Answer the following questions to see who you should vote for in the 2020 Presidential election.
The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings caused several states and cities to pass strict gun control measures. In response, state lawmakers in gun friendly states in the South and West passed bills that would strengthen Stand Your Ground laws and allow weapons in most public places. In 2014, 21 states passed laws that expanded the rights of gun owners allowing them to possess firearms in churches, bars, schools and college campuses. The federal government has not passed any gun control measures since the 1994 Brady Bill and 42 states now allow the possession of assault rifles. In the U.S. two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides and in 2010 there were 19,000 firearm suicides and 11,000 firearm homicides.
In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The law protects gun manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products. The law was passed in response to a series of lawsuits filed against the gun industry in the late 1990s which claimed gun-makers and sellers were not doing enough to prevent crimes committed with their products. Proponents of the law argue that lawsuits will discourage gun manufacturers from supplying stores who sell guns that end up being used in violent crimes. Opponents argue that gun manufacturers are not responsible for random acts of violence committed with their products.
Affirmative action is a policy that encourages the increased representation of members of a minority group. In the U.S. these policies are often enacted by employers and educational institutions in education or employment.
In 2006, the U.S. Senate rejected a Constitutional Amendment which would have allowed Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the burning or desecration of the U.S. flag. The Flag Protection Act of 2005 was introduced by Senators Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Pryor (D-ARK) and Thomas Carper (D-Del). The Act proposed a punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine of no more than $100,000.
In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which banned the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain drugs. The act ranked drugs by their potential for abuse and placed them into five categories. Two of the most widely used drugs in the U.S., wine and alcohol, are exempt from the classifications. Ballot measures in several states including Colorado, Washington and Oregon have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. These laws apply only within the respective states and have no effect on Federal law.
In early 2020, several Democratic presidential candidates including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke offered different proposals to reforming the Supreme Court. The proposals include adding 5 democratically elected judges to the current court and imposing term limits on current judges. According to the U.S. federal statute, justices have lifetime tenure unless they resign, retire, or are removed from office. Proponents of Supreme Court reform argue that the current court will be filled with too many conservative judges for the next several decades and it is not representative of the US population. Opponents argue that the plans are unconstitutional, would upset the balance of power and reinforce the idea that there are Democratic judges and Republican judges.
In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Patriot Act expanded intelligence gathering capabilities including: monitoring of foreign financial transactions, detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism, wiretaps, business record searches, and surveillance of individuals suspected of terrorist activities. <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_Act">Learn more</a> or
After the December shooting in San Bernardino, CA, President Obama stated in his weekly radio address that it was “insane” to allow suspected terrorists on the country’s no-fly list to purchase guns. Shortly after, Senate Democrats introduced a measure that would have restricted anyone on the federal terrorism watch list, also known as the no-fly list, from being able to purchase firearms in the U.S. The measure did not pass after Senate Republicans voted down the measure.
Eminent domain is the power of a state or a national government to take private property for public use. It can be legislatively delegated by state governments to municipalities, government subdivisions, or even to private persons or corporations, when they are authorized to exercise the functions of public character. Opponents, including Conservatives and Libertarians in New Hampshire, oppose giving the government the power to seize property for private projects, like casinos. Proponents, including advocates of oil pipelines and national parks, argue that the construction of roads and schools would not be possible if the government could not seize land under eminent domain.
In January 2018 Germany passed the NetzDG law which required platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to take down perceived illegal content within 24 hours or seven days, depending on the charge, or risk a fine of €50 million ($60 million) fines. In July 2018 representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter denied to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary committee that they censor content for political reasons. During the hearing Republican members of Congress criticized the social media companies for politically motivated practices in removing some content, a charge the companies rejected. In April 2018 the European Union issued a series of proposals that would crack down on “online misinformation and fake news.” In June 2018 President Emmanuel Macron of France proposed a law which would give French authorities the power to immediately halt “the publication of information deemed to be false ahead of elections.”
Edward Snowden is a former National Security Agency contractor who turned over classified documents revealing a board global surveillance program previously unknown to anyone outside the intelligence community. After the documents were published in the Guardian Newspaper in June 2013 Snowden fled to Russia where he is currently living under asylum.
