“Pollsters stunned: Donald Trump elected president.”
It is Nov. 9. You’ve collected the newspaper off your actual or digital front porch to find this headline staring back at you. You rub your eyes and blink hard.
Trump was right. The polls were rigged, a vain attempt by the liberal media to convince us that a Trump presidency wasn’t possible.
But America First voters refused to be cowed. Despite their candidate telling them their votes wouldn’t be counted fairly, they turned out anyway. In droves.
Hillary Clinton’s core supporters — minority voters and people under the age of 45 — decided the dishonest Democrat wasn’t worth it after all, staying home in Cleveland, Miami, Denver, Des Moines, and Las Vegas.
And for independent voters, Hillary’s last minute run-in with the feds proved to be the last straw.
Make no mistake: This race is close and roiled, thanks to FBI Director’s James Comey’s announcement that his investigation of a sex pervert may have uncovered Hillary Clinton stuff. (Let that sentence sink in for a second).
What if Trump wins? What would American politics look like in four years?
First, a policy realignment of the parties would drastically accelerate. Trump, having won the White House on a populist message, would force the GOP to further abandon its free-trade roots. Free market and national security conservatives will lack for a political home, as Trump has run against the view that American engagement in the world is a good thing.
In fact, whether Trump wins or loses, we may be in for a fracturing of the Republican Party as we’ve known since 1980. The factions could split along class and education — college-educated, white-collar workers head one direction, while blue-collar workers lacking a college degree go another. A tie that binds those two groups today — being a Christian — is straining under the choices presented in this election.
For the Democrats, losing with a candidate that its grassroots never liked all that much anyway would push the party further to the left and leave Bernie Sanders as an unquestioned, Yoda-like thought leader. A relatively young ex-president named Barack Obama and his popular wife, Michelle, would have to decide whether to run the Democratic Party or just walk away. Once out of office, will the hardcore leftists accept direction from a former president they like personally, but whose use of drones to kill America’s enemies made their blood run cold? Difficult to tell, the future is.
Second, America could be in for serious executive branch intervention in domestic affairs. Trump’s platform revolves to some degree around the concept of a powerful chief executive wading into issues facing American cities, schools and corporations.
Trump has promised to bring order to chaotic inner cities, which are policed at the local and state level, not by federal cops. Similarly, Trump promises federal intervention in inner-city schools. While it isn’t clear how Trump would do it, his rhetoric indicates he favors federal intervention in local policing and education, horrifying small government conservatives and likely leading to court battles. He has also spoken of a federal “deportation force” to round up illegal immigrants, a policy that would roil communities in many states.
Third, American corporations not in compliance with Trump’s directives would immediately have to gird against an all-out federal assault, if Trump remains true to his threats. Trump has repeatedly promised “boycotts, tariffs, taxes and other punishments” for companies who fail to accede to his will. Trump’s populist base would cheer this development while free market conservatives would wince.
Much of the taxation punishment Trump promises isn’t possible without congressional approval, but a Trump administration could move against the corporations on two fronts: through punishing executive-branch regulations and a Rose Garden-based public relations campaign in which the president tells Americans (or at least his political base) to stop patronizing corporations that make his naughty list.
A Republican-led White House hammering American companies for trying to turn a profit in the free market would turn the world, as we know it, upside down.
The cultural upheaval would be enormous, with major American brands (Ford, Nabisco, Amazon and Apple have been Trump targets) bringing their considerable advertising resources to bear against President Trump. This would come to a head in 2020, when Trump seeks reelection to the presidency as an independent candidate unwilling to be encumbered by any party or ideology. The failure of congressional Republicans including Paul Ryan to follow Trump’s orders was the last straw for a man unaccustomed to hearing the word “no.”
(An alternate path is that congressional Republicans fall in line with hopes of pressing the political advantage the Republican Party enjoys in midterm elections, especially in 2018 when Senate Democrats are defending 25 of 33 seats. I’m betting on more legislative independence no matter who wins, however.)
The Republican Party, without a standard-bearer, nominates Ryan for president. He looks to build a political base among college-educated whites, suburban moms, small-business owners and exercise nuts, reshaping the GOP around the idea that America must participate in the world’s affairs.
The Democrats nominate Michelle Obama, who argues that Trump has not punished American corporations enough. She strongly condemns his use of nuclear weapons against Tanzania, whose president insulted the quality of the towels during a stay at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. in June of 2018. Organic arugula farmers, left in the political wilderness over the past four years, cheer her ascendancy.
Welcome to the future. Trump vs. Ryan vs. Obama in 2020. •
Scott Jennings was special assistant to President George W. Bush from 2005-2007, and a former senior advisor to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville.
@ScottJenningsKY on Twitter.