Nov. 7, 2016

My Vote; Part 3

Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump win on November 8, the turmoil of this election will not simply go away. My prediction is that Clinton will win by a solid margin in the Electoral College but a relatively narrow margin in the popular vote. Democrats will gain a small Senate majority while Republicans will maintain their majority in the House. If this result turns out to be true, I believe that the most likely scenario would be widespread gridlock until the 2018 midterm elections.

While Republicans will maintain their House majority, they will probably lose at least a dozen seats. Moderate Republicans who are the most likely to seek bipartisan compromises hold many of these seats. The hard-right Republicans in the House largely represent safe Republican seats and can easily win re-election. The Republican caucus will become more dominated by the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus (as well as by Ted Cruz in the Senate), who usually opposes any compromise or deviation from conservative ideology. Paul Ryan will have a limited amount of freedom to bargain with a Clinton Administration, or else risk losing the Speakership.

The Democrats might also be prone to division. During the Obama years many moderate Democrats in regions such as the Southeast lost their seats. The Democratic caucus is more Northern, urban and liberal that when Barack Obama took office in 2009. The passion in the Democratic base is also behind left-wing figures such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Where Obama talked of entitlement reform as part of a “grand bargain” with Republicans in 2011, Sanders and Warren call for expanding entitlements. While Bill Clinton supported free trade and welfare reform in the 1990s, Democrats in 2016 oppose trade agreements and would never consent to reforms of welfare of the type that were carried out in the 1990s. Democrats have also moved to the left on identity politics, which obsess progressive Millenials. Put simply, Democrats have become strongly more progressive and less likely to seek compromise with Republicans who have become more conservative over time.

Republicans ultimately have a much more alarming future than Democrats, however. If Trump loses tomorrow, Republicans will have lost three straight general elections. Republicans have only won a majority of the popular vote once in the past 25 years (the re-election of George W Bush in 2004.) African Americans continue to overwhelmingly support the Democrats, while Republicans have alienated Asian and Hispanic voters. Younger voters are also more supportive of Democrats. Aging white men, who are a shrinking demographic, dominate the Republican base. This is not a viable future for a national political party.

There is also a real disconnection between a Republican establishment who are largely still operating on Reagan-era ideas and a Republican base that elected Donald Trump. The Reagan agenda of tax cuts, smaller government and a belief in a strong America as a force of good in the world has less and less appeal to many Republican voters. These voters are hostile to free trade and globalization. While not anti-war pacifists by any means, they also see the world as a violent and chaotic place that America should build walls to protect itself from. They have written off the Democrats as an urban, liberal party willing to put racial and sexual identity politics ahead of the troubles of the white working class. These voters feel much more at home with the ideas of Donald Trump than with the ideas of Paul Ryan or anyone really in the Democratic Party.

Even if Trump does win, Republicans will still face a party more divided than at any time in decades. Democrats, while facing less of a predicament than Republicans, also have real divisions that could create trouble in the future. The next several years will almost certainly be a desultory time for American politics.