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How a new Clinton presidency will change American politics forever

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

I won’t go so far as to make a final prediction on the outcome of the 2016 race. My historical analysis indicates that 2016 should be a change election, but Donald Trump is a history shattering candidate who seems intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

{mosads}It is therefore worthwhile to speculate on what might happen to our country and politics if 2016 proves to be a “wave election” with Clinton thumping Donald Trump. As you’ll see, the consequences would be profound.

On Donald Trump:

In the wake of a blowout loss, Trump would surely accept the verdict of the people. Or would he? So far Trump has hedged and firmly committed only to accepting the election’s outcome “If I win.” A truly breathtaking concession. Still, he may not want to marginalize himself by refusing to recognize a clear victory for his opponent. After all, he will still have a brand to defend. Another run at age 74, like Bernie Sanders? Never say never.

On Congress:

Democrats will almost surely regain control of the Senate, which requires only a four-seat gain if they control the vice presidency. Democrats will likely gain seats in Wisconsin and Illinois and hold their seats in Nevada and Colorado. Embattled GOP Republicans in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Florida are running ahead of Trump, but are not likely to survive a Clinton wave. Democrats have a chance as well to gain seats in usually red Arizona, Indiana and Missouri, where the races are currently close.

Control of the House is probably out of reach for Democrats given the small number of competitive districts. It would take a Democratic tsunami not just a wave to wash away the gerrymandering that locks most incumbents in place.

On The Courts:

With an electoral mandate and party control of the Senate, Clinton will have reasonable latitude to nominate the crucial tie-breaking vote on the 4 to 4 deadlocked Supreme Court. She will create the first Supreme Court with a liberal majority since the 1960s. She then may solidify this majority if Justice Kennedy and perhaps Justice Thomas leave the Court.


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Clinton would also have an opportunity to fill nearly 100 vacancies in the federal district and circuit courts with more to come during the term. She will thus have set the course of American jurisprudence for the next generation, with a major impact on matters such as civil rights and liberties, environmental and other business regulations, immigration, policing, and campaign finance.

On Presidential Initiative:

With an electoral mandate Clinton could sustain and extend Obama’s executive actions on the environment, employment, and immigration, this time with a sympathetic Supreme Court. She will uphold the Paris Accords on climate change and the Iran nuclear agreement. She will likely follow the general course of Obama’s foreign policy, with perhaps a more pro-active approach to the Syrian Civil War.

Assuming Republican control of the House, it will be difficult to steer new legislation through Congress. However, bipartisan agreement on matters such and tax and immigration reform, education, and repair of the Affordable Care Act are not necessarily out of reach.

On The Democratic Party:

The party must build upon the progressive agenda that helped power Clinton to a big victory this year and will solidify the backing of young voters. Democrats must consider how every legislative and executive initiative improves the lives of ordinary Americans, with special attention to the party’s loyal minority base.

Democrats must also begin preparing now for the midterm elections of 2018 that will determine control over the post-2020 redistricting process. The party lost badly in the 2010 midterm elections that determined the last redistricting and has been paying the price ever since.

On The Republican Party:

After Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012 the Republican Party resolved that it must change its ways if it hopes to win over minorities. Donald Trump crushed the GOP’s minority outreach this year with the result that Republicans are now laboring on the wrong side of demography. The party’s base of older white Protestants is the most rapidly shrinking segment of the electorate. By 2050, American will likely have become a majority non-white nation.

The GOP can regroup only by thoroughly repudiating the divisive message of the Trump campaign. But it then risks alienating his Trump’s loyal following. A splintering of the Republicans into competing factions certainly possible.

Remember, the Republican Party emerged in the 1850s along with the American or “Know Nothing” Party as one of two offshoots of the shattered Whig Party. It then gained stature as one of the nation’s two major parties and was the dominant force in American politics from 1860 until the Great Depression of the 1930s.  

Ultimately, a Clinton victory will impact every aspect of the American political and legal, scene. Whether you think that is in the best or worst interests of our nation, is your own prediction.

Lichtman is a Distinguished Professor History at American University in Washington, D.C.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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