The circus of the Republican National Convention is now over; not a picture perfect example for the man that purports to know how to manage things and that says confidently “I’m, like, a really smart person.”
It is perplexing that America is in pretty good shape relative to the rest of the world; yet there is so much angst. Many explanations are out there: globalization, income inequality, lack of mobility, family breakdown, terrorism, moral relativism; the list goes on. This blog is not meant to get into this very important “why.” Rather it is to look to the future with a large degree of fear and uncertainty.
I have written in an earlier blog about “Dangerous Times.” All over the world, inexperienced populists with illiberal inclinations have been elected as “saviors” against some villainous “other.” But in the United States, we seem have taken things one step further. I am distressed for our future.
So using more of Mr. Trump’s words: “Let me dumb this down for you so much that it no longer makes sense.” Two big perils have been occupying my mind.
First, there is possibility that for the first time since 1825, no candidate will receive the now needed 270 electoral votes to become president. Both Hillary and Donald are not well liked. Pew’s latest poll has only 43% of Democrats “very or fairly happy” with their candidate; the Republican number is lower at 40%. The majority of Republicans, 50%, are voting for Trump “as a vote against” Clinton; the Democratic number “as a vote against” Trump is 55%. The last time these numbers were in this range was in 1992; think Ross Perot getting 19% of the popular vote.
The Libertarian Party is fielding credible candidates in Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. With the Green Party, these alternates are already polling as high as 15%. If Johnson manages to get into the televised debates, this number may go up further. Remember that Ralph Nader most likely lost the election for Gore in 2000 with just 3% of the popular vote.
If we have no winner in the electoral college; the House votes among the top three candidates; each state getting one vote. But since many sparsely populated states in the West are conservative and Republican, it is likely that a close election would go to Trump. This might happen even if Hillary Clinton got the highest popular vote by some nontrivial margin. How would this play out with a disgruntled Democratic plurality? What would our streets look like on Inauguration Day 2017? We might look back to the turmoil of Bush-Gore “hanging chads” with nostalgia.
Second, Trump may win and what kind of government transition might we see. In “the Donald” we have a toxic mix of ego and amateur. Trump has never held a public office, has never been a serious student of public governance, has shown an astounding ignorance of public policy detail, jokes about his lack of knowledge of foreign affairs and has probably insulted more heads of state than Boris Johnson. Many experienced public figures have already rebuffed his advances; just look at how far down the roster he had to go to field a vice-presidential running mate. Many of the brightest will not participate in his administration.
Brexit has given us a taste of unintended consequences; and its current honeymoon period is a calm before the storm. The “Economist” has published a slightly tongue in cheek fictional account of Trump’s “First Hundred Days."
Here is a link to this piece: http://www.economist.com/node/21701933
I urge you to take the time and read it.
As with the United Kingdom, we have enough problems without self-inflicted wounds. I hope America can come to its senses and pick the less damaging, less risky candidate, Hillary Clinton. But I am saddened that this is the dearth of our choice. For me, Hillary is at worst lacking authenticity and a deeply ingrained moral compass; and at best, fails by not being able to exhibit them to the voters.
Fear and uncertainty lie ahead of us, which in and of itself will make things worse.