A Future History Lesson?
The odd candidacy and Donald Trump’s subsequent Republican Presidential nomination will undoubtably become a mainstay of modern political history. How did a democratic republic fall victim to egomaniacal entrepreneur, especially when the nomination came from the conservative party?
Fortunately today the outlook predicts a Hillary Clinton victory even with her high levels of unfavorableness. Still the republic will have dodged the authoritarian path. In four weeks we will know the outcome.
Should Clinton win, will the republic learn anything from the extraordinary Trump campaign? If government remains business as usual, the future could be very uncertain. Here’s why.
Donald Trump has run a sort of mixed campaign, part “Pied Piper” and part “Attila the Hun”. There is an important message, however, in his campaign and particularly voters’ response.
The Piped Piper aspect presented voters with visceral (and grossly unfair) caricatures of minority groups which the Pied Piper knew would appeal to the common man. The Pied Piper then linked these caricatures to pressing middle class social and economic fears. And there you are, the Pied Piper had soon a strong following who saw the Piper as the solution to their American Dream disappointment. Fast forward and “fair and square”, Trump won the primaries and got the nomination.
Since the nominating conventions, the Pied Piper has learned that his music only works for part of the electorate, and that number of voters is not enough to win. Consequently, Attila the Hun has emerged preferring a scorched earth approach to defeat Hillary Clinton.
Attila believes he can so distort and tarnish Clinton’s image that enough voters will not vote and his supporters from the Pied Piper days will be sufficient to win the general election. Attila slyly thinks that even if he does not win, Clinton will be politically severely damaged and unable to lead. It is a rational strategy, although from the polls, appears will be unsuccessful.
So what are some of the future history lessons?
Collateral battlefield damage. A Clinton victory will be difficult for Republicans to understand or accept. One likely conclusion will be “blame their candidate”. Instead of accepting the shifting demographics, conservative GOP leaders may refuse to see how out of touch their policies might be and try to just restate them even more forcefully (with more money). This will foretell another loss in 2020 instead of rebuilding the GOP into a formidable party.
Lost opportunities. The 2018 mid-term campaigns begin the day after the 2016 general elections. The coalition which calls itself the Republican Party will face election (and reelection) under an unknown party banner. Will they run as Trumpers, Reagan Republicans, far right Republicans, or what? One thing is for sure, Congressional work must wait (unless Democrats were to gain control of both Congressional houses). There really could be two more years of Congressional inaction.
Foreign Risks. With global news reporting plentiful, foreign governments are aghast at Trump’s rhetoric and the suspicion that Hillary Clinton will begin her term as a wounded leader. Among friendly countries, negotiations will be more complicated… can Clinton keep her promises?
But with rogue and adversarial countries, the prospect that one adversary will overplay its hand will be heightened. (The open, free speech, no holds barred style of this election have no corresponding equivilent in their native lands. The closest image is one of a nation about to implode.) The risk of armed conflicts will be significant.
A sorry Blue print for the future. Attila’s campaign tactics will leave a sharply divided electorate. Congressional consensus and compromise will be extremely difficult with a strong possibility of gridlock. Attila will remind voters, “see I told you so”. This presents the prospect of 2020 repeat for the Pied Piper/Attila the Hun, either in a reformed Republican Party or just as a third party (maybe the Trump Party). Deja vu all over again.