What Happens After the Election?

 

Assume because it’s a safe bet that Hillary Clinton wins the presidency by a wide margin. Assume a double-digit disaster in down-ticket races, perhaps with the GOP narrowly keeping the House. (I assume it will because there are few real swing seats; filing deadlines have passed, and many seats don’t have a strong Democratic challenger.) Odds look better-than-even that the Democrats will gain four seats and take back the Senate. It’s possible, if less likely, that they pick up a filibuster-proof majority.

We the People are already nearly at each other’s throats. I don’t see what could happen between now and the election that could reduce America’s political, social, and economic polarization. Hillary Clinton will be the most unpopular president ever to be elected. Trump’s supporters will be embittered. Given Trump’s enthusiasm for conspiracy theories, I can readily imagine him claiming voter fraud or otherwise challenging the legitimacy of the election. Congress will be close to gridlock from Day 1.

No matter who’s elected, the next four years are apt to be tough. Our infrastructure is crumbling and the consequences of this will increasingly be obvious. We’re on the edge of several geopolitical precipices. It’s highly likely that America will either be forced into a humiliating retreat, internationally, or war. There will be more terrorist attacks, certainly, and more mass shootings. In the best scenario, there will only be a normal cyclical recession, but in the worst, there will be another big economic shock. And we’re out of tools to deal with it. No one is going to get the economic security they’re longing for in the coming four years.

This would all be true even if Lincoln were about to enter the Oval Office. But it won’t be Lincoln. It will be Hillary Clinton, who is despised and distrusted by a large part of the electorate. To her left is a large minority who despises and distrusts her just as much as the right does. (Read the comments here, for example.) She won’t be entering office with a large reservoir of public hope and good will to draw upon.

The ugliness and bitterness of this campaign won’t end. No matter who takes office in November, the first thing the rest of the world will do is test the president’s resolve. Right now, the election is sucking up so much media oxygen that Americans aren’t paying much attention to the warning signs of dangerous confrontations to come. But the global balance of power has been so destabilized that no one should hope otherwise.

So what will happen when the things that have created a groundswell of support for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders get worse?

In 1994, Edward Luttwak wrote Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future. I wish it didn’t seem prophetic, but it does.

He concludes:

… Thus neither the moderate Right nor the moderate Left even recognises, let alone offers any solution for, the central problem of our days: the completely unprecedented personal economic insecurity of working people, from industrial workers and white-collar clerks to medium-high managers. None of them are poor and they therefore cannot benefit from the more generous welfare payments that the moderate Left is inclined to offer. Nor are they particularly envious of the rich, and they therefore tend to be uninterested in redistribution. Few of them are actually unemployed, and they are therefore unmoved by Republican/Tory promises of more growth and more jobs through the magic of the unfettered market: what they want is security in the jobs they already have – i.e. precisely what unfettered markets threaten.

A vast political space is thus left vacant by the Republican/Tory non-sequitur, on the one hand, and moderate Left particularism and assistentialism, on the other. That was the space briefly occupied in the USA by the 1992 election-year caprices of Ross Perot, and which Zhirinovsky’s bizarre excesses are now occupying in the peculiar conditions of Russia, where personal economic insecurity is the only problem that counts for most people … And that is the space that remains wide open for a product-improved Fascist party, dedicated to the enhancement of the personal economic security of the broad masses of (mainly) white-collar working people. Such a party could even be as free of racism as Mussolini’s original was until the alliance with Hitler, because its real stock in trade would be corporativist restraints on corporate Darwinism, and delaying if not blocking barriers against globalisation. It is not necessary to know how to spell Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to recognise the Fascist predisposition engendered by today’s turbocharged capitalism.

Is he wrong?

There are 115 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Your reference to Lincoln is curious.  Perhaps you don’t recall that Lincoln was hated and mistrusted by a very large number of people.

    I think secession is a possibility again. The congress will be irrelevant no matter which party has the most seats. The administrative state, now acting with little regard for the law, will simply continue to ignore them.  I suspect they will stop even showing up for congressional inquiries.

    As with Lincoln, the only solution seems to be dissolution of the Union.

    • #1
  2. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    On the plus side, I no longer need a second cup of coffee this morning.

    • #2
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Skyler:


    Your reference to Lincoln is curious. Perhaps you don’t recall that Lincoln was hated and mistrusted by a very large number of people.

    Yes. Very true. And it’s only with hindsight that we remember him for words about malice toward none, charity for all, and binding up the nation’s wounds. But in hindsight, he was at least up to the task.

    I think secession is a possibility again.

    I don’t know how — but I fear that ungovernability is a possibility. Or a lot of political violence.

