The time has come for President Obama to make his final State of the Union Address to his citizens. The new presidential election of the United States (U.S.) is upcoming, in which Obama will hand the baton to the next leader of the nation. Indeed, the balloting is a significant issue for the citizens of the U.S., but Korea should keep an eye on the election as well since it will have a huge impact on the relationship between the two countries, which will bring further shifts in the Korean economy and security.
November 8 is designated to be the day of 47th presidential election of the U.S. The nation’s policies regarding diplomacy, military, and economy depend highly on which party’s candidate becomes the new president. As of now, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump from the Republican Party, as well as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders from the Democratic Party, are the central candidates that are gathering most attention from citizens.
▲ The Republican Party and the Democratic Party, Provided by www.onlineschoolscenter.com.
The American election operates in a way different from that of Korea. Prior to holding the actual election, there are processes called the primaries and caucuses. Delegates, who are eligible to nominate presidential candidates from every state, are selected—75 percent from Primary and 25 percent from Caucas. In the National Convention, usually hosted from July to August, presidential candidates are nominated. The candidates for vice president are also nominated, by the presidential candidates themselves. Afterwards, the citizens get to vote for the Electoral College, the institution that elects the president. Practically, the next president is fixed in the Electoral College balloting.
Clinton, who is regarded as the most influential candidate, clearly is targeting the social underdogs of America in order to win the election. Her economic plan is to raise the growth of middle class by relieving tax burden, encouraging the growth of small businesses, raising the minimum wage, all for the long-term growth of the U.S. economy. In the video clip on behalf of Clinton’s declaration of her candidacy, there appears an Asian college student looking for a job, a physically-challenged person at work, and a homosexual couple. The clip stresses familiar images from start to finish. Clinton proclaims that she will become the champion for normal Americans.
There is another candidate who is trying to defeat Clinton’s winning the election—Bernie Sanders, a rival within the Democratic Party. Sanders recently has brought about sensation in the race. What is peculiar about him is that he is both a nonpartisan representative and a socialist. The reason why he is running as a democrat is to overtake Clinton who is setting up conservative policies. As he proposed in “Agenda for America: 12 Steps Forward,” Sanders is planning to work on a real reform and protect vulnerable citizens of the U.S. Some of the agenda are the following: Creating worker co-ops, rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, and making college affordable for all. In fact, Sanders is now starting to outrun Clinton in the primary election survey, getting approval of 53 percent in New Hampshire and 46 percent in Iowa.
Allegedly, Donald Trump, one of the candidates within the Republican Party, may outrun Clinton in the election. Trump, a wealthy property holder in the U.S., proved to be the candidate that gained the highest approval rate among the Grand Old Party (GOP) by the Washington Post and American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News. Also, Cable News Network (CNN) News reported that if Clinton and Trump race in the election, the supporting rate would be 51 percent versus 45 percent, which is shockingly neck to neck. Although he has been condemned for his disrespectful remarks, Trump is stubborn not to recede from his position as a running candidate. “There’s no maybe. There’s no maybe. I’m not leaving,” Trump claimed during the interview with the Washington Post. Despite his snide remarks and reputation as a trouble maker, Trump actually was regarded as a potential candidate—until Cruz won the Caucus in Iowa.
Rubio has an advantage thanks to his background, coming from a minority race and an ordinary household. He and his wife, being immigrants from Columbia, have the potential of getting votes from Hispanic citizens. His one drawback is, however, that supporters of the Republican Party dislike him for his policy favoring immigrants. Of course, it should not be assumed as a foreshadowing of his failure. Mere popularity votes and a real election can be very different.
While candidates are striving to get more supporters, one party is going through a crisis. The GOP is about to split into two. Conflicts regarding race and social class occurred among the supporters, and the politicians of the GOP are not able to cope with them well. It is estimated that the Republican Party will be divided permanently while going through this year’s election, or transform into a completely different political party. Similar incidents took place in the past—the 1976 election, for example. Members of the party would support a single nominee after the national convention, but no one can be optimistic about the current situation. The fate of the Republicans will turn out this summer, when the party convention is over, where the issue of a genuine nominee will be settled.
