I am by no means certain that Donald Trump will lose in November. There are ample reasons why he should lose, but I also can see a handful of reasons why he could win. But if we assume, for the moment, that he does lose, what are the questions and likely consequences that follow?
- What happens to his millions of die-hard supporters? I tend to think Trump himself will move on to other matters rather than stay around to fight for the soul of the Republican Party. Will another leader try to fill the Trump slot and build on his approach?
- Trump has legitimized overt bigotry. Look, we were not in a post-racial America even before this campaign. But large segments of the US population have moved, over the last 50-75 years, away from normal acceptance of some important forms of overt discrimination. Trump brought it back into the mainstream. At best, I imagine people will have to re-fight the fight of de-legitimizing such overt bigotry. Even that raises two concerns a) not easy and b) wastes energy that could have been spent pushing for progress in other ways.
- Are the GOP leaders who bravely (sarcasm) stood by Trump forever tainted by their association with the Trump debacle? Let’s set aside for the moment whether conservative GOP leaders aligned themselves with a ‘fake’ conservative. It is often the case that party leaders are significantly more, or less, conservative (or liberal) than the party presidential nominee. I am more interested in the question of his 1) bigotry and 2) impugning of the US military and those who served. (the late Humayun Khan; Sen. John McCain) The backlash is striking. Will leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forever be seen as having put narrow self-interest ahead of country and principle? We know they could have made another choice because lesser known GOP figures, e.g. Rep. Richard Hanna, have done so. (leaving aside the formers and the retireds like Bush, Bush, Bush, and Romney)
- Does the Republican Party blame this on Trump or on itself? If the former, I wonder whether the party will truly grapple with the aspects of the party that helped bolster Trump. Trump did not emerge from nowhere. OK, well he kind of did. But overt bigotry, especially toward Muslims, and trouble winning votes from people of color plays on covert bigotry (See dog whistling, law and order, or Lee Atwater) and years of trouble winning votes from people of color in presidential elections. [UPDATE: See this article for more on the Republican Party and its future.]
- Trump did not build this post-fact America where what he asserts is ‘true’ despite being false. But he sure eggs it on. Can we recover a sense of science, a sense of discourse built on evaluating claims and making some effort, even if not total, to agree on what the evidence is even if we continue to disagree about how to interpret it and which evidence to highlight? (I should defer to my colleague, Michael P. Lynch, on this question.)
- In 2020 and beyond, will we start to see more and more celebrity candidates? Is it about building a brand and then jumping in the national political fray? I do not quite have my finger on what defines a celebrity candidate, but it looks pretty different from a regular candidate or even an outsider like Ross Perot or Carly Fiorina. In short, to what extent has Trump, even if he loses, re-written the playbook for how to try to win the presidency? Or is this 2016 run just a blip?
- Does a President Clinton – remember, I am assuming for the sake of discussion that she wins – do anything to attack the economic bases of support for Trump? Trump’s answer is blame the foreigners, build a wall, talk tough, risk massive trade wars etc. I don’t see that as a part of a Clinton presidency. But Sen. Bernie Sanders had a different answer which was to use government to address some of the same societal inequities. One example is free higher education. That won’t happen either, but would a President Clinton try to use re-training, education, health care not tied to employment, and income redistribution policies to get at the economic grievances which, fairly or not, are often tied to globalization and trade deals? Or would these economic issues fester, as has been the case with the 1%/99% debate?
What questions or comments would you add?