In October 2019 Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that his social media company would ban all political advertising. He stated that political messages on the platform should reach users through the recommendation of other users – not through paid reach. Proponents argue that social media companies don’t have the tools to stop the spread of false information since their advertising platforms aren’t moderated by human beings. Opponents argue that the ban will disenfranchise candidates and campaigns who rely on social media for grassroots organizing and fundraising.
In 2015, the U.S. Air Force announced that it had selected Boeing to build the next generation of Air Force One aircraft. Two new aircraft will be built and will enter service in 2024. The defense department estimates that the two new planes will cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $4 billion. In December 2016, President-elect Donald Trump announced that costs for the project were out of control and he would cancel the plane order once he took office. Proponents of the new planes argue that the current planes used for Air Force One will be fifty years old in 2021 and spare parts for the old planes are becoming hard to find.
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should treat all data on the internet equally. Proponents of net neutrality laws argue that they balance the rights and duties of individuals, governments and corporations, while ensuring that the Internet continues to be an open and decentralized network. Opponents include internet companies who complain that the law would increase their costs and create barriers to the free flow of information.
After the March 22nd terrorist attacks in Belgium, Republican U.S. Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz said law enforcement should be empowered to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” In defending the plan, Cruz cited former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his aggressive policing efforts, including the alleged targeting of Muslim neighborhoods for surveillance. Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton held a press conference where they criticized Cruz’s proposal as “incendiary” and “foolish.”
A term limit is a law that limits the amount of time a political representative may hold an elected office. In the U.S. the office of the President is restricted to two four year terms. There are currently no term limits for Congressional terms but various states and cities have enacted term limits for their elected officials at the local level.
Under a provision of the Patriot Act the NSA is allowed to collect phone metadata — the numbers, time stamps, and duration of a call, but not its actual content. Opponents include civil liberties advocates and Senator Rand Paul who argue that the collection is unconstitutional since it is done without a warrant. Supporters of the collection argue that the collection is necessary to track suspected terrorists.
In April 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order which restored voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons living in the state. The order overturned the state’s practice of felony disenfranchisement, which excludes people from voting who have been convicted of a criminal defense. The 14th amendment of the United States prohibits citizens from voting who have participated in a “rebellion, or other crime” but allows states to determine which crimes qualify for voter disenfranchisement. In the U.S. approximately 5.8 million people are ineligible to vote due to voter disenfranchisement and only two states, Maine and Vermont, have no restrictions on allowing felons to vote. Opponents of felon voting rights argue that a citizen forfeits their rights to vote when they are convicted of a felony. Proponents argue that the arcane law disenfranchises millions of Americans from participating in democracy and has an adverse affect on poor communities.
Mandatory minimum sentences are automatic, minimum prison terms set by Congress. Judges in the U.S. are required to base their sentences on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, mandatory minimum sentencing laws, or both. In 1986 the U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which enacted new mandatory minimum sentences for drugs. People caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine were given jail sentences of 5 years without parole (the same sentence as people caught with 500 grams). The legislation was in response to the moral panic involving the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s. In 2010 Congress and President Obama eliminated the crack cocaine mandatory sentence with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. Opponents of mandatory minimum sentences argue that they often impose long prison terms on non-violent criminals. Proponents argue that the sentences are designed to help judges punish drug cartels and those responsible for the country’s drug epidemic.
Militarization of police refers to the use of military equipment and tactics by law enforcement officers. This includes the use of armored vehicles, assault rifles, flashbang grenades, sniper rifles, and SWAT teams. Proponents argue that this equipment increases officers’ safety and enables them to better protect the public and other first responders. Opponents argue that police forces which received military equipment were more likely to have violent encounters with the public.
In January 2016, President Obama issued a series of executive actions banning federal prisons from using solitary confinement to punish juveniles and prisoners who commit low level infractions. His orders also lowered the number of days an adult inmate could be subject to solitary confinement from 365 days to 60 days. A recent study found that prisoners who were subject to solitary confinement were 20-25% more likely to be repeat criminal offenders than prisoners who avoided it.
Qualified immunity is a defense that police officers cannot be sued for misconduct if they were unaware at the time that their conduct was illegal and if there is no previous legal case with similar facts that ruled that officers may not engage in that conduct. Proponents argue that more intense criticism of police will disincentivize officers from doing their jobs resulting in crime rates going up. Opponents argue that police officers should be held more accountable for misconduct.
