Brace yourselves for the onrushing catastrophe of a Donald Trump presidency
After the most grimly horrifying presidential election in living memory, we are left with a shocking upset in favor of the horror: Donald Trump has defeated Hillary Clinton.
This is a victory for racist nationalism over liberal pluralism. Trump ran the most baldly racist campaign since 1968, saturated in clumsy but comprehensible rhetoric about how he would help American citizens at the expense of the rest of the world. His bigotry was directed primarily against Muslims and Latinos, but inevitably dredged up much of the worst bile from America's darkest chapters of history. He mainstreamed anti-Semitism more than anyone in at least a century. And much of his margin of victory, particularly in places like North Carolina, is certainly accounted for by racist vote suppression. We might call it a Second Redemption.
However, it is important to note that Clinton is likely to win the popular vote. Once again, the monstrous Electoral College has delivered the presidency to a candidate thanks to accidents of political geography, not overall vote totals. Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Pennsylvania (and at the time of writing, probably Michigan and Wisconsin) flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump today, putting him over the electoral vote finish line.
And now, America stands at the precipice.
The next year is almost certainly going to be an absolute catastrophe for, roughly speaking, the bottom half of the income distribution, especially minorities. Democrats failed to take the Senate, so the Republican Party will have complete control over all branches of the federal government — and most of the state governments. At least until they face the possibility of a popular backlash, they will have greater political dominance than any party since FDR's Democrats.
Here's what I expect to happen. First, the new Senate will repeal the filibuster. A hard-right reactionary — perhaps Peter Thiel — will be quickly confirmed to the Supreme Court seat left vacant in February by the death of Antonin Scalia. With Paul Ryan in charge of most domestic policy, ObamaCare will be repealed, throwing about 20 million people off their health insurance. Stupendous tax cuts for the rich will be rammed through, as well as deregulation of fossil fuel industries and Wall Street. Food stamps are going to be slashed or abolished. The police are going to be on the rampage.
It's an open question whether Trump's mild defense of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will persist into his presidency. Ryan and Co. are likely to want savage cuts or privatization, if not outright repeal, but Trump as the leader of the party could probably override that if he wanted to. The health care and retirement security of millions probably depends on whether Trump's instinct to not do unpopular things overrides his laziness.
Trump's executive actions will be more heinous still. He will have the power to vastly exceed President Obama's (actually quite horrible) record of mass deportation. It will be an extreme logistical challenge to deport every unauthorized immigrant, but a strong effort would still be a catastrophe for all manner of American families being ripped apart. Muslim entry into the country might well be stopped by some sort of quasi-legal executive order.
The Iran nuclear deal will be gone, and god only knows what foreign conflicts we'll be involved with in six months. Probably somewhere unusual whose president calls Trump a "girly man" on Twitter. Tajikistan maybe.
Worst of all, Trump will dynamite Obama's Clean Power Plan, removing the only climate policy on deck, and probably tear up the Paris climate accords, which cannot possibly succeed without United States buy-in. In 100 years, if there's anyone around still, this will probably be remembered as the worst thing about the Trump administration.
I cannot hold in my head that Trump managed to win this. This is a guy who, in addition to the bigotry and near-total lack of ground operation, was literally the least qualified presidential nominee in American history, repeatedly threatened not to concede if he lost, and was credibly accused of sexual assault by double-digit numbers of women in the final month of the campaign.
Clearly the pundit class, myself included, does not have a close grasp on what the American people are thinking.
But this much I know: Measures similar to what Trump and his GOP cohorts are about to foist on America recently caused economic disaster in Kansas and Louisiana. A recession is likely in the next few years. It's probably not possible to stop a slate of absolutely terrible legislation, but after that will come a period fertile for organizing for Democrats and left-leaning organizations generally. Over the next months the left must come to an understanding of why Clinton lost, and formulate a new path forward. Because the Democratic Party's status quo patently isn't working.