By: Josie Smith
As the Presidential Election gets closer and campaign season really kicks off, it seems like everyone has an opinion on everything. But amid the chaos of growing candidate numbers and political platforms, it can be overwhelming to determine the details of each major policy issue. Not to mention you have school, or work, or a family. And while the media assumes you majored in political science and know the elaborate history of each presidential regime, you skipped more of your Intro to Government classes than you actually attended. So how do you stay informed on constantly changing policies? Consider this your unofficial guide to the six main categories of political debate for the coming election.
These issues focus on life and civil liberties, which often boil down to religious beliefs and moral values. While legislation and Supreme Court rulings have established concrete decisions for most of them, they remain highly controversial and sensitive in nature.
Abortion: In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was legal in all states until a designated time in the pregnancy, but allowed the states to decide when that cutoff was. Currently, abortion must be allowed in early pregnancy, but may be banned in later trimesters. Despite the court’s decision, the Pro-Life versus Pro-Choice argument is still a huge topic of debate, and a major determining factor in candidate’s political campaigns.
Same-sex marriage: This year, the Supreme Court ruled that under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the fourteenth amendment, the denial of same-sex marriage licenses is unconstitutional. This has created further controversy regarding religious freedom: in protecting the rights of one group, are we denying the religious liberties of another? Some states have ruled that religious officials do not have to perform ceremonies if it conflicts with their beliefs. However, the precedent for non-religious officials remains that an individual should step down from their position if adhering to the court’s decision conflicts with personal or religious beliefs.
Religion in the Workplace: Do businesses have the authority to deny service to a customer? In regards to religious freedom, proponents argue that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 allows religious businesses to refuse service when a customer’s lifestyle is contrary to their beliefs. Critics argue that this is a form of discrimination, and violates the customer’s rights. It’s a battle of freedom of religion versus equal rights amendments.
Gun control: Should we increase or decrease current gun control legislation? With today’s instant media coverage, tragedies like school and church shootings as well as suicide call serious attention to how firearms are handled. Pro-stand your ground supporters advocate for the option of protection, allowing weapons in most public places. Their stance rests on increased firearm education and increased penalties for gun-related crimes, rather than legislation. The other side promotes strict background checks or psychological tests, or even the ban of public firearm use altogether.
Affirmative Action: This was designed to increase minority representation in U.S. institutions, including corporations and educational institutions. It aims to increase diversity and combat minority disadvantages. Critics claim that it undermines the idea of equal rights by giving preferential treatment based on gender or ethnicity, while supporters clarify that its intent is to increase the diversity of a pool of applicants, not hire unqualified candidates based on identification. Should we remove gender and ethnicity indicators from applications altogether, relying strictly on qualifications? Or does that knowledge help administrators and employees make decisions that will best benefit their organization?
One word: Obamacare. Or, to be more specific, three words: Affordable Care Act. In its most basic form, Obamacare is designed to make health insurance more affordable and more readily available to people without stable benefit packages. It promotes government-sponsored plans through discounts, creates guidelines that private insurance companies must meet, and places restrictions on the denial of insurance based on previously existing conditions. Supporters argue the bottom line: there is an increased number of citizens who now have health care plans. Critics argue that these plans limit the effectiveness of physicians, and therefore decrease the overall standard of patient care.
An extremist Islamic militant group has been terrorizing Iraq, supporting rebels in Syria, and making threats against the U.S. Which brings us to the question: when should America get involved? Although there have been isolated incidents on American soil by ISIS supporters, the group has not formally attacked. Some people promote preventative tactics rather than waiting for the next tragedy, while others would rather let other nations handle their own problems.
Currently, the National Governors Association is sponsoring the Common Core Standards Initiative, which aims to establish consistent guidelines for what elementary and high school students should know at the end of each year. The idea is that it will ensure adequate college preparation and make the United States education system more globally competitive. Critics argue that increased standardization will promote instructors teaching to a test rather than towards student potential. Supporters argue that for many school districts, the Common Core Standards are a step up from current curriculum practices.
There are over 10 million undocumented immigrants currently living or working in the United States. There are also over 10 million ideas on what to do about it. Why does it matter? Citizens don’t like the idea of people taking American jobs and not paying taxes. Authorities have a hard time enforcing laws. But deportation is expensive, and fails to slow the continued arrival of new immigrants. Oh, and there is currently no clear process for undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship. Should undocumented workers be given the same rights as citizens in terms of legal trials and protections? And what happens to the children who are born in America? From the DREAM Act (a failed attempt to create citizenship for young illegal immigrants) to an actual, physical wall, solution proposals cover the entire spectrum.
While not every issue may impact us personally, it is so important to be informed on the major controversies that surround the coming election. www.isidewith.com offers more detailed descriptions of these issues and more, and their quiz shows you which candidate’s platforms align with your views.