Currently, police unions are allowed to collectively bargain with government officials over the methods used to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. Proponents argue that collective bargaining stands in the way of accountability. Opponents of limiting collective bargaining argue that more intense criticism of police will disincentivize officers from doing their jobs resulting in crime rates going up.
In the wake of the lethal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri a petition has been launched to have the White House look into requiring all police officers in the country to wear body cameras. The petition has now exceeded 128,000 signatures, the Obama Administration said it will respond to petitions that exceed 100,000.
Private prisons are incarceration centers that are run by a for-profit company instead of a government agency. The companies that operate private prisons are paid a per-diem or monthly rate for each prisoner they keep in their facilities. In 2016 8.5% of the prisoner population was housed in private prisons. This is an 8% decline since 2000. Opponents of private prisons argue that incarceration is a social responsibility and that entrusting it to for-profit companies is inhumane. Proponents argue that prisons run by private companies are consistently more cost effective than those run by government agencies.
In March 2018, President Trump asked the Justice department to seek more death-penalty cases against drug traffickers. Trump announced the proposal as part of a plan to combat the opioid epidemic which is claiming the lives of more than 100 people a day in the U.S. In 1988 the federal government passed a drug law which imposed the death penalty on drug “kingpins” who commit murder in the course of their business. Analysts estimate that this law has resulted in only a few executions. 32 countries impose the death penalty for drug smuggling. Seven of these countries (China, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore) routinely execute drug offenders. Asia and the Middle East’s tough approach contrasts with many Western countries who have legalized cannabis in recent years (selling cannabis in Saudi Arabia is punished by beheading).
Last Spring the U.S. Senate defeated The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act by a vote of 58-38. The act, proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would lower the interest rate on existing student loans from 7% to 3.86%. The act would be financed by levying a mandatory income tax of 30% on everyone who earns between $1 Million and $2 Million dollars per year. Proponents argue that current student loan interest rates are nearly double normal interest rates and should be lowered to provide relief for millions of low-income borrowers. Opponents argue that the borrowers agreed to pay the interest rates when they took out the loans and taxing the rich would hurt the economy.
A 2017 College Board study estimated that the cost of college has increased 100% since 2001. The St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank estimates that U.S. college tuition debt has increased from $480 billion in 2006 to $1.5 trillion in 2018. Several 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary candidates have argued that the cost of college is out of control and that the government should pay for tuition. Opponents argue that the government cant afford it and point to estimates from the Committee for a Responsible Federal budget that estimate programs would cost the government $80 billion a year.
Critical race theory is the claim that American institutions, laws, and history are inherently racist. It argues that white people have put up social, economic, and legal barriers between the races in order to maintain their elite status, both economically and politically and that the source of poverty and criminal behavior in minority communities is due exclusively to these barriers.
Universal preschool is a proposal that would use funding from the federal government to provide school to children before they reach Kindergarten. In the current U.S. public education system government funded school is guaranteed to all children from kindergarten to 12th grade. number of U.S. states use state tax revenue to fund part-time and full-time preschool for children between the ages of 3 and 5. Half of the states that offer pre-K programs limit enrollment to low-income children. Proponents that preschool is too expensive for most American families and according to The Chicago Child-Parent Center's Longitudinal Study children who attend preschool found on average that children make significant gains in cognitive, language and early math and reading skills. Opponents point to a 2005 study done by the RAND Corp. which showed “no significant impacts in education – in the short or long term.”
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an education initiative that details what K-12 students should know in English and Math at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Governors_Association">National Governors Association</a> and the <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Chief_State_School_Officers">Council of Chief State School Officers</a> and seeks to establish consistent education standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter two or four year college programs or enter the workforce. <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Core_State_Standards_Initiative">Learn more</a> or
In January 2021 President Joe Biden pledged to re-open schools by the end of April 2021. His plan included providing school districts with necessary funding to reconfigure classrooms for social distancing, procuring protective equipment and devising plans to accommodate at-risk teachers and students. Biden’s plan was praised by the two major national teachers unions. Opponents argue that children should immediately return to school since the coronavirus is not harmful to children and point out that the CDC’s infection fatality rate for people under the age of 19 is .003%.