    The congress will be irrelevant no matter which party has the most seats. The administrative state, now acting with little regard for the law, will simply continue to ignore them. I suspect they will stop even showing up for congressional inquiries.

    Maz with Lincoln, the only solution seems to be dissolution of the Union.

    How does that solve anything?

    • #3
  4. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: In the best scenario, there will only be a normal cyclical recession, but in the worst, there will be another big economic shock. And we’re out of tools to deal with it.

    It’s so big.

    • #4
  5. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:On the plus side, I no longer need a second cup of coffee this morning.

    I was hoping you would explain to me why it’s not as bad as I think. I didn’t get enough sleep last night; I was thinking maybe I’m just ruminating?

    • #5
  6. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Republic of Texas. It is not a solution I would favor, but if the federal government pushes hard enough it will happen.

    Probably not as an ACW shootout, but rather through a statewide vote, followed by UN recognition (Wanna bet China and Russia won’t support this? Or France, for that matter?), followed by massive passive resistance to federal intrusion, followed by federal recognition after a few massacres of unarmed Texas citizens.

    Cannot happen? Napoleon once said you can do anything with a bayonet. Talleyrand responded with “yes, except sit on them.” A throne made of bayonets is unstable, as even the Soviet Union demonstrated. If you think the United States got tired of Iraq fast, imagine how tired they would get trying to hold a recalcitrant Texas. Especially with the various NGOs using the opportunity to throw bricks at the US for every human rights violation.

    Seawriter

    • #6
  7. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: [Luttwak:] its real stock in trade would be corporativist restraints on corporate Darwinism, and delaying if not blocking barriers against globalisation.

    How is this different from the enacted (as opposed to proposed) policies of every French administration for the past few decades, for example. In other words, why is the only alternative to internationalist neo-liberalism called ‘Fascim’?

    • #7
  8. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Let’s not forget that fascism was opportunistic socialism where unions and industrial sectors were allowed but controlled.   They were dealing with collapsed economies and the destruction of the middle classes.   We’re already there without the collapse so it’s been gradual and hasn’t required a populist black shirted demagogue.  What some fear is that the next step is where the government begins to crack down on opposition parties, the subsidiary institutions, the organic under brush where life takes place and where politics isn’t everything, like religion, small business and citizen groups.  We’re already there as well.   We’ve been living under creeping fascism for some time.  The conservative right has solutions,  we just heard about them in the primaries, but we rejected them.    The governing classes don’t want the solutions because deregulation, decentralizing, real monetary and financial reform  would divest them of their rent seeking perches.

    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    genferei:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: [Luttwak:] its real stock in trade would be corporativist restraints on corporate Darwinism, and delaying if not blocking barriers against globalisation.

    How is this different from the enacted (as opposed to proposed) policies of every French administration for the past few decades, for example. In other words, why is the only alternative to internationalist neo-liberalism called ‘Fascim’?

    Beyond having a mixed economy, why would you call the French administrations of the past few decades fascism? None argued that liberal democracy was obsolete; there was no call to mobilize society under an authoritarian or one-party state to prepare for armed conflict or solve economic crises; there’s been no dictator and no martial law. No significant fascist party. No national unity. No embrace of violence, war, and imperialism. No autarky. Not much protectionism. Some dirigisme — but France experienced real fascism; the Fifth Republic isn’t it. It could happen again, and if Luttwak’s right, it will, but France has been part of the neoliberal consensus until now.

    • #9
  10. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    I’m trying to envision a best-case scenario arising from all of this but I just can’t. The least w0rse-case scenario is Trump losing big which will remove him from daily media coverage, and Hillary going on to assemble a depressingly status quo administration. Yes, the Supreme Court is lost, perhaps for a generation. Yes, the Affordable Care Act seeps in the national fabric, never to be vacuumed out. The Middle East will remain a tangled horror show. About the only bright note in the offing is the opportunity to forge closer ties with Great Britain (Scotland stays, right?) which as of Thursday will have unmoored itself from the slow-motion calamity taking place on the European mainland.

    • #10
  11. Retail Lawyer Member
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    Fascism is always the “go to” worry, it seems.  If Hillary is the next POTUS, rule of law will have disappeared.  Nobody will respect the law.  Without rule of law, people don’t obey the law.  They cheat.  America will become just another Third World Country, not particularly fascist, just Third World, where the government is at best incompetent, but in practice is the citizen’s enemy.

    • #11
  12. Acook Coolidge
    Acook
    @Acook

    “Hillary Clinton will be the most unpopular president ever to be elected.”

    With Johnson in the race, she is likely to win with only a plurality, not a majority, so she will not be able to claim a mandate. Only makes matters worse.

    • #12
  13. Acook Coolidge
    Acook
    @Acook

    Or better?

