If you live in the United States, you are no doubt in the process of boarding up your windows and cancelling your cable as swarms of unpaid interns prepare for the upcoming primaries that will be the first step in determining the next President of the United States. What time is more exciting (and possibly annoying) than the regular four year election cycle.
Now TechRaptor is not a political site by any means, but we do cover law and politics when pertinent, and the topic of technology does not go ignored during the campaign rush. So what do candidates think about things like net neutrality? The ever present (if legally pointless) debate about video game content? The progress of technology in general?
Jeb Bush (R)
Continuing the Bush legacy, Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida, is one of the most well-known candidates for the Republican primary. As governor, he oversaw a few potential legislative changes to policies regarding the sale of video games. In 2006, a bill was introduced in the Florida Senate that would impose stringent fines on the sale of Mature Rated games to minors. Bush said he was unsure the bill was necessary, citing he felt the responsibility fell on the parents to oversee what their children were playing, not the government. The bill died in committee, so we don’t get to see how Bush would’ve followed through.
Bush was at one point the target of the infamous Jack Thompson, who attempted to sway the governor’s office into helping him spearhead a campaign to ban the sale of violent or sexually explicit video games. The governor’s office responded thusly:
Mr. Thompson contacted one of our policy directors to ask if the Governor would spearhead a legislative effort to prohibit the sale of sexually explicit and violent video games to minors. Mr. Thompson was advised that, while the Governor does have concerns regarding violence in video games, he does not use his position to rally against specific products are retailers that sell them. He was told that if he wished to pursue this campaign, he should approach a member of his local delegation with a bill proposal.
Thompson claimed Bush had originally come to him requesting he help draft a bill, which the administration at the time denied fervently.
Bush has fervently opposed Net Neutrality, calling the FCC’s 3-2 vote for the act “crazy” and said that if elected he would get rid of Net Neutrality altogether. In general though, Bush seems to be putting a special emphasis on tech policies regarding security and regulation.
Ben Carson (R)
Carson is a different kind of candidate—not a career politician but a licensed neurosurgeon. Given his history in neurology, it’s surprising how little he has commented on video games. In an interview with The Best Schools, Carson spoke briefly on the overdiagnosis of ADD, claiming what parents identify as ADD is often more attributed to kids playing too many video games at too early an age. That is the most Carson seems to have commented on the issue. He has however spoken against Net Neutrality, though his argument is rather bizarre.
Lincoln Chafee (D)
Chafee is the former Governor of Rhode Island, who served as a Republican but now is running as a Democrat, and has likely the most interesting background in terms of the gaming industry. In 2010, a former Boston Red Sox pitcher came to Rhode Island seeking a loan for 38 Studios, to the tune of $75 million, as part of an economic expansion project. Chafee opposed the loan, but it went through without him, allowing the company to develop their first and only game. Afterwards, they declared bankruptcy. Some critics claim Chafee forced the development company into bankruptcy and refused to cooperate with the company. In discussing the failure of 38 Studios, Chafee made this comment:
I didn’t meddle. If I did meddle there wouldn’t be all this violence. All this horrible sexism in games.
Obviously, the video game community was not fond of Chafee’s follow-up. Chafee, as a Senator, took no position on Net Neutrality, and hasn’t gone on record about the issue. In 2013, Chafee voiced support for a sales tax on web-based retailers, calling it a matter of fairness.
Chris Christie (R)
As governor of New Jersey, Christie spearheaded a campaign to ban the sale of Mature-Rated video games to minors unless a parent accompanies them. He has not spoken on Net Neutrality or many other issues regarding technology that don’t apply to Bridgegate.
Hillary Clinton (D)
Clinton has been in politics for a while, which is convenient as it allows an easy trace of her opinions on video games, and the outcome is not pretty. Clinton has probably been one of the few candidates to attempt to “relate” to the gaming crowd, with pictures like the one below of Clinton playing on a Game Boy when she was First Lady of the White House.
Her voting record tells a somewhat different story. In 2005, Clinton was part of a wide spread campaign against video games, comparing them to alcohol and pornography, and attempted to ban the sale of Mature-Rated games nation wide, along with Joseph Lieberman and Evan Bayh. Clinton had some choice words for those who sell “violent” games to minors:
If you put it just really simply, these violent video games are stealing the innocence of our children …
The bill didn’t go anywhere, and later the Supreme Court declared video games a form of art, and protected under free speech laws. During her current campaign, Clinton seems to be avoiding putting her opinions on video games and media under the spotlight.
