Revisiting a 2016 Presidential Election Forecast
One of the more frivolous consequences of being a futurist is that I am always asked about “who’s going to win?”. The Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup [by Canadians] and of course last year, the presidential election. Sporting events I laughingly wave my hand at, but a national election encompasses dynamics that are larger and the territory of forecasts.
In the first half of 2016 I had stated that Trump would win the Republican nomination and felt that the race on the Democratic side was becoming too close to call. When it came to the month before the election a year ago, I had a sense that it was both too close to call and that “something was going on and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?” [ Bob Dylan “Ballad of a Thin Man”]. In this case it was mainstream media that was Mr. Jones.
Every network had polls showing Clinton winning by single digit margins. The commentary followed the polls as we all can remember. The endless panels of pundits spoke about the difficulty of Trump getting to 270 electoral votes. What disturbed me about those indicators is that they didn’t represent the reality as I drove around the part of Florida where I live and traveled around the country when the topic of the election came up. Trump yard signs were everywhere. Every day intersections in Sarasota had people waving Trump flags and holding hand written signs saying “honk if you are for Trump”. There was a lot of honking. Nowhere did I see the same for Clinton. Sarasota is one of the more educated and cultural cities in Florida. Traveling around the country, people told me they were voting for Trump, people who I never would have imagined doing so. Hmmmmm, something IS going on.
So, one month before the election I posted a column here that made three forecasts about the presidential election. If you can, please read that column to better understand the rationale behind the three forecasts.
The first forecast:
“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.”
I wrote a follow-up column on this topic specifically in December 2016.
The second forecast:
“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.”
The third forecast:
“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.”
So, 13 months after this forecast, let’s take a look at these three forecasts.
Starting with the third forecast, it is the only one where there has been enough evidence to confer accuracy. The women’s march the weekend after the inauguration, the demonstrations against the Republican efforts to alter healthcare. The boisterous town hall meetings when congressmen and women went home to their districts. The Earth Day and Pro-Science demonstrations. Charlottesville and the resulting demonstrations afterwards. An active movement called “the resistance”.
To deepen this now validated forecast I think that the streets will be filled with all kinds of demonstrations now through 2020. Many will be straightforward demonstrations with chants and big signs. A number will be massive acts of civil disobedience, filling jails similar to the Civil Rights and Vietnam War protests. Unfortunately there will be some violent ones as well. So, expect to see ongoing activities in the streets and where power resides.
The second forecast, of now President Trump being a one term president, I am confident will be the case. The exception is if he leaves before the end of his term. It is laughable to this observer when Trump and Republicans talk about a second term.
Finally, the first forecast that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the two party duopoly in America. America has the longest running democracy in the world and the only one with a two party system. As John Adams warned:
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
So, one of the founding fathers of our Democracy suggests our current situation is evil.
I think this forecast will, to some degree become true. As of November 2017, the Republican party seems to be splitting into two: the old, traditional party of Rockefeller, Scranton, Reagan and even Goldwater on the one hand and the fringe element of the Trump and Bannon ascendancy. The Democrats seem to possibly be moving toward a split. The “traditional” part of the party is aging and has no victories anywhere to point to in the last 10 years. [It wasn’t the Democrats that lifted Obama, it was Obama that lifted Democrats]. The populist and “leftist” part of the party, represented by Sanders and Warren is at odds with the elitist part of the party.
When discussing this topic over the last year, I have expressed my thinking that there will be four parties on the national scene in 2020. It looks like we don’t have to look past the out of touch two party duopoly to see where the four parties might come from. That said, the Republicans and Democrats are totally co-dependent and have worked together to make the bar incredibly high for other parties to get on the ballot. If the parties themselves cannot hold the center, then this reality could easily change.