The 2016 Presidential Election – Thoughts and Forecasts
As a futurist I am always asked about what might happen in the future, usually about some specific category of interest to the questioner. This interminable presidential election has been no exception. “Who do you think will win?” was, until recently when the outcome seems to be clear, a frequent question. I have answered that question in two ways.
First I say that given all the uncertainty of what might be revealed in this hacked world, there could be surprises that could affect the outcome. Particularly given the reality that neither of the candidates is a paragon of honesty. Second, I say that the candidates should be looked at as symptoms of larger dynamics at play.
It is important to try to understand why we have the two most disliked and distrusted candidates in our countries’ history doing nothing more that denigrating each other. Call it the character assassination election.
In the past year and a half I have written two columns about the 2016 election. In July 2015 I wrote that I was not at all surprised that the election was very different because of responses I had been getting from audiences for more than a year. Since 2013 I had been saying that “politics and governments were the two things holding back human evolution on the planet”; a statement from a futurist that was not a normal thing for audiences to hear. In early 2014 I started to get spontaneous applause when I said the line. Knowing this, I added the second statement “and the second thing holding back human evolution is mainstream media” again to loud applause and hollers from largely business audiences.
Then in February of this year I wrote that this was the “Wealth Inequality Election”. As a speaker who encourages a Q&A session after every speech, I get a really good sense of what people are thinking; these are always great market research opportunities. One of the most asked questions I received from 2011-2015 is “What can we do about wealth inequality?”
Knowing I would get this question, I did research and thought about it a lot. My answer was that much of the answer was in a complete redo and simplification of the tax laws, outside my expertise. I went on to say that whenever similar wealth inequality existed in history there was either revolution or populist uprisings against the ruling elite. So Bernie Sanders was historically pitch perfect in using the word revolution in his messaging. Donald Trump became the leader of a populist movement that had an intense dislike for professional politicians. So no surprise that these two candidates quickly gained traction.
2010 was the year of the Tea Party. It was also the year when I gave some 60 presentations to small groups of CEOs in numerous states across the country. Someone in practically every group asked me what I thought might happen with the Tea Party movement. My answer was simple and clear. “To the degree it becomes a separate party it might have a lasting impact for a decade or more. To the degree it becomes subsumed by the Republican Party it will make the Republicans the Whig Party by 2020” [Whig meaning, out of date, no longer relevant].
Well the Tea Party folks are the people supporting Trump, or as the media calls it “the base of the party” or “Trump’s base”. One Republican Speaker of the House is already a victim and the current one is at risk as well. As of this writing, the Republican Party is being ripped apart because they embraced the Tea Party in the short term and now are having to face the music of that embrace long-term.
So, here are my forecasts relative to America’s politics and governance after the election.
First, I think that 2016 will be seen as the end of the two party system in America. When a political duopoly delivers the two most disliked and distrusted candidates in history, it is accurate to say that the duopoly no longer serves the public. If the Libertarian candidate had been a real and charismatic candidate and not fully of the Sarah Palin school of foreign policy, that party might have gotten 20+% of the vote as a valid statement against the failing duopoly. The Democratic and Republican codependency will be shattered in 2020.
Second, the winner of the 2016 presidential election will end up being a one-term president. Aside from the age of the two candidates, neither has the capacity to lead with vision and to anticipate the new but huge changes, issues and challenges that are now emerging around the world. Neither is associated with big, bold visionary ideas, an absolute necessity now for leadership. Narcissism prevents one from seeing outside the self and cautious defensiveness is not up to dealing with the amount of unprecedented change rushing towards us.
Unless Clinton can gain control of both houses of Congress and the Republican Party speeds towards becoming the latter day Whig party, neither candidate will be able to govern. The character assassination has been too strong. Gridlock will continue.
This leads to my third forecast for the political landscape between now and 2020. There will be massive upheaval, demonstrations, civil disobedience, and demand for a new order of things for this country. Climate Change, Black Lives Matter, historically extreme wealth inequality, a collapsing infrastructure, terrorism, and tens of trillions of unfunded federal government liabilities, and, in part due to the world watching this painfully embarrassing presidential campaign, frontal challenges from foreign powers will in the aggregate topple our next president after one term.
Such times of major crises usually trigger the ascendancy of a transformative leader. Think Roosevelt, Churchill, Truman, Kennedy or Reagan all of whom rose to the occasion and altered history, domestically and internationally.
Now, please take a moment for honest, non-partisan reflection. Does either of the candidates have it in their DNA to rise to the stature of the above named leaders?