As Yogi Berra reminds us, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Nevertheless, these are turbulent times and the November vote is bound to be a landmark election, not least because the idea of “campaigning” has been turned on its head as virtual stumping has largely replaced mass gatherings in the midst of a pandemic (at least for one side). But I offer here a few thoughts on what I think will happen. Of course, things could change with events over the next two months, but I thought it important for myself to write out this thinking.
Biden will win. I won’t go into suggesting electoral vote counts or which states, but I think Biden has something against Trump that Hillary Clinton did not have in 2016: the ability to garner moderate votes in swing states, the only states that truly matter in Presidential politics. Those 8-10 states will determine the outcome, and Biden has the potential to do way better in those states than Hillary. If Biden/Harris win a few more of those states than Hillary did in 2016, mathematically, the Dems take the White House. The Senate remains a toss up and will be close, while the House looks to remain in Democratic hands.
Trump will complain and likely verbally challenge the results. He will continue that challenging all the way through and past turning over power in January 2021. He may continue challenging the election long after leaving office. But, I do not foresee any large-scale populist revolt against the results or carnage in the streets. Of course, much of that depends on how much Trump touts his “stolen” election.
Power will be turned over in January 2021. Despite the willful and negligent violations of many norms and even laws by the Trump Administration, many of those same officials have such a falsely-claimed “love” for the nation that to not peacefully turn over power, a so-called hallmark of U.S. democracy, is a step that is too far to take, even for them. Of course, much of that depends on how much Trump touts his “stolen” election.
The country will slowly return to its well-established norms, discarding others. Certainly a new-normal political operating environment is here regarding what is acceptable and what is not. But I also do not expect it to be overly revolutionary. What will be more revolutionary is the changing world/global order. American hegemony in its unipolar world is fading. That fact can be positive, if proper steps are taken to organize the world into a new order with cooperation amongst great powers and a very effective and involved United States. That fact can also be very dangerous if the U.S. continues clinging to false hopes, dying industries, and defending its “superiority” at the top.
The Republican Party will need to figure out what they represent and revamp the party’s platforms. Trump is a one-off, once-in-a-lifetime type of candidate (I hope). He combined both the ability to speak in a way that targeted deep-seated animosities in his audience with a charisma that many of those same people found appealing. Not many people have the combination of these factors and others to create that perfect storm of electability. Remember, he also faced Hillary Clinton, who despite her qualifications to be president, was a candidate that most swing voters in swing states (as mentioned before) could never vote for. And she still won the popular vote by over three million votes.
My point: Trump ideology will not continue to define the party, more and more younger conservatives are realizing it’s counterproductive to be a party of denial (climate change, common-sense gun laws, etc.) and are offering conservative-minded solutions to these problems, thus making the party viable again…eventually.
If, on the other hand, none of these thoughts come true in 2020, and Trump wins and continues his damaging leadership of the country (or loses and more destructively denies defeat), that outcome would be more of a sign of bigger change than I alluded to in my predictions. Most change is not revolutionary in nature, and a figure like Trump generally is an anomaly in history, a rare blip on a well-outlined and understood trajectory. But a second term for Trump is filled with so much ambiguity and consequence that it is hard not to view it as anything sort of major change for this country. Will the Trump era be a disappointing yet short-lived period, or will it be a new makeup of U.S. government and international leadership? That we will find out soon enough.