[Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the result of American election. For my response, read this blog here]
My wife and I have been blessed with four children. During each pregnancy, whenever a well-meaning but misguided person would ask how she was feeling about the birth, my wife would comment that it wasn’t that day that worried her, but the 20 years of parenting that was to come.
In many ways, we can apply the same wisdom to the US election. Tomorrow night, we will know who has gained the requisite electoral college votes to take the Presidency. It is likely to be Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. If that is so, it will be an historic moment for the US: the first woman President. But the celebration will be short-lived after an excessively long, distasteful and destructive campaign. The moniker “lesser of two evils” just doesn’t quite bring the joy to an after-party.
Much of the media here and in the US have clearly already prepped their ‘sigh of relief’ editorials and election coverage, with a little dash of ‘ding dong the witch is dead’ to celebrate dodging the Trump bullet. Expect days of it: analysis from experts; laments about the campaigns; speculation about the future; puff pieces about the Clintons; self-congratulatory pieces about the important role the Fourth Estate played.
But tomorrow’s result should concern you very little; the election in 2020 should concern you a lot.
Hillary Clinton is hugely unpopular. Both Clinton and Trump are the first US Presidential nominees ever to start a campaign so unfavorable. David Duke, a KKK leader, came close in 1992, but he never got near the Republican nomination. And both have seen an increase in unfavourability over the course of the campaign. Clinton started with 37 percent of voters considering her as unfavourable, and the day before the election, in a poll of polls, it is 55 percent. The reasons actually don’t matter; Clinton will start her term as the most unfavourable President of all time, and we all know that Presidential favourability decreases over the course of their term. Combine that with her likely support for unpopular causes amongst the Democratic base like fracking, the TPPA, and support for Wall Street, and it is likely Clinton enters the 2020 race in very poor shape with little or no popular base to run her campaign.
Clinton will also struggle to get anything done and even to identify her opponents through to 2020. The Republican Party establishment has been torn asunder by the disaster that is Trump. He is the wrecking ball that has embarrassed and shamed the lifelong Republican political elite, Fox News, the political propaganda arm of the party, and the politicians on the crazy edge of the party who had previously ensured the Tea Party remained within the fold. This means that the Republicans will be unable to rally their party to any positive causes or even to commit to the basic functioning of the Congress and the Senate over the next four years. Their only avenue for unity will be to oppose everything, without exception. I suspect the next four years will make Obama’s relationship with the Republicans over his two terms look like a happy, functional marriage.
It is unlikely there will be an armed insurrection on November 9, but the rage exhibited by disenfranchised white voters will not dissipate because Trump loses. Millions of white voters have been trained in crazy by the Tea Party and now Trump. They believe the election is rigged, God is on their side, Clinton is coming for their guns and to force them to have abortions, and gays, latinos and ISIS are moving together to their mid-west town. They now are also cut loose from the one party that held them together. Other than the violence and hate crimes we are likely to see over the next four years, they are going to be there, a ready made army of crackers, for the next populist narcissist.
Which brings me to my final point. We should worry about 2020 because the next Trump will be smart. He (probably) will not make gaffes, will not grab pussies, will not tweet at 3am. He will be well-organised, presentable and will propose things every bit as awful as Trump’s platform, but with a honeyed voice and a tailored suit. Because Trump has moved political dialogue in the US, and worldwide, to a place it should never have gone. It is now legitimate to discuss fascist political concepts as one pathway forward for the US. It is now legitimate to discuss the use of the nuclear option in otherwise conventional wars. It is now legitimate to posit xenophobia as nationalism.
What is terrifying is that the 2020 Trump will be popular. And Clinton doesn’t have the support, the capability, the insight to defeat a popular Trump. So tomorrow’s victory will be Pyrrhic for the Democratic Party. The White House will be theirs, perhaps even the Senate (definitely not the Congress). The consequence will be that there will be no revolution within their party, so the energy, concern and hope of all those millions who supported Bernie Sanders will be for nought. And when they need them the most, election day 2020, they will ignore the call. To all of our detriment.