With some base of knowledge the U.S. Electoral College and the various “battleground states” a candidate needs to win the presidency, I knew on election night that an early start for the Republican nominee in states like Kentucky and Indiana was not something to be overly worried about.
But when Hillary Clinton pulled out a razor thin victory in Virginia (a state that was supposed to be a relatively safe Democratic one), and the votes didn’t seem to be there to overcome her deficits in North Carolina and Florida, a sense of panic began to set in.
A stubborn four point lead for Donald Trump in Wisconsin was the final piece of evidence I needed — the guy whose candidacy almost everyone considered to be a joke a year ago was going to become President of the United States.
I turned off the TV and logged out of my Facebook account to avoid bearing witness to the doom and despair a Trump victory would inevitably inspire among just about every right-thinking person I know. It was an early 9:00 bedtime for me on election night.
We all cope with bad news in our own ways.
Yes, I am starting here from the premise that a Donald Trump presidency is a bad thing — an unmitigated disaster if you will. But while his election is certainly a negative, his unorthodox style means there is an array of possible outcomes to this tragedy. Let’s start with the worst case scenario.
As just about everyone knows, Donald Trump has spent the last year massaging the darkest impulses of modern American society and the biggest fear at this point is that he is a man of his word. If Trump keeps his promises, hard times lie ahead for the various minorities he has scapegoated for the problems that plague America.
But the victims of Trump’s America wouldn’t be limited to Muslims and Hispanics. Equally frightening is the fact that Trump hasn’t shown the slightest interest in many of the institutions that “Make America Great” — including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the rule of law, the separation of powers, or principles related to limited government. With both houses of Congress and the power to appoint Supreme Court judges under the full control of Republicans, we will get to see just how strong those institutions are.
The dangers of a Trump presidency extend beyond America’s borders as well. He has been notoriously thin-skinned and prone to angry outbursts which doesn’t bode well if an international row were to flare up — say a downed American aircraft over North Korea or some sort of aggressive naval movement on the part of an increasingly confident Chinese government.
Such situations require cool heads and restrained conduct to avoid calamity — and unfortunately neither of those traits characterize Donald Trump.
Worst case scenario? A Trump presidency threatens the American republic we (sometimes grudgingly) respect at its very core.
But thankfully Armageddon is but one possible outcomes in the array of possibilities.
There is a sliver of hope that Donald Trump the president will be nothing like Donald Trump the candidate. There have been voices who for some time have said that Trump doesn’t mean what he says and — while I generally strive to take politicians at their word — there is an air of reality to this theory.
Trump has been so wildly inconsistent and unpredictable that there really are no guarantees about how he will govern. Some of his most controversial promises — including his pledge to ban Muslims from America — reportedly vanished from his website on election night as if “we have always been at war with Eurasia” to borrow from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. It was later replaced.
But here too lie grave concerns if American conservativism is not your cup of tea. A very conservative crop of Republicans now control both houses of Congress, and as a friend aptly put it, they are quickly moving to “fill the empty vessel that is Donald Trump.”
Trump’s running mate Mike Pence, for instance, is an evolution-denying throwback who believes in the ghastly practice of gay conversion therapy. If voices like his have Trump’s ear America is in serious trouble.
It is possible that Trump will become a lackey of the Republican leadership and implement all of the insane tax restructuring, social spending slashing policies they have been drooling over all these years leading to a world of hurt for Americans socially and economically.
Trump will also get to appoint at least one — probably more — Supreme Court justices which will put a conservative stamp on the court’s decisions for a generation.
Not quite the xenophobic quasi-fascism Trump has spent the past year promising America but a frightening possibility for progressives nonetheless.
The optimist in me sees a third possible outcome.
Maybe Trump will come to see the Republican establishment in Washington as part of that “swamp” that needs to be drained and rather than tacking hard to the right he governs pragmatically by deferring to the advice of experts and reasoned individuals.
Or perhaps the narcissist in him will drive him to try expand his base of support beyond the “basket of deplorables” by pursuing policies designed to convince voters who have taken to the street for nightly protests since his election that he is not that bad.
And while I’m dreaming I’d like a BMW.
Yes these are uncertain times and I’d suggest that anyone who claims to know exactly how the next four to eight years are going to play out with this wild and unpredictable man know not of what they speak — although I’d be inclined to err on the side of pessimism.
Kyle Carruthers is a born-and-raised Yukoner who lives and practises law in Whitehorse.