The Iowa Caucus held on February 3 showed unexpected changes in the election with Ted Cruz getting the highest approval rate. Rubio also is making a good fight, tailgating Trump’svotes.The same occurred within the Democrats, as Sanders reached Clinton’s votes very closely by 0.4 percent. Thus, it can be interpreted that Cruz, Rubio and Sanders are the ones who virtually won the Iowa Caucus, Clinton is the one who did not lose, and Trump is the one who lost. Cruz and Rubio will now strive to make an upward trend in earnest within the Republican Party, with Trump losing his power. In regards to the Democrats, Sanders will continue as a potentate if he turns another corner in the upcoming Nevada and South Carolina Caucuses in which Clinton is significantly supported.
It is not easy to predict how policies of America regarding affairs with Korea will turn out in such a blurry situation. “Clinton would be a candidate that I can make relatively ‘reasonable’ anticipation about it,” commented Professor Kim Sung Han (International Studies). “Although her policies should be more specified, if she gets elected as the president of America, the alliance between the U.S. and Korea will be retained. She will also take intense actions against nuclear bomb issues with North Korea.” If the issue is brought to an end during Obama’s term of office, Clinton will negotiate with North Korea and attempt to form a better relationship. If not, the U.S. will include China on its boat and restrain North Korea from threatening world peace.
Regardless of the upward trend of popularity and supporters of the non-mainstream candidates, their winning the election foreshadows a backwash in the perspective of Korea. There is a belief that the conflicts between the two nations might aggravate if the other minor candidates are elected. The issue of U.S. Armed Forces in Korea (USFK) evacuation, propelling protective trade, and neglecting the problems South Korea is going through with North Korea would cause the dissension of the U.S. and Korea. “If one of them, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, wins the election and becomes the leader of the U.S., it is very likely that the U.S. will keep a close military or economic alliance,” Ben Jackson, a researcher in Center for a New American Security (CNAS) claimed in the interview carried out by the Joongang Tongyang Broad Casting (JTBC) news.
▲ The American and Korean flags crossed - symbolizing the relationship between the two countries. Provided by www.keia.org.
Trump has been constantly leaving rude remarks that Korea is a free rider of the U.S. regarding security, along with Saudi Arabia. Thus, it is concerning that the alliance between the U.S. and Korea would be weakened if Trump is inaugurated as the president of America. “However, his stance can possibly change after he is actually elected,” Professor Kim pointed. “A pre-candidate who appeals for sensationalism can act responsibly after he gets nominated. His past career as an entrepreneur foreshadows his success in the economic sector, but he is less likely to show great leadership in diplomacy and security.”
If Sanders becomes the new leader of the U.S., he is likely to act passively regarding the North Korea issue. Professor Kim anticipated, “Since his place is not to intervene deeply in the problem as long as it does not threaten the U.S.’s security, Sanders will not come up with active strategies if the nuclear bomb is not spread to the Middle East or elsewhere.” Rubio is foretelling his conservative political approach on the other hand. Since he emphasizes military force, along with the value of democracy and freedom, he is predicted to make hard-line decisions against North Korea.
It appears that there are numerous aspects that make the American 2016 election intriguing. Candidates seem to have their own marked personalities, Bernie Sanders being the only socialist among them, Trump gaining popularity for his image as a winner, and Marco Rubio being a Hispanic candidate promising a pledge in favor of immigrants. Also, there is an estimation that Republicans are about to separate into two groups.
Unfortunately, things are different today in that no one can be positive about unification of politicians after the official candidate is elected. Who will be the next one to govern the U.S., a definite superpower in the international society? This is yet to be determined. With numerous interesting aspects, though, the election is catching people’s eyes, making them worried about the political stability of the U.S. at the same time. Since diverse sectors of the nation are very closely related to Korea’s, the election bears much more significant meaning than just a foreign election.