“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
(For info on the 2016 General Elections, visit Student News Daily’s General Elections page.)
A National Platform is the official statement of a political party’s position on a wide variety of issues. Each issue included in the platform is a “plank.”
Party platforms and their planks are very important to the electoral process: They give the candidates a clear political position with which they can campaign. They give voters a sense of what the candidates believe in, the issues they think are important, and how – if elected – they will address them.
Both of the nation’s major political parties create platforms in advance of national elections so that voters have a clear view of the agenda the party will pursue if its members are elected to office. (A new Platform is adopted every four years by both the Democratic and Republican parties and is generally approved during the party’s national convention.)
Read a November 3rd Daily News Article “Comparison of Party Platforms Highlights Stark Differences“
View all current and previous party platforms at The American Presidency Project.
1. A preamble is an introductory and expressionary statement in a document that explains the document’s purpose and underlying philosophy. Read the Preamble to each party’s Platform. (Democratic Preamble, Republican Preamble) Based on the Preamble:
- How would you describe the main focus of each party?
- How would you describe the overall tone of each party?
2. How specific or detailed is each party on its positions regarding the issues? Complete the worksheet. Then answer a, b and c below.
View the pdf worksheet.
- For each issue, explain if you believe the party was specific or vague in stating its position. Why do you think this is so?
- What role does each party believe the government should take? (What type of government action and/or legislation, if any, does each party support?)
- For these issues, which party’s position lines up with your own? Ask a parent the same question.
3. Based on each Platform, what issues do you think are most important to each party? (Economic, Social, Foreign policy, National Security…) Explain your answer.
***NOTE TO STUDENTS*** To really understand the candidates’ proposals/plans for how they will address the issues important to America today, you need to listen to what they say, not what the news media and political analysts say about them. Take some time to watch at least one speech by each candidate on a specific issue such as job creation or immigration.
ABOUT THIRD PARTIES: The U.S. has a two-party system, which distinguishes American government from most other democracies. Most Western democracies, particularly those in Europe, have multiparty elections and parliaments, but the American government traditionally has had a two-party system. Since the Civil War the two parties have been the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
From time to time, third parties have gained traction with the electorate, most recently the Reform Party, led by Ross Perot, who won 19% of the popular vote in the 1992 presidential election. Third parties can sometimes push the major parties to consider their position on a specific issue (generally when they believe the party is not taking a strong enough stand, or is taking a moderate position on the issue). Few third-party candidates hold elected office at the state or national level. There are dozens of “third parties” in the U.S. including the Constitution Party (conservative), the Green Party (liberal) and the Libertarian Party (in general socially liberal, fiscally conservative). Read more at wikipedia.
1. According to a recent Pew Research Poll, three of the top issues important to voters include: the economy, healthcare and immigration. Visit the campaign website for each candidate and find the positions/issues page. Complete the charts on the candidates and the issues:
Worksheet #1: Pew poll: issues most important to voters
View the pdf worksheet.
Worksheet #2: Top 3 issues most important to you
View the pdf worksheet.
2. What actions have each taken (if a member of Congress or governor) that supports or undermines his/her position on each issue? (Visit govtrack.us to learn how current and former members of Congress have voted on any proposed legislation.)
3. Do you think a president must have prior political experience to lead the country? Do you think the experience businessman Donald Trump has leading major corporations qualifies him to lead the country (to be elected chief executive)? Explain your answers. Ask a parent: would this type of experience make you more or less likely to vote for a candidate whose positions on the issues lined up with yours? Explain your answer.
4. Consider the candidates’ positions from the charts. Which candidate most lines up with your views?
Taxes – Compare the 2016 Presidential Candidates’ Tax Reform Proposals.
Check out StudentNewsDaily’s “Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs” chart. [NOTE: This is a general overview of the conservative and liberal positions on the issues.]
Read through the chart. For each issue, state which position best represents your beliefs and explain why.
The central focus of a debate should be to provide voters with information they need to measure the suitability of the candidates for office. The Commission on Presidential Debates was established in 1987 by the Democratic and Republican Parties and has sponsored all presidential and vice presidential general election debates since 1988.
Watch each debate. Pay attention to the questions the moderator asks. View the “Presidential Debate” pdf worksheet for the questions below:
1. List three questions asked by the moderator.
2. Which question do you think was the most important? Explain your choice.
3. For which question(s) did one or more candidates not give a direct answer, or not clearly answer the question?
4. A debate moderator’s role is to act as a neutral participant in a debate, to hold participants to time limits and to try to keep them from straying off the topic of the questions being raised in the debate. Do you think the moderator in this debate fulfilled this role? Explain your answer.
5. Do you think the questions chosen by the moderator helped viewers understand the candidates’ positions on foreign and domestic issues? Explain your answer.
6. Do you think the moderator’s questions were fair to every candidate? Explain your answer.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) will sponsor the debates this fall. The formats for the 90-minute debates are designed to facilitate in-depth discussion of the leading issues facing the nation.
First presidential debate
(September 26, 2016, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY)
The debate will be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator and announced at least one week before the debate. The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.
Vice presidential debate
(October 4, 2016, Longwood University, Farmville, VA)
The debate will be divided into nine time segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.
Second presidential debate
(October 9, 2016, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO)
The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which half of the questions will be posed directly by citizen participants and the other half will be posed by the moderator based on topics of broad public interest as reflected in social media and other sources. The candidates will have two minutes to respond and there will be an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate further discussion. The town meeting participants will be uncommitted voters selected by the Gallup Organization.
Third presidential debate
(October 19, 2016, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV)
The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate.
