The long running meme this election has been that 2016 is the worst and we simply have to get through the election and through the year before the world ends. For many November 9, 2016 is a magical date where all of the noise and insanity will suddenly disappear. A likely Hillary Clinton win will wash away the bombast of Trump, the suddenly quiet Obama years will continue, Trump will be relegated to a dark corner of the internet or reality TV, and the GOP will be left to have its internal civil war on its own time.
The unpleasant reality is that this election isn’t going to end. No matter who wins and loses, both parties will find themselves under fire and the stark contrasts of the American populace that brought us to this point will endure.
II. If Trump Wins The GOP As We Know It Is Doomed
As the polls tighten in the final week it still appears that Clinton has the inside track but paths are suddenly appearing for a Trump victory. Wins in Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina (various polls show Trump with narrow leads in all three) mean that Trump just has to flip some combination of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Nevada from Clinton and we are set for a campaign night shocker. Is it really inconceivable that weird things can happen in an election where the underdog candidate still has a 25-30 percent change of winning? Assuming the Trump Hail Mary is good, here is what the country can look forward to on November 9. First and foremost the Republican Civil War will no longer be off to the side but occurring in the halls of the Capitol and in the Oval Office itself. Legislatively, who knows how the rank and file of Republican Senators and Representatives will fall in line behind Trump on day one and who knows what that line will look like in 2018. It is very possible that a return to recession and two years of GOP insanity could lead to sweeping Democratic wins at the 2018 midterm, this despite the mid-terms historically being a conservative stronghold. Judicially, Trump will almost certainly appoint two Supreme Court justices, one to fill the vacant seat of Antonin Scalia and another when one of the increasingly aging justices either passes or retires. The most frightening scenario here is the Republican Party falls in line with Trump, content to keep winning elections on a Trumpist platform of nationalism, anti-establishmentism and trade protection. At that point the GOP would evolve into a party similar to the nationalist parties of Europe, an American version of France’s National Front or Greece’s Golden Dawn, and the classical conservative movement of America would be dead. Opposite of this new GOP would be a big tent Democratic Party comprised of various factions ranging from socialist liberals to classical conservatives pushed out of the Republican Party.
III. If Trump Wins The Country Is In For Four Years Of Instability
A Trump wins means that the United States will be led for at least four years by a self-centered egotist, with no political experience, a cult of personality and more than half the country vehemently opposed to him. The mere mention of bad news for Clinton this election cycle has sunk the stock market by 10-30 points at various points this year, a Trump win could mean an immediate slide on Wednesday November 9. If the GOP holds on to both chambers of Congress then he could push through some trade protectionist policies that will exacerbate the current financial situation. Relations with our trading partners will sour, who knows what will become of NATO, and relations with Mexico will likely be at their lowest point in years. His unpredictability means a good relationship in 2017 could wind up being poisonous in 2019. By all accounts his campaign team has to use all of their energy to keep him focused on the important tasks at hand and not wandering on tangents that mean nothing or focused on late night cable news. How is this man supposed to handle the 3:00 a.m. call that a terrorist group based in the Sinai has attacked Jerusalem and killed 20 people including two Americans? He is just as likely to say the attack might be justified as he is likely to fire missiles into Egypt without making a single phone call. Economics and diplomacy work best when there is certainty and with Trump the U.S. is certain to have four years of instability.
IV. If Trump Wins The Democrats Have No One But Themselves To Blame And Are In Bad Shape For 2020
In the meantime, the Democratic Party will also have to come to terms with the reality that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. Bernie Sanders might have his own cult of personality but he is not the answer either. Barrack Obama would crush Trump in a landslide and it would be interesting to see how a Martin O’Malley or a Joe Biden would perform in this election. Clinton might have caught an unfair amount of criticism for her various actions regarding Benghazi, her perceived elitism, and her private e-mail server compared to the criticism Trump has received for pretty much every all of his actions but liberals have to come to terms that she was not a great candidate. Policies aside, it has been clear since 2008 that many Americans simply do not want an aging career politician who once again comes from one of the same handful of families that appear to rule us all. This is why Obama beat her in 2008 and it is why the Democrats are struggling to put away an opponent that should easily be crushed in 2016. It is very similar to why Jeb Bush’s campaign was a nonstarter for the Republican base. For many people the United States has had its Clinton era and its Bush era and it is simply time to move on. Continually electing the same families into office only continues to divide the country into the haves and have-nots and is the antithesis of what the republic is supposed to be about. And all of this is simply about Clinton. Who would be the Democrats candidate in 2020? Say what you will about the quality of the Republican party’s young candidates but at least they have name recognition. The Democrats pretty much have Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Biden probably isn’t running if he didn’t pull the trigger this year, Sanders will be too old and his brand of socialism probably wouldn’t play as well as people like to think it would and in this scenario Clinton has been rejected in favor of Donald Trump. At some point the Democrats have to groom a new young generation of leaders. That will be especially difficult in a span where they control no major branch of government and have spent the past decade getting mauled in state houses across the country. Blame redistricting, blame the culture, blame whatever you’d like but ultimately the fault lies with the party itself.
