Through a Crystal Ball Darkly: The Future After the Election

Through a Crystal Ball Darkly: The Future After the Election October 12, 2016

Crystal ball in blackTsunamis of ink will be spilled for decades to come over this election. The pixel mines will be running around the clock to meet the demand. Remember this moment because you’ll be telling your great-grandkids about it (though they will roll their eyes).

In this polarized political landscape, there hasn’t been a landslide election since 1984. It may never again happen in our lifetimes.

It’s too soon to rejoice, of course. For instance, a major terrorist act might inspire the American people to vote in a strongman, even one as utterly repulsive as Donald Trump.

But less than a month before the election, the GOP is already in shambles. It seems almost certain that the party will splinter after November 8, if not before.

The Donald’s red meat impression of Hugo Chavez during the second debate ensures that he has left imperiled Republican fewer avenues to jump ship. They’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Polls show that they lose an identical number of voters either way.

Hillary Clinton may be handed an unprecedented opportunity after she’s elected. It’s looking like there’s a very strong chance that the Senate might flip. Though it’s still a longshot, it’s even possible that the House might follow.

Paul Ryan signaled that it’s every Republican for themselves. I predict that he’ll lose the speakership after the election even if the GOP retains their majority. Indeed, the few Republican left standing will be the ones who never cravenly debased themselves by supporting a candidate everyone knew was spectacularly unfit to lead the nation.

Kasich/Graham 2020?

Whoever the next GOP nominee is, I predict that he or she will win under reformed party rules aimed at preventing a future Trump. But I further project that whatever the RNC cooks up will only cause other unforeseen problems.

And even if the House remains in the hands of the Republicans, their majority will likely be significantly narrowed. A demoralized GOP would be hardpressed to stand in the way of President Clinton, Mark II.

The Supreme Court will have a liberal (well, moderate liberal) majority for the first time since the 70s. It will be morning in liberal America. (Though Hillary is far from a liberal, she’ll be branded a socialist by the Republicans, anyway.)

Mrs. Clinton’s innate caution may well keep her from fully capitalize on this historic opportunity. Still, demographics suggests that whatever remains of the GOP will have to eventually moderate or risk permanent status as a minority party.

So, with a liberal renaissance on the horizon, why can’t I shake a feeling of dark foreboding?

I think we caught a glimpse of how our democracy might die during the second debate. We have likely dodged a bullet this time, but what if the next time we aren’t as fortunate to have a candidate who is so thoroughly unacceptable to broad swaths of the electorate?

I’ve warned of this before, as have many others. Is our democracy as safe as we suppose?

2016 was the year of the demagogue. Even Bernie Sanders showed the appeal of a far more benign form of demagoguery on the left.

More disturbing is the likelihood that Trump moved the line of acceptable political discourse. Bill Clinton shifted it when it comes to sexual indiscretions. Has Trump edged us even further into the sewer?

Next time, will we be as shocked if a candidate threatens his or her opponents with imprisonment? Or what about the time after that?

So, rejoice that the era of Washington gridlock may temporally end (at least until the GOP takes back the seats they lost in Republican-leaning districts). But watch out for the dark clouds on the horizon.

Don’t pack away your umbrella. Before long, we may all get soaked.

JO's rain on Sepulveda

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