NEW YORK – The silliest cliché in all of American politics tells us there’s no difference between the two main political parties.
In fact, the differences are, as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump would say, huge – even within the two parties.
The candidates facing off against each other in Tuesday’s New York primary prove it.
The Democrats can choose between a former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state who bills herself as a progressive who gets things done – or an iconoclastic democratic socialist senator from Vermont who promises to lead a political revolution.
Republicans, meanwhile, have three choices: a bombastic New York billionaire who would upend decades of GOP orthodoxy on trade and foreign affairs, a far-right tea party senator with a Texas swagger and a Republican from Ohio who seems to come another era.
Here’s a closer look at each, followed by a detailed look at where they stand on the issues.
Hillary Clinton, 68: One of the most famous women on the planet, in her second bid for the presidency, portrays herself as the can-do candidate who can build on the center-left progress of President Barack Obama. Her website offers proposals for incremental leftward progress on 30 separate issues. Implicit in her issues-oriented, grind-it-out campaign is the message that while Clinton might not be the most exciting candidate, she’s the best-prepared.
Bernie Sanders, 74: It’s too soon to know whether Sanders will get his revolution, but it’s clear he is reshaping Democratic politics, pushing Clinton to her left while energizing young people to believe in the political process again. The revolution he promises – a world of free college and single-payer health care and broken-up banks and a campaign finance system not driven by big money – amounts to the most ambitious agenda of any candidate.
Donald Trump: 69: Much attention has been paid to Trump’s bombast, but more attention should be paid to how he would reshape the GOP. Republicans have been the free-trade party for decades, but Trump, who’s partial to tearing up the nation’s trade deals, would reverse that. Similarly, he would abandon 70 years of GOP foreign policy by forcing allies to pay more for their own defense and even encouraging allies like Japan to get nuclear weapons.
Ted Cruz, 45: This tough-talking U.S. senator would remold the GOP in his own hard-line image. Like Trump, he wants to build a wall at the Mexican border and get tough on illegal immigration, but Cruz’s most noteworthy proposal is his flat tax plan – which includes a 19 percent “business flat tax” that would work, in essence, like a national sales tax. Beyond that, Cruz is a rock-ribbed conservative Christian candidate in the mold of the 2010 tea partiers.
John Kasich, 63: This onetime congressional budget hawk and two-term Ohio governor looks like the GOP nominee from central casting – circa 1988. There’s no doubt about it: Kasich is a conservative who’s made cutting government spending the theme of his career. But he’s also an old-fashioned deal maker with a heart, one who’s willing to take tough stands – like expanding Medicaid in Ohio under Obamacare – even if they hurt him politically.