The No-Bullshit Guide to the 2016 Presidential Candidates

Presidential Candidates 2016

While the next presidential election is over a year away, Republicans announce their campaigns at the rate that rabbits multiply as Democrats look incredibly boring in comparison. The news is already saturated with speculation and pundits and sound bites—mostly remarks made by Donald Trump.

As a vaguely politically aware citizen, it’s tough to wade through the never ceasing political onslaught in search of a candidate for whom we can proudly wear an American-flag-and-cheesy-slogan-emblazoned t-shirt. It’s even tougher to suss out the differences between the leading candidates, partially because the “leading candidates” change daily.

So we put together a no-bullshit guide to the things you care about with the main contenders. Read here to find out if your favored candidate will let you proudly bear your six rifles while standing in line for an abortion, a spliff hanging precariously from your mouth. Note: Candidates and their positions subject to change.   

REPUBLICANS

Carly Fiorina on…

Carly Fiorina Republican Candidate

“Carly Fiorina by Gage Skidmore 3” by Gage Skidmore.

Women’s Issues

Fiorina is so vehemently opposed to Planned Parenthood’s operations that she’s willing to straight up lie about the content of the “Center for Medical Progress” (CMP) anti-abortion undercover stings. During the second major Republican debate (which took place in front of Ronald Reagan’s retired Air Force One jet, glistening like Donald Trump’s self-tanner), Fiorina dared President Obama and Hillary Clinton to “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’” That’s a super weird dare, it turns out, because such a moment does not exist in the many hours of footage released by CMP.

That said, Fiorina recently proclaimed her “ovaries before brovaries” admiration of Clinton in an interview with People Magazine, saying she’d never make “personal comments” about her potential Democratic competition. Nope, just super weird dares.

Marijuana

Fiorina claimed during the airplane debate (let’s just acknowledge that’s all we really cared about), “We are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having beer. It’s not.” She’s right—just not in the way she meant to be. As research shows, marijuana tends to be a much safer drug than alcohol. 

Guns

With the Republican candidates, it’s not a question of whether or not they believe guns are as American as apple pie—it’s a question of just how devoted to the second amendment they prove themselves to be. America’s gun-toting darlings, the National Rifle Association (NRA), ranks Fiorina as “AQ,” meaning “A pro-gun candidate whose rating is based solely on the NRA-PVF (Political Victory Fund) Candidate Questionnaire and who does not have a voting record.”

Immigration

Moderate in comparison to her Republican competition, Fiorina continues to waffle over her stance on immigration. Still, she won’t be championing the Reconquista anytime soon.

Education

If Fiorina is waffling over her immigration stance, she’s made a complete 180 on her public education opinions. As Buzzfeed News declared, “Carly Fiorina Has Completely Reversed Her Position On Federal Education Policies Since 2010.” Previously an advocate for No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top program, Fiorina now deems the standardization programs “big, bureaucratic programs that are failing our nation.”


Donald Trump on…

Donald Trump Republican Candidate

Photo by Michael Vadon for Wiki

Women’s Issues

HAHAHA. Sorry, just had to get that out of my system. If you need a reminder, Trump has garnered many a soundbite bashing any female politician or journalist who remotely challenges him. He has said, however, “I cherish women. I want to help women. I’m going to be able to do things for women that no other candidate would be able to do, and it’s very important to me.”

Marijuana

When he’s not trolling Jeb Bush about his youthful experiments with the drug, Trump supports medicinal marijuana but not full decriminalization.

Guns

Trump released a policy paper titled, “PROTECTING OUR SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,” (caps lock of course necessary) in which he advocates especially for guns as personal self-defense. With zero citations and simplistic rhetoric, the paper would likely get him a C in your college writing class.

Immigration

We need a wall on that wall with some barbed wire and another wall. While we’re at it, can we build a wall to cordon off the Muslims?

Education

The mogul founded “Trump University” in 2005—an unaccredited, class-free, for-profit university that offered zero degrees—and was forced to change its name to “Trump Entrepreneur Initiative” after the New York State Department of Education called him out. He is still embroiled in legal battles with the state over “misrepresentation” of the university/initiative or whatever it is. Essentially, it’s not a great track record.


Jeb Bush on…

Jeb Bush Republican Candidate

Governor of Florida Jeb Bush at Southern Republican Leadership Conference May 2015 by Michael Vadon

Women’s Issues

During an August interview, the younger, sexier (those glasses tho) Bush questioned current federal spending on women’s health care. It was a casual aside, but he quickly reneged his statement, saying, “With regards to women’s health funding broadly, I misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need.”

Marijuana

Jeb Bush admitted during the airplane debate—to the shock of nobody on this planet—that he’d experimented with weed as a student, apologizing to his mom via Tweet and enabling all kinds of Internet hilarityHe’s not particularly outspoken about marijuana policies, but like a good conservative he doesn’t promote its use. He has opposed even medical legalization in the past.

