The Issues Thus Far

Update 1:00PM EST Tuesday, July 21, 2015: At the time of writing, the project had in fact successfully made it through the complete list of declared candidates. This morning, within hours of this entry going 'live,' John Kasich announced his run for the presidency.

The Campaign Mapping project has now officially gone through the list of declared major party candidates, highlighting aspects of each of their announcement speeches. As a result, now seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the issues that have received attention and the ways in which they were discussed.  (Of course, we'll be adding any others who decide to throw their hats into the ring as they make their announcements.)

[The links throughout this summary will take you to specific atlas entries or to a list of those including reference to specific issues.]

Perhaps unexpectedly, there are a handful of issues and themes emerging at the fore of the rhetoric. Similarly, there are a variety of tactics the announcements themselves have exploited in terms of venues and approaches. While most gave a speech close to their hometowns, Clinton and Fiorina both released short videos on the Internet boosted through social media, while Webb declared his candidacy via Facebook with a letter posted as well. 

We've heard several references to the American Dream and the need for greater opportunities for working Americans. We've heard the beginnings of discussion on income inequality and jobs. Further, we began to translate what they might mean when candidates talk about the "middle class" as an expectation, a social contract, and an income bracket. We've also heard a bit of confusion on the nature of social programs and policies, particularly where "entitlements" and "welfare" programs are concerned. We anticipate several future atlas entries further clarifying the difference, and we got that process of translation underway with a brief discussion of "welfare" specifically.

While immigration was a popular topic from the very first announcement, it became an enormous talking point with Trump's announcement. The country saw divergent rhetorical approaches between candidates of color who each emphasized their families' stories of coming to the US (or in Bush's case, the story of starting his family with his wife whom he met in Mexico) and other candidates whose discussion of immigration which is centered around legality, policy, and economic opportunity. 

While rarely explicit, the topic of immigration dovetails into a growing theme of diversity and identity. While Clinton's video highlighted a diverse population in middle-class America and others voiced pride in the national origins of their families, a few candidates have called for an end to "identity politics" and "hyphenated Americans." We translated one aspect of identity politics from the statement made by Fiorina. Interestingly, it was Jindal, who described his parents immigrating to the US as an idea rather than a place, who also seeks to unite the diverse population through reduced nomenclature.

Taken together, more often than not, these issues describe each candidate's imagined audience and the image of "America" each of them sees. Specifically, they describe who they believe the typical American is and what characteristics comprise American households and families. Even in this very early phase of our project, we have seen many "typical American households" and many "Americas."

On the process of politics itself, almost every candidate made a point of critiquing the system into which they've been launched. Be it on questions of campaign finance or partisanship or general voter disillusionment, candidates from both parties agreed that these were issues to be addressed. (Christie calls the latter Americans' "anxiety.")

In the coming weeks, we expect to hear more specific policy priorities and agendas. This will likely mean fewer maps of Americans in favor of mapping our infrastructures, energy usage, environmental concerns, and economic systems. With that, our questions will move away from "who lives where?" toward "who might be impacted?" by such policies. And all that fun starts...tomorrow.

- the Campaign Mapping team