The 2016 Candidate Evaluation Series Finale
by Benjamin Studebaker
Now that Joe Biden has finally made up his mind and decided not to run for president, I can conclude my candidate evaluation series. This series finale post will provide you with a number of election-related resources:
- My thoughts on Biden’s decision
- Links to all the extant candidate evaluation posts along with all the additional election-related content I have written so far.
- A full league table of the presidential candidates in which they score points for supporting policies that would benefit the country and lose points for supporting policies that would harm the country.
- Mini-Evaluations of some of the third party candidates and marginal figures (e.g. Jill Stein, Lawrence Lessig, etc.)
- Statistics on how popular the different candidates’ evaluations have been with blog readers
According to the polling projections, Biden would have taken more support from Clinton than from Sanders. Indeed Sanders sometimes polled slightly higher when Biden was included in the race:
Biden might have won outright, but if he didn’t, he might have made it more possible for Sanders to win. So by staying out of the race, he primarily benefits Clinton. This is regrettable, because as a candidate Joe Biden is much better than Clinton on foreign policy issues. Biden opposed troop increases in Afghanistan, he opposed the Libyan intervention, and he opposed arming the rebels in Syria. Clinton was on the opposite side of all three issues. By declining to run, Biden makes it less likely that Clinton will be challenged effectively on foreign policy, and that is a great shame.
Here are all the candidate evaluations:
- Ted Cruz
- Rand Paul
- Hillary Clinton
- Marco Rubio
- Bernie Sanders
- Ben Carson
- Carly Fiorina
- Mike Huckabee
- Rick Santorum
- George Pataki
- Martin O’Malley
- Lindsey Graham
- Rick Perry
- Lincoln Chafee
- Jeb Bush
- Donald Trump
- Bobby Jindal
- Chris Christie
- Jim Webb
- Scott Walker
- John Kasich
- Jim Gilmore
Here’s everything else I’ve written about the 2016 election so far:
- Should Some Americans Work Longer Hours? Jeb Bush v. Hillary Clinton
- Jeb Bush’s Plan to Privatize Medicare Would Be a Disaster
- Bogus Claims and Broken Arguments: The First 2016 GOP Presidential Debate
- Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter, and Why Identity Politics is the Left’s Cancer
- Why Lazy Pundits Keep Comparing Sanders and Trump
- Ted Cruz vs. Ellen Page and Jimmy Carter
- Election.gov: How to Eliminate Political Money and Campaigning
- I Read It So You Don’t Have To: The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump
- The Wall Street Journal is Telling Awful Lies about Bernie Sanders
- Hillary Clinton Started the Whole “Obama is a Muslim” Thing
- Trump’s Tax Plan is Regressive and Unrealistic, Copies Bush and Romney
- The Democratic Party Debate: 5 Reasons Why Sanders Won and Clinton Lost
- Misconceptions: The United States is Not “Too Big” to be More Like Denmark
This is my attempt to synthesize everything I’ve learned about all the candidates over the past few months into one easy to use table that offers you a ranking of the candidates. To do this, I necessarily have to make some simplifications and assumptions. The key thing is that I have to decide which issues I think are most important to the country and weigh that accordingly. Many people are particularly invested in one key issue or kind of issue (economic, social, foreign policy, environmental, etc.). So I should do some explaining of how I’ve gone about this methodologically.
For me, the most important issues in this election are issues of long-term socioeconomic sustainability. This means that I tend to care more about candidates whose policies boost long term economic growth, regulate dangerous kinds of economic activity, redistribute wealth to reduce economic and social inequalities, invest in education and infrastructure, want to curtail the role of money in political campaigns, and recognize and combat climate change. I care about other issues as well, but I tend to give these issues priority because failures in these areas have the potential to seriously threaten the survival of the state and of our society.
