I come at the Donald Trump problem with a great deal of trepidation and frustration. I don’t personally know a single supporter of his whom I can talk off of the ledge, not even my Republican parents, who’ve vowed to vote for my dog or a third-party candidate. If I post something in anger about him on Facebook and Twitter, his voters don’t see it, and they wouldn’t care if they did.
When I vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8th, my completely meaningless vote will be among the many she’ll get in California en route to an inevitable victory in my state. Even convincing my California-based friends and acquaintances to not vote Libertarian or Green doesn’t matter one iota, because Trump won’t win my state in any case.
The only thing I can think to do in the face of a very, very possible national Trump victory (or so it appears) is to try and conjure the two different views of what I think the US will look like under either presidency. I’ve been through enough of the hype and hyperbole of presidential elections – and presidential governance – in my nearly 50 years to have a pretty good idea of what actually happens once a quote-unquote normal person wins. In sum: life goes on, and the Republic stands.
For instance, liberals often screamed themselves hoarse over the “fanatical” and “intolerant” Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, but I never bought into it with either man. They were sane men who happened to have held mainstream political views for their times, and each was elected to two terms for it. Neither ruined the structures of our government, nor is either man remembered by history as an utter disaster (though Bush certainly has a lot to answer for, historically; Reagan has been canonized by not only the Right but by the mainstream as well).
On the flip side, I personally know people who call Barack Obama “the worst president of all time”. I think, uh, that’s a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Unless you actually believe that he, and he alone, gave rise to Donald Trump and his supporters, then I look at our low unemployment rate, low-simmer foreign wars, our growing economy and the general normalcy (historically speaking) of our times and say, jeez, if this is the worst we’ve ever done, then good for us.
This election, as I think everyone agrees but perhaps doesn’t entirely grasp, is very different. We are staring down the abyss of what could be the complete unraveling of everything we thought we held dear in this country, and everything I was raised to admire about America: justice, freedom, leadership in the eyes of the world, respect for others, progress and so on.
Without invoking the “Hitler in 1932” analogy, which is sadly too far from being hyperbolic than I’d like, here’s what I think will actually happen if either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is elected on November 8th.
If Hillary wins:
- Moderate, measured politics will prevail. We’ll move the country closer to a place with reduced inequality, while maintaining our free enterprise system, our leading role in foreign policy (such that it is), the integrity of our justice system and continued generation-by-generation progress on social tolerance. I won’t get everything I want, and neither will you, but we won’t go backward.
- We’ll move a little closer to my professed 21st Century Smart Government principles, in other words, while still giving me and everyone else plenty to bellyache about
- We’ll have four years of sane politics and debate to help us deal with the challenges of economic growth, Russia, ISIS, guns, the black/white divide, homegrown terrorism and income inequality, among many other challenges. We’ll bicker and argue about policy again, not about personalities
- We’ll have to put up with an attempt to build Trump media empire that I predict will fizzle out very quickly, and while his supporters’ “movement” will still be a vocal and intense political force, I predict that it too will implode and scatter, and we’ll collectively look at 2016 as a weird, strange and scary precipice that we chose not to leap off of
- The Republican party will work to repair the damage to itself that it wrought, and ultimately a more sane and traditional “party of opposition” will emerge, will Trumpism and whatever it is that it stands for only being a minor component. Seriously. I don’t think it grows. I think it calcifies and withers away like a bad dream.
If Trump wins:
- The backlash, recriminations, second-guessing and anger will be ugly, intense and country-dividing. Many, myself included, will never “rally behind” our new president, no matter what happens in the world. From day one, there will be a hostile and very vocal majority opposition to him once he attempts to actually put his doofus ideas into practice. It will be ugly, and will make even this election seem tame by comparison.
- The corruption and sleaze of his past will finally make a dent. For some reason, a majority of the electorate will have overlooked Trump’s sleazy “Foundation”; his ties to Putin and Russia; his non-release of his taxes; his legal troubles with his many failed businesses and so on. That won’t work for the President of the United States. Expect impeachment hearings when this stuff finally pushes through our collective consciousness, and when people realize we’re still a country bound by a Constitution and the rule of law.
- Democrats and moderate Republicans in Congress will block his agenda, such that it is. No slashing of corporate tax rates will occur. No border wall will be built. Muslims as a people will not be barred from this country. Peter Thiel will not be named to the Supreme Court. NATO will not be dismantled. I see almost a surrogate-like government forming – one that reassures our allies like Britain, Germany and Japan, and keeps them “warm”, ready for Trump’s impeachment, assassination or eventual ruin after four tumultuous and totally fruitless years in office.
- Women, as a block, will snap to attention and become an even more potent electoral force than they already are. Imagine having an eminently qualified and capable candidate lose to a complete ass-clown like Trump, with as many as 10-15% of voters swinging his way solely because of Hillary’s gender. (I wish it wasn’t true, I really do – but I think the country that elected the more liberal and black Barack Obama twice might not elect the less liberal and white Hillary Clinton, mostly because she’s a woman). Imagine the frustration, anger and bitterness. If they’re not mobilizing now, imagine how much of a wake-up call a Trump victory will be.
I think his victory would be very short-lived, completely “unproductive”, divisive in the extreme, and something that would be regretted by 90% of Americans within months. We’d ultimately look at 2016 with great shame and sorrow. I remember how in the late 70s you couldn’t get many 1968 and 1972 Nixon voters to publicly admit they’d voted for him, and a Trump vote would likely be a much larger conscience stain than that.
Of course, there are far worse scenarios that can be imagined that include the actual downfall of our system of government, and the end of the Democratic experiment in the United States. There could be civil war, or nuclear issues, or a hated war overseas in support of our new Russian allies, or something else. I don’t think so, and frankly, I don’t ever want to know. I want to breathe a massive sigh of relief when I wake up on November 9th, and return to our normal annoying, moderately dysfunctional government.