn't hear anyone denigrate women, you didn't hear anyone make racist comments about new American immigrants. You didn't hear anyone speak ill of another American because of their religious beliefs. What you heard was an honest search for the answers that will move our country forward.”

The Democratic debate was not without flaws, but when all is said and done it was a civil conversation about the future of the United States. The Republican debate was an argumentative affair that made for good television, but yielded no good candidates.


Jacob Kowalski is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.