Here’s the full list of what policies score points:
|Supports Concrete Action Against Climate Change||100|
|Supports Tuition Free College||100|
|Supports Medicare for All||100|
|Supports Campaign Finance Reform||75|
|Supports New Glass-Steagall||75|
|Opposed Iraq War in 2003||75|
|Supports Breaking Up Banks||50|
|Supports Collective Bargaining Rights||50|
|Opposed Financial Deregulation||40|
|Opposed Welfare Reform||40|
|Supported 2009 Stimulus Package||40|
|Supports Raising the Minimum Wage||30|
|Supports Comprehensive Immigration Reform||30|
|Supports Enhanced Dodd-Frank||30|
|Supports Debt Relief for Students||30|
|Wants to End Mandatory Minimum Sentencing||30|
|Supports Iran Deal||25|
|Supports Paid Family Leave & Vacation Time||20|
|Supports Estate Tax||20|
|Supports Gun Control||15|
|Supports LGBT Rights||15|
|Supports Abortion Rights||15|
|Supports Net Neutrality||10|
|Wants to Legalize Marijuana||10|
|Did Not Sign Grover Norquist’s Anti-Tax Pledge||5|
|Recognizes the Existence of Climate Change||5|
|Opposes Net Neutrality||-10|
|Supported Afghan War||-15|
|Opposes Abortion Rights||-20|
|Opposes LGBT Rights||-20|
|Opposes Gun Control||-20|
|Supported Iraq War||-25|
|Opposes Iran Deal||-25|
|Opposes Immigration Reform||-30|
|Opposes Estate Tax||-30|
|Did Austerity While Governor of a State||-40|
|Opposes Raising the Minimum Wage||-40|
|Supports War on Drugs||-50|
|Voted to Shut the Government Down||-50|
|Supported Libyan and/or Syrian Interventions||-50|
|Opposed 2009 Stimulus Package||-50|
|Supports Variant of Romney Tax Plan||-50|
|Wants to Build a Wall and Make Mexico Pay||-50|
|Signed Grover Norquist’s Anti-Tax Pledge||-50|
|Supported Welfare Reform||-60|
|Supported Financial Deregulation||-60|
|Wants to Repeal Obamacare||-60|
|Crushed Unions While Governor of a State||-75|
|Supports Privatizing Entitlements||-125|
|Supports Balanced Budget Amendment||-125|
|Supports Flat Tax or Fair Tax||-150 (additional -10 for each point any proposed flat rate is below 20%)|
|Denies Climate Change||-200|
Candidates with mixed records got partial points. Here’s how all the candidates do using this scale:
- Bernie Sanders (960 points)
- Lincoln Chafee (475 points)
- Martin O’Malley (425 points)
- Jim Webb (360 points)
- Hillary Clinton (310 points)
- Donald Trump (-460 points)
- George Pataki (-605 points)
- Jeb Bush (-765 points)
- Lindsay Graham (-780 points)
- Chris Christie (-835 points)
- Carly Fiorina (-840 points)
- John Kasich (-850 points)
- Ben Carson (-865 points)
- Mike Huckabee (-940 points)
- Jim Gilmore (-950 points)
- Rand Paul (-1030 points)
- Bobby Jindal (-1095 points)
- Marco Rubio (-1115 points)
- Rick Santorum (-1135 points)
- Rick Perry (-1185 points)
- Ted Cruz (-1275 points)
- Scott Walker (-1300 points)
Here’s a chart, if you like visuals:
Personally, I still don’t think that this scoring system sufficiently penalizes Carson and Paul for having extremely unworkable and regressive tax systems. Their relatively moderate foreign policy views have made them look less harmful on economic issues than they really would be.
I could do piles of these, but I’ll just take care of a few of the ones that I’ve seen people talk about on the web.
Lessig, Lawrence: he’s a single issue candidate running as a democrat. Lessig is a Harvard law professor. He wants to pass what he calls the “Citizen Equality Act”, which would take big money out of politics, eliminate Gerrymandering, and ensuring voter access. Initially he promised to resign once this act was passed, but he changed his mind when this promise received very poor reception. On other issues, Lessig’s positions are very similar to Martin O’Malley’s. He’s less interventionist than Clinton on foreign policy, but he doesn’t go as far as Bernie Sanders on domestic issues. If he won, he would do just fine.
Istvan, Zoltan: he’s the Transhumanist Party candidate. Istvan has a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Columbia University. Istvan wants to increase government support for science with the aim of “overcoming human death and aging within 15-20 years”. Their platform is a mix of some of Sanders’ best ideas (e.g. free college tuition) and some of Ted Cruz’s worst (e.g. flat tax).