Charter schools are tax payer funded K-12 schools that are managed by private companies. In the U.S. there are approximately 2.9 million students enrolled in 6,700 charter schools. Charter schools are approved and governed by city, county or state governments. Beneficiaries of private schools include real-estate investors who typically own the buildings and land where the schools are housed. Opponents of charter schools argue that they take money away from the public education system and enrich private companies and real estate investors who own the land where the schools are built. Proponents argue that students in charter schools consistently have higher test scores than public school students and note that there are millions of students across the U.S. who are currently on waitlists for private schools.
Truancy is intentional, unjustified, unauthorized, or illegal absence from compulsory education. Its absence is caused by students of their own free will and does not apply to excused absences. In the U.S. truancy laws are regulated by local school districts and vary widely across the United States. Penalties include fines or jail time for parents or children. In 2019 Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke introduced plans that would require the government to decriminalize truancy at the federal level.
A school voucher is a certificate of government funding that students can use to pay for the school of their choice. Students are given the vouchers and can use them to pay for non-public school systems including private schools, home schools and charter schools Proponents argue that the vouchers will create a better education system by promoting competition between schools. Opponents argue that the voucher system removes funds from public schools and redirects it toward private institutions.
The United States Electoral College is the mechanism established by the United States Constitution for the indirect election of the President of the United States and Vice President of the United States. Citizens of the United States vote in each state at a general election to choose a slate of "electors" pledged to vote for a party's candidate. The Twelfth Amendment requires each elector to cast one vote for president and another vote for vice president.
In most countries, suffrage, the right to vote, is generally limited to citizens of the country. Some countries, however, extend limited voting rights to resident non-citizens.
Since 2011, twelve states have passed laws that require a photo identification to vote. Supporters argue that ID’s are needed to increase confidence in elections and prevent voter fraud. Critics argue that voter fraud rarely exists and that ID requirements are intended to suppress turnout by economically disadvantaged voters.
A tax return is a document which states how much income an individual or entity reported to the government.
In the U.S. a citizen may give $2,700 per election to a federal candidate, $5,000 per year to a PAC, $10,000 per year to a State or local party committee and $33,400 per year to a national party. Citizens and corporations may give unlimited amounts to a Super PAC. A Super PAC is freed from traditional campaign finance laws as long as it does not fund a candidate or campaign or coordinate directly with a campaign how to spend donations.
The U.S. constitution does not prevent convicted felons from holding the office of the President or a seat in the Senate or House of Representatives. States may prevent convicted felons candidates from holding statewide and local offices.
Currently, federal election law prohibits political candidates from knowingly soliciting, accepting or receiving donations from foreign nationals or entities under any circumstances. However, a loophole exists where foreign nationals or entities can hire lobbyists to meet with or donate directly to politicians to persuade them to vote favorably for the foreign interest.
Currently, the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act” which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2007 bans former senators and top executive branch officials from becoming lobbyists for two years and they leave the government.
In 2015, the U.S.’ estimated military budget is expected to be $601 billion, down from $610 billion spent in 2014. The U.S. outspends the next six highest spending nations combined. China has the second largest budget at $216 billion and Russia has the third largest with $84.5 billion.
President Obama recently declared that the U.S. will accept 10,000 refugees from Syria. The U.S. has been under pressure from its Syrian allies to help out with the crisis in which 3 Million refugees have fled Syria in the past year. Those in favor of accepting refugees believe that the U.S. has a duty to join its allies in Europe and accept at least 10,000 refugees. Opponents argue that the U.S. should stay out of this crisis and accepting refugees from the Middle East leads to a risk of letting terrorists into our borders.
In 2002, the George W. Bush administration issued the Torture Memos which argued for a narrow definition of torture under U.S. law. They included granting the CIA authority to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” on enemy combatants. The techniques included waterboarding subjection to extreme cold and confinement in small boxes.
After the September 11, 2001 terror attacks the George W. Bush administration authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” at secret detention facilities around the world run by the defense department and CIA. The authorization approved the use of many techniques including beatings, binding in stress positions, hooding, sleep deprivation and waterboarding. In 2008 President Obama signed an executive order banning the use torture by the U.S. military and CIA. In 2016 the use of torture became a topic during the Presidential race when candidate Donald Trump suggested it should be used against the Islamic State. Opponents of torture argue that the U.S. should never practice torture since it is inhumane and illegal under international law. Proponents argue that the military should not be prevented from using torture if they believe it will keep the country safe.
