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2016 for Beginners: A Guide to the 2016 Presidential Race

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Suffolk chapter.

Hopefully you aren’t living in a hole and know that there’s this thing called a presidential election happening next year.  But even if you aren’t living in a hole, the whole president situation might be a little confusing (because, well, politics can be hard).  Luckily, this guide will get you heading in the right direction to understanding what’s going on with politics, the presidential candidates, and other grown-up things we should all kinda know about.


Democrat? Republican? What’s this nonsense mean.

Politicians identify with the Democrats or Republicans.  Each ‘party’ (aka group) has their own general beliefs that most members share.




o   L-o-v-e social equality (so they support issues like gay marriage, racial equality, and helping the poor people get on their feet by doing stuff like raising minimum wage)

o   Generally support abortion

o   Support programs like healthcare for everyoneeee! With lower costs to get medical care so everyone can get the help that they need

o   Believe in higher taxes for rich people and lower taxes for poor people 

o   Usually associated with the word ‘liberal’, which means more open to change and breaking from traditional norms… which, as you can see, most Dems are willing to do



o   “Work hard, play hard”.  Lots of Republicans believe just because you work hard doesn’t mean you should be taxed more

o   The government doesn’t need to focus on social equality… poor people need to work harder to get themselves on their feet (and not rely on the government’s help).  If you want something, you have to work for it! 

o   If you want healthcare, that’s your choice… you shouldn’t be required to have it, and richer people shouldn’t be responsible for paying higher taxes providing it for poorer people!

o   Not fans of issues like abortion and gay marriage

o   Often associated with the term ‘conservative’, meaning they want to keep things the way they have been in the past 


PS: keep in mind that this is the general views for each party.  Not all Republicans are anti-abortion, and not all Democrats support gay marriage, you’re just more likely to find people that think that in the party mentioned.


There’s plenty of super helpful sites like this one that compare the Dems and Repubs if you still feel a little confuzzled.


So I get the whole Democrat and Republican difference… you mean to tell me every politician is one or the other?

Pretty much.  Some politicians are more in the middle, meaning they have some Democratic views and some Republican views… but Google any politician, and you’ll see what party they side with.

Okay, cool.  So politicians are all Democratic or Republican. But they can be a ‘presidential candidate’ too? What the heck does that mean?

People like Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – all those names that have been in the news lately – are all presidential candidates.  AKA they want to be America’s new president.  Right now, it may seem like there’s a ton of them, because there basically is (below are all the candidates from each party.  Holy crap is right).  Eventually, they’ll choose one person from each party, and that’s who we’ll vote between for prez.



What are these ‘debates’ that have been on TV?

Believe it or not, the debates are more than just hearing from sassy old Donald Trump.


There have been two Republican debates so far, with more to come in the future.  The Democrats will have their debates soon, too.  The debates get all the top candidates together, and they tell the people about how they’d run our country if they were elected.


Got it.  Now tell me who to vote for.


Well now that you know a little about what each party believes in, it’s easier to understand each candidate.  There’s sites like this one that break down each candidate and explain their views on all the hot topics in American politics.  But if you don’t feel like reading through all that, you can take quizzes like this that help you narrow down which candidates share your views.

Journalism student in Boston / Campus Correspondent for Her Campus Suffolk. I'm into politics, pop music, and parks. I tweet about TV and lipstick. @nikkimfell