Ted Cruz (R)
Ted Cruz is one of the few candidates who openly identifies as a gamer. Now, his definition may differ from same gamers, as he specifically refers to mobile games, though claims this is only because he doesn’t have the time to spend on larger games. He recalls growing up with older consoles like the Atari. However, while Cruz doesn’t appear to have a record of foisting the “Think of the Children” argument, he advocated an end to Net Neutrality, a move that could harm online and PC gamers particularly, and has been criticized for not being truly in touch with modern gamers.
Carly Fiorina (R)
Fiorina is, in some regards, the Republican alternative to Hillary Clinton. She’s gained a spike in popularity recently, closing the gap between the majority of candidates and the top runner (currently Donald Trump). And like most Republican candidates, she strongly opposes Net Neutrality. Fiorina is a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, so has strong investment in the technology industry, and claims Net Neutrality would stifle innovation. She has put her experience in the industry on a pedestal, claiming it as a valuable skill to take into the White House:
It is important to have someone in the White House who has a fundamental understanding of technology, and a fundamental vision of how technology could be used …
Jim Gilmore (R)
Gilmore is a more recent potential candidate and has yet to really register on any polls. He is in a unique position to impact tech and the Internet in the United States already, having served as the chair of the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce. As chair, he halted attempts to add sales tax to web-based shopping back in 2000. Gilmore hasn’t served in the public sphere since 2002, so his positions on modern issues like SOPA or Net Neutrality is lacking.
Lindsey Graham (R)
Graham is yet another Republican candidate who has gone on record to oppose Net Neutrality, but strangely enough, also voted in favor of SOPA. Graham became something of a joke when he admitted that he has “never sent an e-mail in his life,” so likely he has a certain detachment from issues regarding technology.
Mike Huckabee (R)
Huckabee has been on the scene for a while, having made an appearance in a few Presidential elections now. He seemed to give a tentative endorsement for Net Neutrality, which would make him one of the few Republican supporters for the idea.
He seems to take special exception with the media, however. In his book, Kids Who Kill, Huckabee contributes part of the issue of violence exhibited by children and young adults to media, including video games:
Whatever is wrong with television is doubly wrong with Hollywood films. Television’s flimsy restraints are altogether absent in the movies. Add to television, movies, and music the violent or perverse content in many video games and Internet sites, and you have a prescription for cultural disaster.
Following the Navy Yard shooting, Huckabee posted a bizarre Facebook status trying to redirect the topic of gun control, even sarcastically implying “of course, the vast majority of video gamers would never let their hobby influence them to do anything illegal or violent.”
Bobby Jindal (R)
In 2006, Jindal voted ‘No’ on amendment that would establish Net Neutrality.
Martin O’Mally (D)
As governor of Maryland, O’Malley reached out in support of Obama’s plan for Net Neutrality, saying he wanted to keep “gatekeepers” out of the Internet. In 2014 he declared he agreed with the United Nations, and that he believes Internet access to be a “human right.”
George Pataki (R)
Pataki has gone on record as opposing Net Neutrality, on the basis of opposing any government regulation of the Internet. He has not spoken on many tech issues and seems to be mostly focused on cyber-terrorism in terms of the Internet.
Rand Paul (R)
Paul has consistently opposed Net Neutrality, even before it became a hot button topic. He doesn’t agree with the idea of repackaging it as a utility, and generally doesn’t want the government involved in anything that may regulate Internet access. His opposition seems the most well-rounded, or at least, defensible, of the Republican candidates who oppose it:
I think if there’s evidence that someone has a monopoly, let’s take away government privilege that creates the monopoly.
He has, however, maintained that consistency across other issues, holding his ground against SOPA/PIPA in 2012, and promising to fight against any form of Internet censorship. Beyond a simple position, Paul seems to take the issue of Internet censorship very seriously, promising to “… oppose, filibuster and do everything in my power to stop government censorship of the Internet.” He’s also opposed to an Internet sales tax.
Marco Rubio (R)
Rubio is yet another repeat contender for the Presidency, and his views on web access are fairly mixed. Like most other Republican candidates, he opposed Net Neutrality and was originally proud co-sponsor of PIPA, but later withdrew his support in the surge of protests that followed.
