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The 2008 presidential campaign is turning out to be one of the most exciting periods in American political history. For Sen. John McCain, who sewed up his party’s nomination early on, the third time has proven to be the charm. While he works at looking presidential, meeting with world leaders and visiting Iraq, Democrats are worried about the increasingly divisive tone of the contest between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The two are in a virtual dead heat and neither appears willing to concede the race until the bitter end. Clinton and Obama often seem to spend more time challenging each other’s records, integrity, and judgment than they do highlighting their positions and solutions to America’s problems.
“The nomination is usually decided by this point, so if there’s been a rough and tumble fight, there’s time to heal. The nastier it gets, the more fodder for McCain,” says Peter Groff, a Colorado state senator, senior lecturer, and executive director of the Center for African American Policy at the University of Denver.
If they won’t talk about the issues, BLACK ENTERPRISE decided, we will. In our December 2007 issue (see “More Than Hot Air? You Decide,” Newspoints), we spoke with top presidential candidates about their platform issues and their vision for the country. In this issue, we went back to the legislative records of the remaining candidates to see if they are really walking the walk. We polled our readers to find out what issues matter most to them and then closely examined the front-runners’ voting record on the top three: the economy, national security, and social policy. Like most voters, our readers worry about a possible recession and America’s diminishing role on the world’s stage. The state of the nation’s economy also elicits fear that as the national deficit grows, the government’s social safety net will continue to shrink. We shared our findings with political analysts who offered insights on what issues the next president is likely to face and how he or she might handle them. More important, how will they handle the prevalent concerns of black Americans?
“McCain will essentially pursue the same kinds of issues that Bush has-tax cuts that will get the economy going-and if that works, everyone, even people at the bottom, will benefit, but there will be no need to have special programs to target those left behind. He won’t pursue social policy programs targeted to any particular group,” says Robert Smith, Ph.D., a political scientist at San Francisco State University.
He adds that Obama and Clinton have both adopted the neoliberal approach to dealing with poverty and other issues established by former President Bill Clinton. “As president, they will do things Republicans don’t approve of, like creating job training programs, making the case that the government will provide certain types of assistance, but in exchange for that, people will have to change their behavior.”
On the following pages, BE gets down and dirty with each front-runner’s key votes on issues ranging from small business, taxes, and