The Political Compass is a universal tool, applicable to all western democracies. It shows the whole potential political landscape, not simply one within the confines of any particular country. For example, Bernie Sanders is popularly perceived in his own country as an off-the-wall left figure; in other western democracies he would sit squarely within the mainstream social democratic parties that regularly form governments or comprise the largest opposition. Conversely, a US candidate who believes in unfettered market forces or capital punishment may be seen at home as mainstream, but ‘extreme’ in other developed countries. Similarly, ‘Obamacare’ is seen as a liberal/left initiative in the US, while in other developed countries it is viewed as a tepid version of the long-established universal public health care systems that are broadly supported by conservatives as well as social democrats.
In the crowded field of candidates in the US 2020 primaries, there are some interesting clusters of attitudes. For example only nine candidates are opposed to increases to the military budget, including some who are nevertheless also against foreign intervention. Some with a strong commitment to countering climate change nevertheless uphold an equally strong commitment to unlimited economic growth, and sometimes even to the further deregulation of corporate polluters.
We have analysed speeches, manifestos and, crucially, voting records in the compilation of this chart. There are three instances where we were unable to find any opinions on record for a significant number of important issues. It is therefore so far not possible to properly place Messam, Steyer or Amash. In the light of further information, they will, of course, be included. As the campaign proceeds, the chart will be amended to reflect policy changes and other relevant developments.
While the Democratic camp boasts a more interesting diversity of ideologies than usual, the Green Party holds the biggest surprise. While Howie Hawkins wants to keep the party firmly to the libertarian left, Jesse Ventura is pulling in a quite different direction. A fiscal conservative of the neoliberal right, his apparent social liberalism is compromised by his mixed views on capital punishment. Similarly Vohra’s libertarian outlook is more strongly in evidence on the economic scale than the social one.
With the exception of Weld, there are few significant differences between the GOP candidates. While the Democratic outcome, especially with the emergence of billionaire Steyer, may be surprising, the successful Republican is a foregone conclusion. The big surprise there is that even a majority of Christian fundamentalists favour the candidate that Jesus would probably have been least likely to choose.