I don’t want to sugarcoat it: Donald Trump’s win in the presidential election is a terrible thing for America, for many reasons. For women, for minorities, for Muslim-Americans… my heart breaks, and I have nothing I can say that’s likely to be of any comfort. This isn’t just a horserace -- elections have real-life consequences for real people.
Among other things, a Trump presidency has the potential to undo most (if not all) of the accomplishments of the Obama Administration, from health care reform to same-sex marriage to years of economic growth. And beyond that, Trump’s win is a reward for some of the worst behavior in the history of politics -- both by a candidate and by a party -- and a boon for some of the world’s worst people, from David Duke to Vladimir Putin to the bottom-feeders of the online alt-right.
Even so, there are some potential silver linings in a Trump presidency, and what we’re likely to see from it:
Trump may destroy the Republican Party
Trump is likely spend a lot of his presidency fighting not only with Democrats, but with other Republicans. He’s already got an established feud with House Speaker Paul Ryan, and is likely to clash with more traditionally conservative members of Congress over priorities. And as we’ve learned throughout the campaign, Trump’s political style tends heavily towards pettiness and revenge.
And what if Trump and Vladimir Putin have a falling out? What if Trump and Wikileaks end up at odds (more than likely, since Julian Assange loves nothing more than exposing U.S. military secrets?) What if one or more of the various disreputable people in Trump’s orbit -- like Roger Stone or Chris Christie -- turns on Trump and exposes all sorts of wrongdoing?
It’s exceedingly unlikely that Trump will be able to deliver on most of his signature proposals. The feasibility of that Big, Beautiful Wall is pretty dicey even if Mexico doesn’t pay for it. Trump’s not going to single-handedly bring back manufacturing jobs either. Will the voters who backed Trump with such fervor continue to do so once Trump utterly fails to improve their lives in any meaningful way?
It was an anti-Clinton talking point throughout the campaign that her presidency would be bogged down by constant investigations and scandals -- but that’s true of Trump as well. There’s the Trump University trial -- among other pending actions against him -- and potential lawsuits from the various women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. Which is to say nothing for potential new scandals that could emerge during his presidency.
There’s a lot of leftist energy out there, especially among young people. The Black Lives Matter movement seems like to form the vanguard of Trump opposition. But you can also expect the type of students who have spent the last few years fighting for safe spaces and against offensive comedians to redirect their energy against a possibly fascist president. Don’t forget that what ultimately snuffed out the first era of political correctness was the arrival in office of George W. Bush.
The Ventura Precedent
Perhaps the best case scenario for a Trump presidency is something resembling Jesse Ventura’s governorship of Minnesota between 1999 and 2003: erratic celebrity candidate unexpectedly gets elected, performs better than expected at first, makes enemies with everyone, and it ends with a whimper after one term.