During one debate, Rubio (incorrectly) stated that Amazon had become the largest retailer in the country, but that this was costing American jobs. Though he did clarify in a later debate that the solution would be to train more people in areas of technology.
He’s been a proponent of expanding research and development in technology and space exploration as well. He’s one of the few candidates that has not only not promoted the idea of video games causing violence, but has even spoken highly of them as good educational tools, in particular the game Minecraft, comparing the mechanics of the game to simple coding:
If you play Minecraft, you’re basically writing code when you’re converting a hammer into a pickax … Kids might not realize they’re coding, but that’s going to be almost a basic proficiency just because of the way they grew up.
Bernie Sanders (D)
Sanders it the second front runner for the Democrats, right after Hillary Clinton, and has the longest history in politics as an Independent. He’s issued official statements supporting the FCC’s decisions on Net Neutrality and has spoken against provisions like SOPA/PIPA and the “E-Parasite” bill specifically. He’s been cited by some news sites as the candidate who “broke the Internet” and his campaign has a strong presence on social media, with Sanders himself claiming to write a fair portion of what is published. This is somewhat unsurprising, as Sander is a member of the Congressional Internet Caucus, a group that advocates for the progress and potential of the web.
Sanders hasn’t spoken on the topic of video games, but apparently sees at least the entertainment value in them, as his 2006 campaign included a custom flash game on his campaign website.
Rick Santorum (R)
Santorum comes from a highly industrial state, so it’s little surprise he doesn’t care much about the discussion over technology. He doesn’t appear to have any opinion on Net Neutrality, but he did come out in tenuous support of SOPA, claiming that “there are limits to freedom of speech.” He also voted in support of the Internet sales tax, and most of his opinions on space exploration are dismissed with “we don’t have the budget.”
Apparently he does believe there is money in the budget for a $90 million research grant (which he sponsored along with Clinton and Lieberman) to study the effects of violence in the media on children. He clarified some of this in his book It Takes a Family, which oddly was a direct response to Clinton’s book It Takes a Village:
One of the roles that government is uniquely capable of playing is providing parents with research on the pop culture industry. I am a strong advocate of federal investment in research regarding the impact on media content on children in particular. I stood with Sens. Brownback, Lieberman and Clinton to introduce a $90 million federal grant program to support research into the effects of viewing and using all types of media–including TV, computer games, and the Internet–on children’s physical and psychological development, The Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act would establish research into the role of media on the development of children from infancy through adolescence.
Like Cruz, Santorum at one point attempted to appeal to gamers through an enjoyment of mobile games.
Donald Trump (R)
I’ll try to keep the toupee jokes out of this. Donald Trump is the front runner of the Republic ballot and is either beloved or despised by the Internet, depending on how you interpret it. Because he lacks a political history, it’s hard to pin point his exact opinion on many issues. He has gone on record as opposing Net Neutrality (or, on Twitter, which seems to be where the majority of his opinions on anything can be found), bizarrely enough claiming that Net Neutrality would somehow attack conservative media. He does seem Internet savvy, given a large part of his campaign is in communicating through social media. But this may not be as genuine as it seems, as Trump only really started using e-mail in 2007 and often dictates his Tweets to assistants who send them out.
While his opinions on technology are lacking, Trump has been straight forward about his opinion on video games.
Video game violence & glorification must be stopped—it is creating monsters!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 17, 2012
That Tweet was made in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, amidst claims that video games may have been the cause of the violent spree, but Trump never clarified or apologized for the statement.
Jim Webb (D)
Webb is the final candidate on this list, the former Secretary of the Navy and apparently was a producer and writer for Rules of Engagement. He supports Net Neutrality, never took a position on SOPA/PIPA, but actually co-sponsored a bill banning Internet sales tax and local tax in 2007.
Applaud FCC decision re: #netneutrality. Some areas to be worked out but a good decision for the country.
— Jim Webb (@JimWebbUSA) February 27, 2015
These positions are not necessarily stable, as of course any of these candidates may clarify or take a new position at any time. As well, the doors are still open for new candidates to step up, though that opportunity is fading quickly so few potential candidates are still left. Again, these are not sole issues to make decisions on, but can be important to some, and often reflect the candidates attitude on other issues.