Steel, Robert David: he’s currently the likely nominee of the Libertarian Party. Steel has a BA in Political Science from Muhlenberg College and an MA in International Relations from Lehigh University. The Libertarian Party has a horrific platform featuring turbo-charged versions of all of the worst economic policies proposed by the most extreme republican candidates.
Stein, Jill: she’s the Green Party candidate. Stein has a medical degree from Harvard. She wants to enact what she calls a “Green New Deal”, which would feature Sanders-style financial regulation coupled with a large government stimulus package with spending focused on green technology to combat global warming. She might be more radical than Sanders and would do at least as well.
Candidate Evaluation Series Statistics
I’ve kept track of how popular the various different candidates’ evaluations have been among blog readers. It’s interesting on two levels–it tells me more about what my audience finds interesting, and it tells me which candidates have the most pull on the internet.
Here are how the various democratic candidates are stacking up against each other:
Sanders’ post is more popular on the web and with my blog audience than he is with the general public, easily taking the majority of hits. This shouldn’t be unexpected, given the consistent enthusiasm I’ve expressed for his campaign.
For the republicans, things are much more muddled:
Trump and Carson are the leaders on the blog as they are in real life, but their margins are much smaller and there are many others in the mix. Rand Paul retains a modicum of his father’s ability to draw internet hits–his post has the 5th most hits among republicans even as his campaign languishes in 9th in the polls.
The republicans’ posts have gotten more total hits than the democrats’ posts:
But this is only because there are so many more republicans running than democrats–on average, each democrats’ evaluation draws more than twice the audience of the average republicans’:
Here are both parties on the same chart:
This concludes the 2016 Candidate Evaluation Series. I anticipate that I will continue to write about the US election from time to time, but hopefully this will signal a general shift in content away from US presidential politics and back toward discrete ideas, policies, and problems. I’m not sure if I will do this again for the 2020 election–while I have received many compliments on this series, it was not a particularly fun series to do. The candidates were largely underwhelming, there were way too many of them, and by focusing on evaluations I probably distracted myself from doing posts on other topics that might have been more rewarding for me. I also wonder if by focusing on individual presidential candidates I may have distracted both myself and my audience from deeper underlying issues with the political and economic system. I know that I get more readership when I focus on personalities and current issues, but by allowing the blog’s content to be carried around by whatever is popular in the press, I allow chronic issues and big picture ideas to be pushed out. This is one of the problems with democracy–elections masquerade as serious politics when in reality they are more often than not a distraction from the ideas and issues that are really important. I have tried to keep this series focused around the ideas of the candidates, but even that feels insufficient. There are many great ideas and policies that none of these candidates have proposed, and many of the more ambitious proposals offered by these candidates are unlikely to be enacted even if they are elected due to hostility from the opposition party in congress. Even if Bernie Sanders is elected, he is not likely to get a super-majority in both houses of congress, and without that he is unlikely to succeed in passing climate change legislation, free tuition for all, or single payer. The presidency is not that powerful an office, and speculating about its future occupant ought not to command so much of this blog’s attention. So unless there is a policy issue or argument at stake that is truly important, I am going to try to shift the blog’s focus back more toward its roots in political theory, political economy, international relations theory, and Sophiarchism.
Thanks for doing this series!
In the handful of months I’ve been reading here, I’ve found your blog to be informative and accessible, in this case on a subject I’m not well versed in (in the US political context or generally, to be honest). So, I guess I’m looking forward to reading things you DO care about…
It would ultimately make more of a difference to do the same with candidates for House of Representatives and Governor. Of course that would be way too much work for one person unfortunately.
There is also often less information readily available about those candidates, especially if their prior political careers are relatively short.
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Thank you so much for doing all the work and sharing with us the results. I understand much more after reading quite a few of these blogs ! There is one other matter perhaps you could make a little clearer.
What is the influence and history of delegates and the electoral college? ?
Do our votes matter??
Thank you again !
Or, instead of plowing through this in 2020, you could just refer readers to Project Vote Smart http://www.votesmart.org
I’ve generally found them to be quite even-handed in their information. And they DO cover gubnatorial and congressional races.
[…] and right wing candidate in the race, especially on economic issues. I didn’t write him a candidate evaluation because in 2012 he received less than 1% of the vote, but a recent poll says 10% of Sanders […]