Historians like myself are not futurists. We prefer to look at the past. But with the Iowa caucus only days away, and with the most powerful office in the world up for grabs in nine months, I thought I’d give my predictions on the dangers that lie ahead if either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders gain the presidency.
For members of the Democratic Party, and those independents who lean left, the social ramifications of a Trump presidency are absolutely unimaginable. That is why if Trump wins the general election on November 8, 2016, you should expect America’s multi-cultural urban centers to erupt with spontaneous and massive street protests as soon as the election results are announced to the public.
It’s a fact that the estimated eleven million illegal immigrants presently residing in the U.S. are not going to accept forcible removal. They and the tens of millions of Americans who know them, and who are linked to them through kinship, religious affiliation, and race, will resist mass deportation. What form their resistance will take is unknown, but you can be certain it will affect every region of the United States.
We know that in Trump’s world “Black Lives Don’t Matter.” So any policy of his to repress the legitimate aspirations of America’s urban blacks, such as the use of brutal police tactics to put down black protesters, is going to be met with severe blowback from the Black community and from all those who believe “Black Lives Matter.”
But the greatest danger posed by a Trump presidency is this: his presence in the White House will be a signal to everyone that racism, misogyny, and bigotry are rewarded in America. That message will give license to millions to pursue their hatreds against minorities, immigrants, women, and Muslims. Consequently, the country’s racial and gender problems are going to be horribly exacerbated under Trump.
I think it is safe to say that Trump will face a liberal backlash against the Office of the Presidency the likes of which hasn’t been seen in America since the Johnson and Nixon administrations.
The GOP elite have a problem. They have a presidential frontrunner whose policies threaten to tear wide open America’s already badly frayed social fabric. But party leaders can’t drop Trump without also losing his White middle-class supporters in November 2016. Without Trump on the GOP ticket, millions of Republican voters will probably stay home. An absent GOP base means the Democrats not only win the White House, they make big gains in the House and Senate.
The Democratic Party elite face a similar (though less severe) problem as their GOP counterparts – his name is Bernie Sanders. Sanders is an old-school New Dealer. Like President Roosevelt back in the 1930s, Sanders doesn’t believe in dismantling American capitalism; rather, he wants to regulate it in order to create a more equitable society. Although Sanders isn’t really radical, the American Right has gone so far right that its members believe Sanders is positioned on the Far Left.
To the Republican masses who put their faith in guns, an Old Testament God, deregulation, corporate authoritarianism, no or low taxes, and state’s rights, a Sanders presidency will be perceived as an unmitigated disaster. GOP obstructionism will be worse under Sanders than Obama. Furthermore, a President Sanders will probably spur secessionist legislation amongst the fanatical Republicans who live in the Deep South, Great Plains, and Desert Southwest. Then there is the issue of armed militias. Under Obama, the number of right-wing militias exploded across the U.S. The number and geographical reach of militias will only grow with Sanders in the White House. To add to the nation’s woes, gun sales will rise, surpassing the record 24 million guns sold in the U.S. in 2015.
Any Sanders program to seriously tackle America’s gun problem, grant clemency to illegal immigrants, institute Medicare for all, uphold Muslim rights and Muslim immigration, raise taxes on the rich and upper middle-class, and expand government regulation of Wall Street and the environment will meet with strident right-wing resistance. It’s difficult to know what form right-wing resistance will take. Rest assured that Fox News will hammer away at Sanders’ “socialist” policies. As for the GOP stalwarts residing in rural Red States, they’ll likely seize some federal facilities and reignite a version of the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1980s.
The problem facing Democratic Party leaders is this: if they attack Bernie, they will alienate millions of his Progressive supporters – a cohort Hillary needs to win in November. But if they do not scuttle Bernie’s presidential bid, he might become the Democratic Party nominee. That result may further galvanize the right-wing, contributing to a Trump victory.
You might be thinking that the solution to this political conundrum is to support Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz. Think again. Both of those candidates raise the ire of the opposition as much as Trump and Sanders. Whether the next president is Trump, Cruz, Clinton, or Sanders, one thing is clear, internal divisions in the United States are going to intensify this year and next.