The first Republican presidential debate is only about a week away. In addition to the question of the electability of a non–Donald Trump candidate, topics that will likely emerge are Trump’s indictments, abortion rights, the integrity of the election, tax cuts, critical race theory, environmental deregulation, U.S. foreign policy and the value of a college education.
UCLA has experts on these and a variety of other related topics.
Politics, voters and the Republican primary
Vavreck, UCLA’s Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics and Public Policy, is an expert on presidential campaigns, elections and public opinion. She is the author of “The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy,” “Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America,” “The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election,” and “The Message Matters: The Economy and Presidential Campaigns.”
“Don’t be fooled into thinking that Trump is weak because many Republican primary voters prefer a candidate other than him. Data from tens of thousands of Americans over decades tells us that even though most voters may prefer a particular candidate, their second choice is most often the candidate who is leading in the polls — and Trump is ahead in most polls by wide margins, even in the wake of legal developments. Just because voters want someone other than Trump to be the nominee doesn’t mean they won’t support him when their preferred candidate drops out.”
Trump-era tax cuts set to expire
Clausing, the Eric M. Zolt Professor of Tax Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law, is an expert on tax law and policy and served as deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis in the U.S. Treasury Department during the Biden administration. She is the author of “Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital.”
“A topic that will likely come up during the debates is the coming expiration of the Trump tax cuts. In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cut many taxes for individuals, pass-through businesses and estates on a temporary basis. These tax cuts expire in 2025. Though most candidates will support their extension, extending them is very expensive, costing more than $3.5 trillion over the coming decade. Further, this debate occurs in a context where both Medicare and Social Security are underfunded. Since Republicans typically do not support tax increases elsewhere in the system, this leaves candidates with difficult choices regarding entitlement reform, program cuts or adding to the nation’s deficits and debts.”
Election integrity and voter support
Hasen is a professor of law and an internationally recognized expert on election law and campaign finance regulation. The author of “Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics — and How to Cure It,” Hasen directs the Safeguarding Democracy Project at the UCLA School of Law and is the founder of the Election Law Blog, which provides news and analysis on election law issues.
“No doubt the candidates will all be pushed on whether they accept Trump’s false claims about a stolen 2020 election and whether the new indictment of Trump on 2020 election-related charges are sound. The candidates may walk a fine line between distancing themselves from Trump’s false claims and not alienating the Republican base that overwhelming believes the claims.”
Attacks on critical race theory
Taifha Natalee Alexander
Alexander is director of the CRT Forward Tracking Project at the UCLA School of Law which assists advocates, journalists, litigators and academics in developing a comprehensive analysis of anti-CRT measures. Her legal studies and research have focused on the advancement of equity, justice and anti-racism within education.
“The CRT Forward Tracking Project has collected data that shows an increase in government actions at the local, state and federal levels aimed at restricting access to truthful information about race and systemic racism over the past three years. This is part of a campaign to reject critical race theory and other antiracist interventions. The topic is certain to arise during the Republican debate as many prominent Republican candidates have openly opposed, wrongfully villainized and banned the theory.”
Stein is deputy director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law and supervising attorney for the law school’s Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic. She previously served as senior counsel at Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP, where she focused on environmental litigation, regulatory compliance and land use practice.
“Environmental deregulation is likely to come up. Republican policymakers have expressed a keen desire to take an axe to climate-friendly Biden policies that have also been hugely beneficial to public health — and to the agencies that are responsible for those policies. The Trump administration’s environmental policy efforts were widely seen as chaotic, so candidates may take this opportunity to sell a more structured approach to environmental deregulation. Candidates will likely focus on devolving environmental regulatory power to the states except, of course, when the state in question is California.”
Flores is a political scientist and an affiliated scholar at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute who studies LGBTQ rights, LGBTQ politics and policy, public opinion and political behavior, public opinion and American politics
“A topic that will likely come up during the debates is the extent to which overly focusing on culture war issues and LGBT rights, particularly regarding education and corporations, have become distractions from what Republicans and voters in the general election really want. In a crowded field that likely agrees on many aspects of LGBT rights, candidates may distinguish themselves this way.”
Local election administration and voter participation
Thompson, an assistant professor of political science, is an expert on local politics, election administration and political polarization. His recent research explores how elections are run at the local level and how this affects who participates and which candidates win.
America’s relationship with Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East
Waxman is a professor of political science and Israel studies and director of UCLA’s Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. He is an expert on the Israel–Palestine conflict, Israeli politics and foreign policy, U.S.–Israel relations, American Jewry, and contemporary antisemitism.
“Rather than competing over who is the most pro-Israel — or, more accurately, pro-Netanyahu — the Republican candidates should affirm their support for the alliance between the United States and Israel, while making it clear to the current Israeli government that weakening the Israeli judiciary and, by extension, undermining Israeli democracy could also weaken and undermine American support for Israel. Issuing such a clear warning ultimately serves the interests of both countries.”
Gelvin is a professor of modern Middle East history at UCLA and an expert and an expert on contemporary issues, including US policy in the region, Iran, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. A member of the UCLA International Institute, his most recent book is “The New Middle East: What Everyone Needs to Know.”
“Contrary to the beliefs of those who view the Abraham Accords as some sort of ‘masterstroke of diplomacy,’ the attempt to take the Palestinian issue off the table is a symptom of a disease, not its cure. That disease is a dangerous polarization in the Middle East at a time when conventional diplomatic avenues for crisis management are lacking and threat inflation is commonplace among adversaries.”
Getting to know the candidates
Kernell, an assistant professor in the UCLA Department of Communication who holds a joint appointment in political science, is an expert on elections around the world. Her research examines political parties and elections, political communication, comparative political behavior, partisanship, economic voting, and formal and quantitative methodology.
“Debates matter early in the election cycle when many voters don’t know all of the candidates.”
The Republican Party has chance to break with the past
Yaroslavsky is director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. During a career in public life spanning nearly four decades, he has been at the forefront of Los Angeles County’s biggest issues, including transportation, the environment, health care, homelessness, and law enforcement reform.
“The stakes in the 2024 election are high. Will the Republican party look in the rear-view mirror for their ticket, or will they seek a new path? The upcoming debate could give Republican voters a chance to answer that question.”
Global supply chains and U.S. relationship with China
Christopher Tang is a distinguished professor of business administration at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and an expert on supply chain management, retailing, outsourcing and business in Asia. His recent research has focused on how to build environmentally and socially sustainable supply chains in the U.S. to create jobs, reduce carbon emissions and improve the economy.
“The ongoing trade and technology war between the U.S. and Chinese economies is creating frictions in global trade. It is critical for the U.S. government and the private sector to design and develop supply chains that are responsive and cost-effective.”
The value of college
Brand, a professor of sociology and statistics at UCLA, is an expert on the socioeconomic effects of college education on groups of students who have varying likelihoods of completing four-year degrees, including traditionally underrepresented groups. She is the author of “Overcoming the Odds: The Benefits of Completing College for Unlikely Graduates.”
“The greater long-term earnings, more tax revenue, less reliance on public assistance and high levels of volunteering that correlate with college completion indicate that public investment in higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds yields far-reaching collective benefits.”