The UN. is an organization of governments founded in 1945 after World War II. The organization's objectives include promoting peace and security, protecting human rights and the environment and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict. Recent U.N. interventions include the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The U.S. joined the U.N. as a founding member in 1945. The U.S. is the largest financial contributor to the UN and contributes more than $650 million annually.
The U.S. currently gives $3.3 billion to Israel every year, which is 1/3rd of the U.S.’s foreign aid budget. Most of the aid is used by Israel to buy American military hardware, such as jets and components for missile defense.
Currently, the United States gives $31.55B, or .19% of GDP, development assistance to other countries. The top 10 recipient countries include Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, West Bank/Gaza, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Malawi, Uganda, and South Africa.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on April 4th, 1949. It is a political and military alliance of member countries from Europe and North America that agree to provide military and economic security for each other. NATO makes all of its decisions by consensus and every member country, no matter how large or small, has an equal say.
Military service is not required in the U.S. Proponents of required service argue that it isn’t fair that a small percentage of Americans serve in the military to protect the rest of the population. Opponents argue that the requirement is unnecessary because modern warfare is fought less and less with ground troops and more with unmanned technology including drones.
In December 2014 President Obama ordered the restoration of full democratic relations with Cuba. The order lifted a 54 year old trade embargo and eased restrictions on banking and American’s travel to the country. Proponents of relations with Cuba argue that U.S. influence through tourism and trade will promote capitalism and weaken its communist regime. Opponents argue that trade and diplomatic relations will only strengthen the communist regime’s grip on the Cuban government.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles deployed by U.S. defense and intelligence agencies to collect data and strike suspected enemy targets.
The United States and coalition forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 terror attacks. After the attacks, U.S. intelligence officials determined that the Afghani-based militant organization Al-Qaeda was responsible. In 2001 90% of Afghanistan was controlled by the Sunni Islamic military organization The Taliban. After the Taliban refused requests by U.S. President George W. Bush to dismantle Al-Qaeda the U.S. launched military operations known as Operation Enduring Freedom. As of June 27, 2019 2,419 U.S. troops have died in the conflict.
In December 2017 U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the U.S. would move it’s embassy there. The announcement was controversial as both Israel and Palestine claim that Jerusalem is their capital. Foreign governments that recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel support the notion that Israel has sovereignty over the city. In 1949 Israel took control of the western half of the city and Jordan took control of the eastern half. In 2017 the current population of Jerusalem was 61% Jewish and 37% are Arab. Opponents argue that moving the U.S. embassy to Israel is a violation of international law and would set back decades of peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Proponents argue that Jerusalem has been the defect capital of Israel for many years and foreign governments should recognize it.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance formed by 28 countries in 1949 after the Second World War. To join NATO each member country pledged to spend at least 2% of their GDP on military spending and defense and defend each other against threats from any non-member country. In a July 2016 interview with the New York Times Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested that the United States would not defend NATO member countries who had failed to increase their military budgets to above 2% of Gross Domestic Product. The suggestion defies a pact made by NATO members when it was formed in WWII that they would defend each other against any attack by a non-member nation. France, Turkey, Germany, Canada, and Italy are countries that are currently spending less than 2% of their GDP on military defense.
The cache of documents revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed that the U.S. used surveillance methods to monitor the emails and phone calls of its closest foreign allies including Germany, France and Brazil. The revelations have severely damaged the U.S.'s relationship with these countries even though State Department officials have insisted that these surveillance programs have thwarted many terrorist threats worldwide.
In September 2018, the U.S. signed a security agreement with India unlocked the sales of billions of dollars of high-tech American weapons. India will purchase fighter jets, transport planes, drones and missile defense systems from American military manufacturers including Lockheed Martin. The U.S. government is seeking India as an ally to counter the rise of China and Russia’s military strength in the Indo-Pacific region. Proponents argue that the agreement is necessary to counter China and Russia’s influence and the agreement will generate billions of dollars in revenue for U.S. military defense contractors. Opponents argue that the agreement will encourage China and Russia to beef up their militaries and trigger a global arms race.