Political worst case scenarios
Generally we tend to get really obsessed with a single election and we tend to think of the worst case scenario as being our candidate loses badly in particular against a candidate we see as extremely terrible and destructive. This is especially true in large scale elections like the Presidency.
Maybe it’s because I’ve got a very cynical and paranoid mindset but sometimes I spend a lot of time thinking and worrying of an even worst thing that could happen. During these times, the worst case I fear is the one one step removed from simply electing a bad dude. To me the worst thing that could happen is my preferred candidate who has the right ideas and knows what he or she is doing (assuming I’m right about that) wins but then some horrifying disaster strikes after about oh say three years in office. And then my preferred candidate’s ideas are blamed for the disaster. This is particularly likely if said candidate got blocked from doing doing anything substantive for three years or is not able to make enough substantive changes to an already screwed up situation before the disaster strikes.
This is much worse than my candidate simply losing. In this scenario the next election is not simply a loss for my preferred candidate but a massive overwhelming loss for everything that candidate stood for. The disastrous scenario is the one where not only does my preferred candidate not win the next election but for a decade or more no candidate like my preferred candidate in any way has much of a chance of winning anything. That’s the case I fear.
For example in this election cycle, I pretty much support Bernie Sanders and oppose Donald Trump and Ted Cruz both of which becoming President would not make me happy. But what I fear most is the scenario where Sanders gets the nomination wins but barely over a Trump or a Cruz but the House is totally controlled by the Right. Sanders could even usher in a Democratic Senate and even have a super majority there and it wouldn’t help this scenario at all. In fact it might make it worse. You see what happens is that the local politics remains heavily in control of Republicans and most people trust their local politicians more than they do big national figures. That’s fine and all but the problem will be of course that the House will not enable Sanders to achieve anything especially since they consider him a Socialist. There’s a chance also Sanders could even be too principled or stupid to exercise enough executive power to blunt the effects of an ineffectual congress. I say that not to insult him, but as a realist. I see myself as the person who would need a LOT of convincing to be willing to overtly and excessively use executive power because it’s just flat not right to override our nation’s Congress no matter how good the reason. Over the long haul I see the growing power of the executive branch and the weakening of the congressional branch as the most damaging trend in American politics. But in this scenario trying to blunt that longer term disastrous trend would be a mistake of colossal proportion.
What’s worse the Business world might wholesale reject Sanders in a way we can hardly imagine because he’s a proclaimed ‘Socialist’. If that happens I can imagine a kind of almost deliberate sabotage going on where no matter what Sanders tries he can’t get much of any support from any of the traditional avenues of power. Unlike Obama he won’t be able to find some corporations or big organizations that are willing to go along with him on issues even if they secretly agree with him and they just make sense in the long haul. Instead they get their back up and go “I’m not gonna let some damned socialist tell me what to do!” They may well deliberately choose to do the opposite of a Sanders recommendation out of spite. At least that’s the case in my doomsday scenario.
This would not be enough to create a bad outcome by itself. In fact such overwhelming opposition could even be a good thing for Sanders if he can translate it into local grassroots support. It could create a real movement for real change on a systemic level, weakening the power of entrenched interests in our nation. That’s the best case.
But it would be a disaster if in the midst of all this opposition the economy goes through a second and far more devastating crash that affects all of the citizens in visceral and real way. If that happens, people will look to their local leaders, Republicans mostly, who will redirect blame artfully in the direction of all the national leaders. They will rage at Sanders inability to get things done, rage at the Senate’s inability to hold anyone to account and rage at the Congress as a whole. They will be open to either a new third party candidate we haven’t heard of… or… more likely someone they are familiar with who has been telling them everything is doomed and a disaster all along who is already an outsider. Someone like Donald Trump. But not just him but all of the people echoing a similar world view. It would create a wave election like we’ve rarely seen in American politics. And then we’ll have leaders who have the wrong ideas and little idea of what they are doing but a strong desire to be doing something and to look tough while doing it backed by a citizenry who will not accept inaction. Bad things can happen in such a climate. And it would take a very very long time for people to realize that they made a terrible mistake.
This is not particularly about Trump or Sanders. It could happen with Clinton and Cruz too. Or if you’re a right winger I’m sure you can imagine the scenario reversed. It’s just a worst case scenario. One, I think, it’s worth it to be cognizant of. That’s not to say one should hope for the other side to win. That’s silly. I’m just saying we should strive for more than just one candidate winning here or there. We should strive for getting our ideas to win. We should strive to change minds and hearts on a scale that makes whatever victory we have in the political sphere sufficient to translate into many real and enacted policy changes that are for the better of our nation. We should strive to change minds and hearts in such a way that people are not tricked or deceived by the incorrect and foolish ideas even when things are looking at their worst. We should strive to change hearts and minds to the point that we are looking at generations of future thinkers and politicians who see politics differently and are ready and willing to step up to change things when the moment is right. That’s the only way one can reduce the likelihood of a worst case scenario and be prepared to recover from one should it arise.
Or of course you can reverse everything I’ve said and talk about a best case scenario in the case of a major opponent’s victory.
Elections are just proxies for a much greater and deeper war of ideas that is a lot harder to win. So while I take elections extremely seriously and I’ll take this Presidential election very seriously I will neither fall into despair or be overly elated by the outcome either way. It sounds pretty cliche I know but the real fight will go on regardless.