    • #13
  14. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    No matter who’s elected, the next four years are apt to be tough. 

    If it’s Hillary, it will be a whole lot longer than four years once she gets her hands on the Supreme Court.

    • #14
  15. Poindexter Inactive
    Poindexter
    @Poindexter

    I plan to prepare for the confiscation of my wealth. Retirement accounts will become a quaint memory, absorbed into the blob of the national debt.

    • #15
  16. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Assume because it’s a safe bet that Hillary Clinton wins the presidency by a wide margin.

    Not willing to grant that assumption. Although if it does come to pass a generous share of the credit will go to the Never Trump crowd whose efforts to insure a Clinton victory by undermining Trump continue apace.

    Assume a double-digit disaster in down-ticket races, perhaps with the GOP narrowly keeping the House. (I assume it will because there are few real swing seats; filing deadlines have passed, and many seats don’t have a strong Democratic challenger.) Odds look better-than-even that the Democrats will gain four seats and take back the Senate. It’s possible, if less likely, that they pick up a filibuster-proof majority.

    That may be due to the GOP Senate failing to deliver on the promises they made to get elected. When given the choice between a pretend Democrat and a real Democrat, voters tend to pick the real Democrat.

    Quisling Cons like Mark Kirk deserve to lose. He’s essentially told every Trump voter and gun owner in Illinois to push off. I expect to vote for him in spite of that, although he still may deliver a coup de grace to that vote sometime between now and election day.

    • #16
  17. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Ed should not have used the word fascism. The proper word for what you describe is soft despotism. It exists in France already, and it is a powerful trend here. Security was not the aim of Mussolini’s followers (much less of Hitler’s followers). They were ambitious. They longed for glory and empire, and they believed in History (with a capital H) as much as the Marxists did.

    Fascism might be a word that one could use to describe what Vladimir Putin is up to — though, even there, I doubt that it applies. Ed is right, however, to mention Ross Perot. The Trump supporters are persuaded that the system is rigged and that the ordinary Republican politicians do not have the backbone to defend them. It is a grave blunder to suppose that Trump has the capacity or the will to do so. But it is easy to make mistakes when one is furious.

    • #17
  18. civil westman Inactive
    civil westman
    @user_646399

    I agree with Luttwak, but to some extent he was predicting the present in 1994 and even more so today’s state entrenched of affairs. In “Why Buy the Cow?” Peter Schiff tells a quite convincing story of our much more  sophisticated, velvet-covered, stealth fascism.

    • #18
  19. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Anyone who professes to know the outcome of an election in November penning an article in June during this cycle is adding their voice to a chorus of fools.

    I would love to read the predictions a year ago that Donald Trump would be a nominee and Bernie Sanders would have ~1900 delegates heading to the Democrat convention.

    It isn’t a forgone conclusion (though it is very likely) that Trump and Hillary will be the contestant.

    Where was center right and self professed conservatives with all this concern for the fate of the nation and our fiscal condition the past years? They were urging the rest of the right to sit down, shut up, raise the debt ceiling, fund planned parenthood, make illegal immigrants citizens, pass TPA for TPP, etc. always behind the motto: We’ll get ’em next time!

    It’s next time and now center right has discovered that the lack of will to fight and support unpopular positions has consequences.

    The fight’s over, we lost because we refused to engage. Here come the consequences. Those of us who wanted the fight have no interest in the whining from those who refused.

    • #19
  20. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    Skyler:


    Your reference to Lincoln is curious. Perhaps you don’t recall that Lincoln was hated and mistrusted by a very large number of people.

    I think secession is a possibility again. The congress will be irrelevant no matter which party has the most seats. The administrative state, now acting with little regard for the law, will simply continue to ignore them. I suspect they will stop even showing up for congressional inquiries.

    As with Lincoln, the only solution seems to be dissolution of the Union.

    Coincidentally, I just finished reading Carl Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln. It was, perhaps, the 4th or 5th bio of Lincoln I have read. Lincoln was hated by many, even members of his own cabinet spoke of him in the most distainful manner. It was only after his death that he became the univerally loved man we all remember.

    The acrimony of the current situation is certainly reminiscent of the prewar period of the late 1850s and early 1860s. Reading history does give some perspective on how awful our ancestors may have thought their current age. Somehow, though, I don’t find that that gives much comfort at the thought of either a President Hillary Clinton or a President Donald Trump.

    • #20
  21. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:How does that solve anything?

    Actually, a better word would be result.  But then I am not one who, like Lincoln, believes that union is the greater good. Freedom is the greater good.  Union to protect freedom is good. Once Union stops protecting freedom then it can no longer morally be supported.