All debates will be moderated by a single individual and will run from 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time without commercial breaks. As always, the moderators alone will select the questions to be asked, which are not known to the CPD or to the candidates. The moderators will have the ability both to extend the segments and to ensure that the candidates have equal speaking time. While the focus will properly be on the candidates, the moderator will regulate the conversation so that thoughtful and substantive exchanges occur. The CPD is in discussion with technology and civic groups that will provide data to the moderators to assist them in identifying the subjects that are most important to the public.
This year’s debates will build on the successful 2012 debate formats which introduced longer segments, allowing the candidates to focus on critical issues. “The CPD has a simple mission, to ensure that presidential debates help the public learn about the positions of the leading candidates for president and vice president,” CPD Co-Chairs Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and Michael D. McCurry said. “These formats will allow an in-depth exploration of the major topics in this year’s election.” [from Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD)]
Editorials posted at Student News Daily:
Electoral Votes: Each state has a certain number of electoral votes. The more people who live in your state, the more electoral votes your state gets. In 48 of the states, the candidate who gets the most votes gets all the electoral votes for that state. Nebraska and Maine do not follow the winner-take-all rule – there could be a split of electoral votes among candidates through a proportional allocation of votes. The first candidate to win 270 electoral votes becomes the President.
How many Presidential candidates lost the popular vote but won the election by winning the electoral college vote?
A swing state, also referred to as a battleground state (or purple state because it is not majority Democratic “Blue State” or Republican “Red State”) is a state in which no single candidate or party has overwhelming support in securing that state’s electoral college votes. Such states are targets of both major political parties in presidential elections, since winning these states is the best opportunity for a party to gain electoral votes. Non-swing states are sometimes called safe states, because one candidate has strong enough support that he or she can safely assume that he or she will win the state’s votes. (from wikipedia)
1. How many electoral votes does your state have?
2. Why is your vote meaningful under the electoral college system?
The Democratic and Republican primary elections were held in the states from February-June 2016. For a list of dates, go to Wikipedia:
Read an article published just before Super Tuesday: “Voter Turnout Varies Drastically Between Parties”
An excellent video “Primary Elections Explained”
(produced by C. G. P. Grey and posted at YouTube here: C G P Grey –due to the fact that many school districts restrict access to YouTube, we include the full video below)
Following the primaries, party delegates officially choose the nominees at the national conventions held this year in July.
The 2016 Democratic National Convention was held July 25–28, 2016, in Philadelphia, PA. (Visit the Democrats’ youtube page)
The 2016 Republican National Convention was held July 18–21, 2016 in Cleveland, OH. (Visit the Republican youtube page)
What is a contested or brokered convention? Read about it here:
GOP Preparing for Contested Convention
What is a superdelegate? Read about it here:
Some superdelegates vow to back Clinton even if Sanders wins NY primary
(NOTE: The U.S. is a federal republic, so citizens do not directly elect the president and vice president. Instead, delegates (and superdelegates) for each political party meet to vote on which people will become their party’s candidates.
After the presidential election is held in November, electors in the Electoral College, acting as representatives of the citizens, cast their votes for president. See “The Electoral College” section for more info.)
1. List 3 issues you believe are important to consider in this election.
2. Visit the campaign websites and YouTube pages for Democratic and Republican candidates for president to learn where they stand on the issues. (Click on the candidate’s name above or, do an internet search for: “name of candidate official website” “name of candidate youtube page” or “name of candidate Instagram”)
What does each candidate say they would do to address each issue? (What solutions does each candidate propose?)
3. What actions have each taken (if a member of Congress or governor) to support or undermine his/her position on each issue? (Visit govtrack.us to learn how current and former members of Congress have voted on any proposed legislation.)
4. Do you think a president must have prior political experience to run the country? Do you think the experience business leaders Carly Fiorina or Donald Trump have leading major corporations qualifies them for president? Explain your answers.
Ask a parent: would this type of experience make you more or less likely to vote for a candidate whose positions on the issues lined up with yours? Explain your answer.
5. What do you think is the best way to improve the economy and reduce unemployment: Cut taxes? Cut government spending? Raise taxes on the wealthy? (if so, define wealthy) Raise taxes across the board?
6. How do you think the new president should deal with ISIS and Islamic terrorism? Which candidate most lines up with your view?
Consider this: Some people vote for a candidate based on the person’s age, sex, race or religion. Some vote for a candidate because he/she is an interesting or dynamic speaker, is attractive, or looks like a leader. Before you are eligible to vote, decide that you will vote for a candidate based on his/her positions on the issues.
DON’T MISS IT! James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal has created the “bye-ku” – a haiku used to say ‘bye’ to a candidate as he or she exits the race. Read all of Mr. Taranto’s bye-kus here.
The Republican Primary debate schedule is as follows:
The Democratic Primary debate schedule is as follows (additional details will be posted when available):
The central focus of a debate should be to provide voters with information they need to measure the suitability of the candidates for office.
CHALLENGE: Watch a debate between the candidates. Pay attention to the questions the moderator asks. Fill in the attached “Presidential Primary Debate” chart for the questions below:
1. List the candidates who took part in this debate.
2. List three questions asked by the moderator(s).
3. Which question do you think was the most important? Explain your choice.
4. For which question(s) did one or more candidates not give a direct answer, or not clearly answer the question?
5. A debate moderator’s role is to act as a neutral participant in a debate, to hold participants to time limits and to try to keep them from straying off the topic of the questions being raised in the debate. Do you think the moderator(s) in this debate fulfilled this role? Explain your answer.
6. a) Do you think the questions chosen by the moderator(s) helped viewers understand the candidates’ positions on foreign and domestic issues? Explain your answer.
b) Were the moderator’s questions fair to every candidate? Explain your answer.