What I’d like to see happen, and what I think will happen, in 2016’s presidential election
October 26, 2016
I don’t often make predictions about elections. During the Republican primaries this election, I listened to the voices of women and people of color who were saying Trump could win, and I took them seriously and believed he could. Before Minnesota was ready to vote, I was convinced he would be the nominee (and that Hillary would be the Democratic nominee, although I figured both would lose in Minnesota, as they did). There’s nothing to value in these predictions, in my opinion, except the ability to listen to people who most pundits ignored, and then acted like nobody saw it coming.
In any case, for most of this season, I figured it could be possible for Trump to win the general, but have had no interest in predicting what would happen. Recently I’ve become relatively convinced he’ll lose, and in light of that I’d like to reflect on what else I think will happen, and also what I would like to happen.
What I would like to see happen
In September of 2015, I was having a conversation with a Republican voter, and I was expressing my view that the GOP is not a party I could ever vote for, whether or not it nominated Trump. Its racism, sexism, militarism, unbridled capitalism, and so on over my entire lifetime have made it a nonexistent option for me. They’re done, and I’d like to see them go away and be replaced by something without those things.
I still feel this way. I think one way it could happen in this election would be for it to split in this way:
- The alt-right/white supremacists
- The unbridled capitalists/free market folks. Maybe together with the libertarian folks, or even with that party.
- The theocrats
- The empire builders
I think many Republicans would have a hard time choosing which group to go with, but such a split would of course make the party less viable in local, state, and federal elections. The country could have a chance to recover from the rightward swing we’ve been on, arguably since the end of the Civil Rights Movement.
What I think will happen
I don’t think the Republican Party will split at all, to be clear. I think Trump will lose. Possibly very badly. But there will be a couple of responses, in my opinion.
One will be the group of Republicans who didn’t endorse Trump. Either because they stayed silent or because they endorsed Hillary. They’ll want payback from Hillary. They’ll put conservative pressure on her administration to get their goals, whether they be Supreme Court justices, legislative wins, or fighting against policies she might otherwise implement (immigration and climate change come to mind). They’ll dilute any pressure Hillary might otherwise get from the Left to do things she’s not inclined to do, because at least she’s not Trump, and these Republicans will say they helped ensure that he didn’t win. Most Democrats will buy this because they see Trump as an outlier.
Another will be the group that has enthusiastically supported Trump. They’ll be angry with the party, with women, with black and brown people, and will perhaps respond with violence. Maybe they won’t, but I think it’s possible. They’re a bit of a wild card for me. I want to be available to stand in solidarity with people in danger from them, but I’m unclear on what, if anything, that might entail.
Finally will be the broad group that will vote for Trump, maybe not enthusiastically, or maybe will vote for Johnson. These Republicans (and the first group as well, I think, will fit into this group) will try to move on from the disaster that is Trump’s campaign. They’ll try to get ready for midterm elections, the 2020 election, and so on. They, I think, will see Trump as an outlier. A fluke. Not symptomatic of deeper problems with their party, and not worthy of systemic change in their party.
I find this last group dangerous as well, but in a different way than the second. I believe this group, because it will be unwilling to deal with the party’s racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. and the ways in which it directly produced, and is a natural fit for, someone like Trump, will leave the door wide open for the next potential fascist. This person might be less offensive than Trump, but have the same charisma and indeed the same views, and this man (can’t imagine it being a woman) could win a later election, if he emerges from the Republican Party as it is and gets nominated.
Certainly any of my predictions could be wrong, but these things are what I see. Of course it leaves me discouraged about the election, but it also helps me keep my mind on politics and political action that aren’t limited to electoral politics. Social movements are politics. Protest is politics. Resistance is politics. Abolition of the prison industrial complex, and indeed the military industrial complex, is politics. Solidarity with the marginalized, most of whom will continue to be marginalized if Hillary wins, is politics. Building alternative community is politics. And I want to do those things, even though I’ll go ahead and vote, and then move on.
(I’ll be clear, in any case: I’m voting for Hillary. I’m conflicted about it. I don’t think she’ll be good for any particular issue of justice. But I do think and hope that she’s better than the Republicans, and that’s enough, though I have no criticisms for people who don’t see the vote as a useful tool. At this point – as in 2008 – I see my vote, as a middle class straight white man who is unlikely to be affected negatively by most elections, as a small tool [it feels like a much smaller tool than it did in 2008] I can use to try to prevent harm to marginalized people.)