    I li think the only non-violent way to restore freedom is for the governors to declare the power to interpret the Constitution, at least regarding the tenth amendment and to remove thereby much of the federal overreach of power.

    • #21
  22. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Ricochet 3.0 can’t get here soon enough so we can rip this “Conservative conversation and community” branding off the headline and just put up: “Chat room with a CoC”

    • #22
  23. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Assume because it’s a safe bet that Hillary Clinton wins the presidency by a wide margin. Assume a double-digit disaster in down-ticket races, perhaps with the GOP narrowly keeping the House.

    These assumptions are not at all necessary. First, Trump’s offense is underestimated. Second, James Comey will recommend indictment and that recommendation will go public.

    I am much more concerned about the ensuing train wreck as the campaign will be swinging from already nasty to much worse. I really don’t think this is the time or place to be planning for total disaster. Total disaster really makes its own plan anyway. No need to help out.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #23
  24. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    At the risk of redundancy, we’re going through a great reorganization. The arguments we are having about Trump vs Clinton arise from their similarity. They are 2 sides of the same coin.  (Recall Cruz and Rubio) But these 2 represent the old guard collapsing in on itself. The 2 new sides will look very different. The choices more stark.

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: None of them are poor and they therefore cannot benefit from the more generous welfare payments that the moderate Left is inclined to offer. Nor are they particularly envious of the rich, and they therefore tend to be uninterested in redistribution. Few of them are actually unemployed, and they are therefore unmoved by Republican/Tory promises of more growth and more jobs through the magic of the unfettered market: what they want is security in the jobs they already have – i.e. precisely what unfettered markets threaten.

    This is the part of your post that really struck me, Claire. People may be so sick of the fighting and polarization that they will simply hunker down: leave me alone. The government will probably take advantage, and we will be more trapped in new laws and regulation than ever.

    • #25
  26. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Predicting the future is where journalists love to play. No consequences for getting it wrong.

    The unexpected is sure to happen between now and February. Economic crisis, or a coup at the convention at the least.

    My bet is on something else… posting on it this morning.

    • #26
  27. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    I think secession is a possibility again.

    I don’t know how — but I fear that ungovernability is a possibility. Or a lot of political violence.

    Who would stop the secession this time?

    Recall at the start of the Obama administration he began an on-line petition program, promising to respond to every one that got 20,000 signatures.  Several States advanced secession petitions.  Seven got more than 100,000 signatures; let’s say those were serious petitions.

    Unlike the Confederacy, those seven States produce 40% of the nation’s GDP, they’re rich in critical natural resources–iron, coal, oil, natural gas, timber, and so on–they have ready access to the sea and to at least two major markets bordering on them.  They have strong industrial capacity and infrastructure, strong services capacity and infrastructure, strong internal economic markets, significant military capacity (which the Confederacy also had, but it didn’t have the other Critical Items)–and they’re not broke.

    Will the Federal government nuke its own people (own people because that’s what it would be thinking of the secessionists, else they wouldn’t be resisting the secession)?

    Secession isn’t an optimal outcome, but it’s a very real possibility.

    Ungovernability?  What’s the practical difference, from the center’s perspective, between that and secession?  The center still won’t have control, or access.

    Eric Hines

    • #27
  28. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Let’s speak of this ungovernability.  In a country of 300 million  of the most diverse people in the most diverse open economy in history cannot be centrally governed except by creating transparent and very simple laws so that economic activity takes place in communities where real people live and work.  The information needed to govern the economy centrally, i.e. regulate it even in its finer details, does not and cannot exist.  Moreover, it is almost impossible to make accountable  the individuals in these remote bureaucracies that attempt to regulate.  So of course it’s ungovernable and the larger and more rapidly changing it becomes the more obvious the ungovernability becomes.  But the process benefits greatly the class of people who get to pretend that they are managing it and it harms the people who are supposed to benefit, so naturally as it becomes obvious, there is anger.  But it isn’t the anger that makes it ungovernable and divided, it’s the nature of government when it attempts to do the things that it cannot.

    • #28
  29. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Eric Hines: Unlike the Confederacy, those seven States produce 40% of the nation’s GDP, they’re rich in critical natural resources–iron, coal, oil, natural gas, timber, and so on–they have ready access to the sea and to at least two major markets bordering on them.

    But the federal government controls the banks, and the people in those states all have their money in those federal banks.  Do  you think that all the people of a state will agree to become instant paupers for the privilege of seceding?  Secession cannot work.  The monetary system is not like is was in 1860.

    • #29
  30. Man O Tea Member
    Man O Tea
    @ManOTea

    I think Seawriter has it nailed. And I have my “Don’t Mess … ” bumper stickers ready.  The issue will be the lefties in Austin who will use every legal and extralegal measure to stop some sort of secession.

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.