What Canadians Should Know About The 2016 U.S. Election

Give Me the Bullets

  • The U.S. will elect a new president on November 8, 2016
  • The main players are democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, GOP nominee Donald Trump and three independents: Jill Stein representing the Green Party, Darrell Castle representing the Constitution Party and Gary Johnson representing the Libertarian Party
  • Once the electoral votes are tallied and everyone recovers from the campaign chaos, the new president will be sworn into office on January 20, 2017

The Basics

After eight years in office, President Barack Obama is calling it quits (well really, he has to since you’re maxed out at two terms in the U.S.), which means our neighbours are forced to elect a new POTUS. This election is a big deal for a lot of reasons, but two of the biggest: 1) it’s the first time a woman (Hillary) has repped a major party and 2) Donald Trump is still in the running.

What Are the Key Dates?

The official election will take place on November 8, 2016–but there will be a heck of a lot happening before then. There have been three presidential debates; the last one took place on October 19.

Tell Me More About the Candidates

There are two main candidates facing off:

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, best known for her previous role as Secretary of State and First Lady (she’s married to former U.S. president Bill Clinton). She was also the senator in New York from 2001 to 2009. Virginia senator Tim Kaine is jumping into the ring with Hill as her VP.

GOP nominee Donald Trump, best known for his hair, his outrageous comments and being a real estate mogul, successful businessman, and reality TV star (sounds qualified, right?). Supporting Donald in his efforts to “Make America Great Again” is his running mate, Indiana governor Mike Pence.

There are also independent candidates running, including Jill Stein representing the Green Party, Darrell Castle representing the Constitution Party and Gary Johnson representing the Libertarian Party.

Despite their best efforts, an independent candidate has never won the top job (but they have thrown a major wrench in the election. See: Ralph Nader in 2000).

What Do They Stand For?

There’s a lot on the line in good ol’ ‘Murica right now. The candidates are more passionate (and more divided) than ever about some pretty big issues: immigration, women’s reproductive rights, climate change, gun control, and foreign policy.

Immigration: Clinton supports immigration with a pathway to citizenship, while Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S and Mexico (that famous “wall”) and ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Clinton and Trump are also on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to Obama’s DAPA and DACA initiatives: Clinton supports them while Trump wants to rescind them.

Economy: Trump hasn’t said much about what he wants to do, but his policies include dropping the tax rate for corporations from 35% to 15%, and dropping the tax rate for the middle class. Hillary wants to raise taxes for those with an income higher than $250K, keeping taxes the same for everyone else. She also wants to raise the minimum wage to $12/hour.

Gun Control: Hillary believes the U.S. needs stronger gun control laws, and says she’s prepared to take on the NRA to change the rules. Trump doesn’t think America has a gun problem. He believes America has a mental health problem.

Climate Change: Clinton believes climate change is real, and a really, really big deal. She promises to take it seriously and make the U.S. a leader in clean energy. Trump thinks climate change is a hoax.

Women’s Reproductive Rights: Hillary wants to keep the convo (and decision) between women and their doctors. Trump is pro-life and while he now says there are exceptions, that wasn’t always the case.

Depending on who’s elected, the U.S.A. we know and love could look very different in a year’s time. If Trump becomes prez, there might be a big wall that surrounds the country and keeps immigrants out. If Hillary is elected, she’ll hopefully be focused on climate change and making her country a leader in clean energy.

What’s at Stake?

The Supreme Court: There’s an empty seat on the Supreme Court which means the next POTUS will be responsible for selecting a new Justice. Technically Obama could do it, but the Senate says they’ll block any of his noms in the hopes that a Republican will be back in power come January.

The effects on Canada: Trump is against NAFTA, calling it a “disaster” and vows to scrap the Trans-Pacific partnership, two deals that are key to Canada-U.S. relations. In fact, most of Canadian exports end up on U.S. soil. In addition to the economic effects, the U.S. makes a pretty stellar teammate on some pretty big issues (ahem, climate change), so depending on who gets the Oval, we might have to come up with a new game plan.

While everything is just a big fat promise right now (and we know politicians aren’t the best at keeping theirs), Donald and Hillary are on very opposite sides of the political spectrum. People are calling this “the most important presidential election in American history” and we couldn’t agree more. All it takes is listening to one speech from one candidate to understand what’s at stake—and with the U.S. being one of our closest allies, Canadians should be just as concerned.

So How Does Voting Work?

American politics works in a very weird (and kind of complicated) way. In the U.S., there’s the electoral college, which means that when you cast a vote for a candidate, you’re not really voting for them—you’re voting for electors who will then vote for your desired candidate.

Each state gets a certain number of electors based on its number of congressional lawmakers (Senators and House Reps). While not a science, it’s usually based on that state’s population. If a candidate gets 270 electoral votes, they get the job. Though there can be a situation where neither candidate gets a majority, and then the House of Representatives votes in the next President. Confusing, right?

What You Can Do

Unless you’re an American citizen, you won’t be casting a ballot in November, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. Social media has broken down borders, so if you have an opinion or believe in a candidate, use your platforms to share it (and encourage our neighbours to get out and vote). You never know who’s listening.

More Details

Polling:
projects.fivethirtyeight.com | www.nytimes.com | www.realclearpolitics.com

Explainers:
www.vox.com | www.bbc.com | www.cnn.com | www.macleans.ca | www.abc.net.au

Who to Follow:
@realdonaldtrump: To stay on top of every ridiculous thing he says (a lot of them happen on Twitter).

@hillaryclinton: To see her thoughts on the ridiculous things DT says (and also for some legit foreign, economic and immigration policy talk).

@ddale8: To keep up to date on every false thing Trump says.

@jaketapper: For a funny take on every political event (if you can even laugh anymore).

@brianstelter: For everything happening behind the scenes from the host of @ReliableSources, who always keeps his finger on the pulse of politics.

@maggieNYT: For all election news from the presidential campaign correspondent for the New York Times.

@factcheckdotorg: For a feed dedicated to keeping politicians honest, and calling them out on their bull.

@billmaher: For a laugh.

@johndingell: For real talk. He was a congressman for almost 60 years, and now he’s 90 and just DGAF. (Also, he’s pushing 100 and using Twitter, so give him a follow, would ya?)