V. If Clinton Wins The Democrats Will Continue To Stagnate
All of the above still holds true if Clinton wins. She will be hated and opposed and the scandals and criticisms will not end once she swears in. The GOP and to an extent the media will hammer her for four years hoping for a competitive 2020. If history has anything to say, the same party holding control for four consecutive presidential terms just does not happen very frequently. 2017 President Clinton can already anticipate a tough 2020 presidential campaign and the Democrats could still find themselves in the same boat of having no young leaders ready to go for 2024. What happens if an older Clinton, having spent four years mired in scandal, simply doesn’t want to run in 2020? Who takes up the slack then? All of this says nothing about the deep seeded issues in the Democratic Party itself. At this point it is pretty much an open secret that the powers controlling the party wanted Hillary to win over Sanders. At some point the Democrats have to purge themselves of the Clinton love if for no other reason than because the Clintons have become idols and the party has to realize that they will one day die just like everyone else. The Democratic Party has long had issues with machine politics focused on a handful of individuals. Tammany Hall in New York, the cult of Andrew Jackson in the 1820’s, FDR and his New Deal Coalition that last almost 40 years, Ma and Pa Ferguson in Texas, and now the Clinton era which has more or less been in control since the early-90’s (Bill Clinton for two terms, Al Gore’s presidential campaign, Hillary’s Senate runs, Bill’s prominence as an envoy in the Obama Administration combined with Hillary’s 2008 run and her term of Secretary of State and now the 2016 campaign). Personality politics and machines can be great when your party is winning but the democrats are about to learn the hard way what happens when you put all your stock in the same aging people time and time again.
VI. If Clinton Wins The GOP Civil War Will Occur Either Way
No matter what happens the conservative party has fractured and the center cannot hold. Reagan era conservatives began giving way to the Tea party movement in 2010 and that movement has parlayed into the anti-establishment Trumpist movement occurring today. A Clinton win will surely stress the current GOP powers that be because Trump will almost certainly echo his rigged comments for years and the media will pounce on that. A Trump loss doesn’t mean Paul Ryan gets to relax on November 9, it means he gets to deal with a Trump tantrum, potential violence in the wake of the election (even if it is minimal), and his Speakership is suddenly looking tenuous at best. The Party has no coherent and agreed upon policy agenda and many conservatives will see that Trumpist talking points can actually help them win elections. A Trump loss lessens the possibility that the party begins a wholesale transformation into a more nationalism party akin to those of Europe but that evolution will likely continue either way until such candidates are no longer electable. Because Republicans will likely continue to hold the House and possibly the Senate this means Clinton will have to deal with an opposition party that opposes itself and only agrees on one thing which is their mutual hatred of the president.
VII. If Clinton Wins, Donald Trump Will Still Linger
Trump isn’t going away. This is not John McCain or Bob Dole who will relegate himself to the Senate with quiet dignity. This is a bombastic egotist who loves the limelight and is drawn to television. His cult of personality seems to, thankfully, remain a (loud) minority of the Republican Party but they still have numbers and have realized their political power this cycle. Trump will likely stir the pot for years on talk shows and reality TV saying things along the lines of him not losing the election but having it stolen from him. More dangerous than years of such comments is his lingering effect. White nationalists, conspiracy theorists, and the group labeled as the “alt-right” suddenly realize they have political power. The Republican Party has been trending increasingly right for years now and in 2016 they tread into previously offlimits far right waters. Instead of backfiring, these groups were empowered and won Trump primary battles. This is not a one off thing. Politicians and potential candidates have seen this strategy and taken note and you know they will follow and expand on Trump’s lead. The real danger is what happens when a competent candidate mobilizes these forces and what impact that will have on the country from there.
VIII. If Clinton Wins Nothing Will Happen
In a best case scenario for the Democrats they win the White House and the Senate. This still leaves a Republican House and the Republican Congressional delegation will still be divided and broken. This means two more years, minimum, of rule by executive and agency action. The legislative branch has essentially been non-functional since 2010 when the Tea Party movement swept away the Blue Dog Democrats. Just because Clinton wins and the Dems take the Senate that doesn’t mean much will change on this front. 2018 is the minimum date for Dems to retake the Capitol and combine with Clinton to actually begin legislating again and judging by the demographics of the country that date will probably be further in the 2020’s, possibly the 2030’s if increasingly Trumpist Republicans hold the state legislatures for redistricting after the 2020 census. Speaking of the states, the only legislative action anyone will see will come from the state capitals. A Democratic Senate means the Senate can confirm Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees which will probably quash much of the hyperpartisan legislation that comes from the state houses these days but a Republican Senate likely means Supreme Court vacancies for years on end.
IX. The Divide In The Electorate Will Persist
At this point it is safe to say that the old coalitions have shifted. The Republican Party is the party of rural and suburban America, it is almost exclusively white, it is predominantly older and non-college educated. The Democrats are the party of the cities, the young and educated and minority groups. That divide isn’t going away and will likely only grow starker. It also gives the Republicans a built in advantage from a geographic perspective. There are only so many districts that can be packed into a city and there will always be some conservative zones in any given cityscape (suburbs still vote heavily Republican), which means many districts are essentially automatic concessions to the Republican Party. Gerrymandering will continue to keep things hyperpartisan and will likely continue into the 2020’s given how entrenched both parties are in their respective red and blue states. In addition, global trends are not likely to reverse any time soon. America is becoming darker and skilled positions are at a premium. A few decades ago a high school diploma meant something in the job world, today it doesn’t unless it is accompanied by other high degrees. These are divides that simply are not going away and they are not drawing closer, as a result our politics will continue to become more hyperpartisan.
With that much political change and gridlock combined with the realities of the United States on the ground, November 9 is not the end but simply the beginning of a whole new round of political blustering.