What’s Next?American Politics After the 2016 Election

Ben Geyman, Jack Weiss, Dante Moussapour, Chas Burton-Callegari
With three weeks remaining before Election Day, Donald Trump needs a miracle to make his way into office. Following the third and final presidential debate on October 19th , poll data aggregated on Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com shows Donald Trump nursing a 12.6% chance of victory. In a post-debate analysis, Silver notes that while unforeseeable future events or catastrophic polling errors are possible, a shift that would lead to a Trump presidency would be unprecedented and is extremely unlikely for a host of reasons. With the outcome of the 2016 Election looking increasingly certain, we look ahead at how America’s political parties will shift inresponse to this race.
What will happen in the Democratic Party?
Yes, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary over Bernie sanders. Yes, she collected more votes than him. But it was not without difficulty. Bernie Sanders’campaign exposed the large population of Democrat voters that lean far left of Hillary. Clinton barely won the primary, and her poll numbers have received a significant bump from voters more invested in preventing Trump’s presidency (Never Trumpmovement) than in supporting her. US News argues that if the Democrats lose the election, “It [the DemocraticParty] has to put a growing economy and job creation at the top of their list ofpriorities, not climate change and abortion rights. The article then argues that the2millennial party may abandon the Democrats if Hillary loses. Earlier this year in a Washington Post article, we are presented with information on the split between supporters of the Democratic party. The article claims that 16% of Americans (a bit less than half of people who identify as Democrats) claim to be Democratic-Independents, an amount that adds up to millions of people.With all evidence pointing towards Clinton becoming our next President, it will be interesting to see how she incorporates issues important to Sanders-supporting Democrats. Clinton has already adopted many of Sanders’ platform points, notably by abandoning support for the TPP and adding a measure on debt-free public university education. However, on October 24th, Sanders issued a statement promising to do his part to prevent Hillary from moving to the center in office. The important policies that emerge from Clinton’s presidency will likely be heavily influenced by how well left-leaning Democratic members of Congress are able to coordinate efforts keep her from moving towards the political center on issues like the federal minimum wage and climate change.
How will the GOP change after this election?
Regardless of the election outcome, Trump’s rise to top of the Republican ticket clearly signals a tide change in the GOP. This is an easy point to make, though nailing down exactly what the change means for the future of the party is more difficult. Speculations on the future of the party have become a subject of media fascination, and we will weigh in below. An NBC special report on the future of the GOP claims that before 2016, the modern Republican Party was “a diverse but sturdy three-legged stool of security hawks, tax cutters and religious conservatives.” While disagreement over the primary values of conservatism pre-dated Trump, the GOP coalition united around the shared interest in winning elections. The forceful emergence of the Tea Party in 2008 exposed some of the differences between the Republican voter base and the party elite, and Trump signals an even larger departure. Trump publicly ignored opposition fromparty leaders, and “violated party orthodoxy on trade, entitlement reform, money in politics, and national security.If Trump loses in November, the GOP will have many possible paths as they realign their key issues for future elections. One possibility is that the Republican Party remains a party of Trump after the election, with immigration and trade reform emerging as lasting leading issues. This populist shift would move the GOP away from the business elite and towards the middle class worker. 
A second possibility is that Trump was simply an anomaly and the GOP establishment will regain control over the party. The party elite could use Trump’s loss as evidence that his important policies were not viable for winning elections, and large donors like the Koch Brothers could replace issues such as trade restrictions, and immigration reforms (deportation, bans on Muslim immigration, etc) with more business-centric issues like reducing taxes and business regulations. Additionally, a significant target of the establishment leadership would be to diversify the party, cited in 2012 as a cause for their defeat. Trump has generally antagonized Hispanic votersand women, though these groups may be important for the GOP in the future. If theestablishment regains control, we may see a rejection of Trump and courtship of newdemographic groups underrepresented in the GOP.
The final, and perhaps most likely outcome, is that nothing changes quickly forthe GOP. Trump will have given a voice to one subset of the party, but the GOP willrecognize that they cannot win elections without forcefully mobilizing all parts of thecoalition. GOP leaders will continue the struggle to overlook differences within theparty in order to prevent losing elections to a Democratic party more different fromany of the internal GOP factions.
Do third parties finally have a place in American Politics?
Never Trump. Never Hillary. In many presidential elections there have been third party candidates looking to buck the two party system and spoil the election forprominent Democratic and Republican candidates. However, in most cases we see these candidates running on platforms that show them as a healthy alternative inpolicy, but this election is different. In this election, we have seen a strong hatred for either candidate, making the third party candidates a vote cast out of spite for manyangered by other options. We knew this going into this election cycle, and have seen Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson approach 10% of the popular vote, which would a significant vote share for that party, but more importantly, a significant draw from Clinton and Trump. The charts below demonstrate that the third party candidates have affected the vote share of either candidate already, as the four way race is much closer than the two party polling. This was especially true about a month ago, as Clinton’s lead was pulled within the margin of error because of the voter shareof Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
But as we see this election cycle come to an end, it is clear that neither third party willbe in contention (although there is a slim percentage of a win for Gary Johnson in NewMexico) , it is time to reflect on the future of these two parties.7
There are several bright spots for the Libertarian Party going forward.Depending on the results, they will be automatically put on the ballot for the nextelection cycle, saving time and money. This year they are 33 states with the chance togrow to more in the future. Why does this matter? If the next several elections include8less favorable politicians, we could begin to see a larger vote share from theLibertarian Party as they already have a foot in the door of by being on the ballot. Thisis especially true as the idea of ranked choice voting begins to surface in the wake ofunpopular candidates. Maine for example, will be voting on whether to introduceranked choice voting into state legislative elections, a decision that comes as a direct9response to Governor Lepage winning with reflection with less than 40% of thepopular vote. So as we reflect on the future of the Libertarian Party after the 2016election, it is clear that they have a reason to be somewhat optimistic. They will reachnew national prominence, and may prove to steal several down vote elections in thefuture. That being said, it does not seem at all realistic to assume that Libertarian Partyhas enough support to make a valid bid at the White House.
Turning our attention to the Green Party, optimism should decrease. Last week Dr. Noam Chomsky spoke at Bowdoin. During his Q&A forum, a local Bernie supporter,turned Green Party supporter asked, “Can I be hopeful in my voice be heard in thefuture?” (paraphrased) Chomsky was praiseful of the Bernie revolution, and the recent support of the Green Party as an extension, but was weary of the future. His recommendation: greater effort between elections. He believed that the Green Party cannot continue to make little effort until the general election rolls around, and instead make a more established grassroots movement.As the above analysis shows, neither party is prepared to make a bid for the White House anytime soon. But this election has given them a new popular foothold tobuild on, and we can expect to see the Democratic and Republican Party tested indown ballot elections in years to come.
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