Guns

Bush boasts an A+ on the NRA ranking scale—which means exactly what you think it means—and habitually touts his track record of defending the second amendment on the campaign trail.

Immigration

Compared to Trump, Bush’s border enforcement policy proposals seem downright measured and moderate. They still call for stricter border policing and interior restrictions to citizenship and employment, but they’re at least (mostly) free of xenophobic and racist remarks.

Education

Depending on your side of the fence, Bush either helped or hindered the college prospects of people of color in Florida during his tenure as governor. He’s the lone Republican defender of common core education standards, though he’s recently backed off that support.


DEMOCRATS

Hillary Clinton on…

Hilary Clinton Democrat Candidate

Women’s Issues

Clinton has a long, storied career of advocating for women’s issues like gender equality in the workplace, reproductive rights and global political empowerment. That said, she represents a feminist old guard, and, as the National Journal points out, her brand of women’s empowerment appeals only superficially to young feminists around the country.

Marijuana

Clinton has been somewhat mum on her opinion of pot. She’s cautiously referred to the two states that have legalized recreational use—Washington and Colorado—as “laboratories of democracy,” and “wants to wait and see what the evidence is.” Her support of medicinal use is extended only to “extreme medical conditions.” As The Week has pointed out, she’ll have to take a stance soon, because Americans love their weed.

Guns

The Daily Beast ran this headline last month: “Hillary Clinton Really Is Coming For Your Guns.” Essentially, she’s the NRA’s biggest foe.

Immigration

An advocate for a “pathway to citizenship” and immigration reform that protects immigrant families, she’s everything her Republican competition is not—at least, she’s working very hard to convince you of this.

Education

Clinton has lined out her plan to address the ballooning costs of college and the student loan crisis with the New College Compact, which is meant to “make a quality education affordable and available to everyone willing to work for it, without saddling them with decades of debt.”


Bernie Sanders on…

Bernie Sanders Democrat Candidate

By United States Congress via Wikimedia Commons

Women’s Issues

Not only is Sanders an overt democratic socialist, he’s also a pretty solid feminist. In women’s issues, his stances mirror Clinton’s, but he lacks the obvious, uh, experience of womanhood to lend his stances credibility. He does intend to “only nominate supreme court justices who support Roe v. Wade and the reproductive rights of women,” though, so that’s interesting.

Marijuana

Feel the Bern: Sanders supports medical legalization of marijuana, but his position, like Clinton’s, is cautious. He wants to watch how decriminalization plays out in Washington and Colorado—but he does think zealous drug enforcement is ridiculous. “What I can tell you is this: We have far far far too many people in jail for non-violent crimes, and I think in many ways, the war against drugs has not been successful, and I think we’ve got to rethink that,” he’s said.

Guns

A flimsy gun control approach may be Sanders’s only albatross when it comes to appealing to those on the far-left. His state, Vermont, is fairly pro-guns and he has historically voted against strict gun control measures. On the flip side, Sanders’s moderate stance on guns may further his bipartisan appeal.

Immigration

Where Trump wants to build his mega-wall, Sanders wants to tear it down. Sanders supports a variety of undocumented immigrant-friendly measures and would expand many of them if elected President, he says.

Education

College students, Sanders is your man: In May, he proposed legislation to make tuition at 4-year public colleges debt free.


Joe Biden on…

Joe Biden Democrat

*We know, the Vice President has yet to declare his run for the bigger and better office up the hall—but, like an “It’s Complicated” relationship status, he’s weighing his options. Besides, can you even name the other democratic candidates?

Women’s Issues

A devout Catholic, Biden believes “life begins at conception” as de fide truth—but he also doesn’t think it’s his place to impose his personal pro-life doctrine on the rest of the country. He authored the landmark Violence Against Women Act and collaborated in the “1 is 2 Many” campaign, but he also presided over the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Anita Hill scandal and did little to prevent her public slandering. In short, it’s a mixed bag.

Marijuana

Biden has maintained throughout his political career that he doesn’t think full legalization “is a good idea,” and was a key player in the war on drugs. Boo.

Guns

The VP has a political record of advocating for staunch gun control. He flunks the NRA test with an F rating, a grade reserved for consistent anti-gun candidates.

Immigration

Biden has slammed Donald Trump (not a hard thing to do) for his blatant xenophobic remarks about immigrants, calling the remarks “sick,” but politically, his record on immigration-friendly policies is another mixed bag.

Education

While Bernie Sanders has gone whole-hog with his free college legislation, Biden continues to champion at least two free years of community college for America’s students.



Courtney Hamilton

An avid writer, reader, feminist and french fry fanatic.