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Sep 19 2016
by Terry Nguyen

Breaking Down the 2016 Election

By Terry Nguyen - Sep 19 2016

As the winds have gotten chillier and the on-campus Starbucks has finally restocked its Pumpkin Spice flavors, we’re reminded that we’re smack in the middle of autumn. With upcoming presidential debates and midterms, ‘tis the season of suffering and disappointment for not only college students, but also the American people.

Clinton and Trump’s names have infamously integrated themselves into the day-to-day conversations of many Americans in this notorious election cycle. The American public has gotten antsy with this year’s main party nominees being two of the most controversial and unpopular candidates in the history of presidential elections. In regards to these candidates, there are increasingly polarizing attitudes within and between the Democratic and Republican parties. In addition, the Election 2016 news cycle has been particularly vicious for non-news junkies with breaking news on candidates every day, so let’s break it down into easy bite-sized pieces.

Here’s a closer look on the latest about the candidates and the issues they stand for on the national podium.

This week’s national polls have revealed that Clinton and Trump are leveling out the playing field. As the most unpopular candidates go, neither of them are close to breaking the 50% popular vote (which is a dismal fact). Fluctuating polling results are natural in such a close election cycle, but as this occurs right before the first presidential debate - hold your horses (or donkeys or elephants)! The election continues to be anyone’s game.

The Latest On…

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary Clinton has been off the stage for a couple days, after she left the 9/11 memorial event feeling (and looking) light-headed. Her campaign quickly issued a statement that she was diagnosed with walking pneumonia, and she resumed campaign activities on Thursday, walking up the stage to James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” Of course, strange conspiracy theories follow presidential candidates wherever they go, and following the pneumonia exposé, Clinton was conspired of having a body double on her campaign trail. Entertaining, but quite untrue. Currently, Clinton and her campaign are edging Trump to reveal his tax plans, not apologizing for her comment on Trump supporters as “deplorables,” and responding to the birther movement that resurfaced from Trump’s announcement Friday morning.

Donald J. Trump

Mr. Trump’s campaign has picked up quite a storm this week, especially in swing states like Ohio, as Clinton was off the campaign trail for a couple days regaining her health. Currently, the Trump Foundation is under investigation for its overtly generous payment of $25,000 to Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, who could have investigated the Foundation on past allegations. This raises questions whether it was “lobbying” to prevent Bondi from taking an investigative case on the Foundation, or if it was simply on “accident.” Donald Trump Jr. recently brought up Trump Sr.’s tax returns, and claims that they do not intend on revealing the 12,000 page tax return that would cause financial confusion due to its complexity. And on the topic of health, Trump appeared on Dr. Oz to publicize his doctor’s note.

On the Issues…

From immigration (build that wall!) to the terrible economy, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the candidates’ political platforms on issues that have garnered much attention this election.


Clinton aims to enforce immigration laws humanely and promote naturalization. She wants to eliminate the 3-years and 10-year bars, which prevents immigrants from entering the U.S. until a specific date and separates families.

Trump, after his visit with the President of Mexico, continues to push for the creation of the wall, under Mexican money, of course. He has proven that there will be no “softening” on his immigration stance, but claims he will deport humanely. In August, Trump also calls for “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants, preventing their entrance into the country on the basis of national security.


Clinton’s tax plan receives criticism for not proposing a system that would offer sudden and significant change. Her plan will raise tax revenue over the next decade to improve funding for programs, taking mainly from the top 1%. In addition, she hopes to increase the estate tax - a tax that affects assets of large estates. A working class American should see little to no changes in their taxes, under Clinton’s proposal.

Trump wants to do away with the current seven tax brackets and reduce it to three, which would result in huge tax cuts. It will decrease total revenue in following years. However, the number of households paying no tax will be reduced, and the very rich will also receive tax breaks. Trump wants to do away with the estate tax, which will allow owners or large estates to escape taxes on their assets.

Foreign Policy

Clinton’s past work as Secretary of State adds to her foreign policy experience and ability in negotiating with foreign leaders. Clinton has spoken strongly against terrorist forces and says she aims “to defeat and destroy ISIS”. Foreign policy plans, however, are difficult to outline as a whole, but Clinton has been known to be a strong negotiator and problem solver in her work.

Trump does not have a clear foreign policy plan (to be fair, neither does Clinton), but he has been praised for maintaining a more aggressive front in regards to foreign relations. Trump and Putin have had friendlier relations, with Putin calling him “an absolute front-runner” in the election. He advocates for policies that will benefit the U.S., and have even suggested leaving NATO if it does not collaboratively contribute more funds towards defense with the U.S.

As students, we tend to get distracted by the latest absurd comments or conspiracy theories of the election. I mean, who isn’t? However, as November steadily approaches, remember to keep an eye out to educate yourself on the candidates’ political stances concerning important issues facing our nation. 

Lead Image Credit: Vector Open Stock

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Terry Nguyen - University of Southern California

Terry is a freshman at the University of Southern California, pursuing a major in journalism and political science. Besides writing, she enjoys photography, graphic design, multimedia storytelling, and maintaining an irrational sense of aesthetic in her dorm room. Follow her on Twitter for sarcastic tweets and fun @terryngyn

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