The contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has essentially become a war between the short-term and long-term news cycles. Hillary will score by pointing out ridiculous or offensive Trump statements; by highlighting aesthetic cheesiness, such as the modeling photographs of Melania Trump or the bling-bling appearance of Donald himself. But on the other hand Donald will gain every time a terror act is committed, an administration scandal or crime is revealed or the economy suffers a setback. The press fights Hillary’s corner. Fiasco is rooting for Trump.
Short vs Long. Long vs Short. Each side is supplied when plenty of ammunition. Chance will determine which side comes out on top. If enough disasters occur between now and election day Trump may win. If Hillary and Obama can keep the lid on, Hillary may win. The scheduled Battle for Mosul may be part of the administration to time good news for the election, but it may just be coincidental.
The two strategies interact in non-obvious ways. The short-term skirmishing occurs within the context of shattered coalitions. Trump’s is the most obviously shattered. His voter coalition cuts across and against the old Republican boundaries, as the Khan and foreign policy kerfuffles show. But Hillary’s coalition is also ragged. She has improbably wrapped herself in the flag, no doubt for convenience, but also to the chagrin of her left-wing base.
Policy substance now seems irrelevant. The Clintons, who benefited from Russia and Saudi Arabia now accuse Trump of the same thing. Both sides have pilloried Gold Star mothers. Both sides are likely to increase the national debt levels. Each reviles the other for what they themselves have done. The question is no longer “what do you believe” — it is “whose side are you on?”.
Both candidates rule kingdoms of fragments. The traditional bases on each side are being shattered to powder and recast on wholly tactical lines. It’s not the old Dem vs GOP any more, but Hillary vs Donald; the “Together Agains” vs the “I Am Your Voice”.
The effect of the short term (scandal talking points) game will not be to convert any great numbers, but to whip up their respective new coalitions, which are based principally on emotions. Reason has gone out the door and will not return any time soon. The result will be an increasing and shrill polarization. The short term game will increase political hostility to levels not seen since 1968; perhaps not since the Civil War.
In combination with the long term news cycle, which are disastrous events that boost up Trump, the short-long game will create extraordinary dangers. Not in a long time has America been so challenged nor so divided and both at the same time. The two trends operating in confluence is likely to create an unusual volatility. Little — not religion, not foreign policy, not even patriotism — is now sacred. The ballast went over the side long ago. Trump has openly said he expects the elections to be rigged. Yet little is now exempt from danger. America’s enemies can strike whether at allies or the United States itself. It is vulnerable as never before. And should a catastrophe ensure what will be the response from a divided polity?
The scenario predicted on this site is sadly coming to pass. The 2016 election is not about the continuity of governance, not about more of the same. It’s about the destruction of the old political system. It is either about the reform of Washington or it is nothing. In that struggle neither Trump nor Hillary can emerge from this wreck with a stable mandate because the forces on either side are so evenly matched.
They will become either transitional figures or, in the face of crisis, authoritarian ones. Because America is so close to a 50-50 split, the new president must either accommodate or purge, become the president of both sides or the leader of one. Trump at least, has the advantage (if one may call it that) of having shallow roots in the Deep State. Whatever his tendencies Trump will be checked by the bureaucracy, Congress and the Courts. His very cheesiness disarms him.
With Hillary the protections of law are less certain in proportion to her power with the backroom boys. But in her favor is the the fact that after Hillary, there may be no liberal or progressive administration for decades to come. After her the left wing has no place else to go. She can be the cure, if you can stand near the death experience that goes along with it.
In the end the near term outcome is out of any individual’s hands. Chance will determine who becomes president in 2016. In the longer term the trends are clearer. The status quo is doomed and much that was fair will alas be doomed with it.
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