We can all be thankful that it’s less than three weeks until Election Day. Anyone who says he or she is undecided on a presidential choice may not be telling the truth, as I’ve had a hard time finding a single person who is absolutely unsure. When friends tell me they don’t like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I have to remind them that many elections are decided by who you dislike the least. That was the case in Carter vs. Reagan and Bush vs. Gore.
The real question that both major political parties must face, after Election Day, is what lessons they’ve learned. The Republicans have the bigger headaches, but that doesn’t leave out the Democrats, who must do some reflecting of their own.
The best way to guess what the Republican Party will look like after November is to read mythology and learn about the Hydra. According to the Greeks, it was a multi-headed monster with poisonous breath. Come Nov. 9, the Republicans will become a three-headed modern version of the Hydra.
One of the heads will represent the Trump movement. This angry bunch, said to number as many as 12 million people, will no doubt be disappointed with the results and Trump’s likely claim that the election was “rigged.” They will be angry because their hopes that Trump would elevate them to a new level will have been dashed. They will also learn in a very short time that they have been manipulated by one of the greatest salesmen since P.T. Barnum.
The second head will be the mainstream Republican Party. Once again, it will have ignored the lessons of the Mitt Romney campaign, which ignored Hispanics and other minorities, which contributed to Romney’s defeat. Study after study will arrive at the same conclusions. The Republican Party is destined to be out of the White House for many years to come unless it opens up its tent to Americans of every background. For members of the so-called old guard, this is a bitter lesson, because for over a century the party has been like a country club, admitting only a limited number of members.
The third Republican Hydra head will be the hard-line conservatives, who in some states include groups like the Ku Klux Klan and other supremacy groups. They have devoured the Tea Party, but they have no real strength other than their 60 members of the House of Representatives, whose goal has been to stop everything President Obama has tried to do and shut down the government.
Besides ignoring past recommendations of inclusion in the party, the Republicans have to figure out how to limit the number of candidates who want to stand on stage at party presidential debates. When 16 people are given the opportunity to be on television, nothing will stop them from the competition. The success of Trump is a lesson in how easy it was for a TV personality to steal the party while it was sound asleep. It sounds undemocratic, but there have to be party rules that limit the field of candidates to a modest number.
It remains to be seen whether the Republicans will lose control of the Senate, but let’s assume for now that the Democrats will gain slim control of that chamber. Just about everyone in the country thinks Congress is inept and incapable of accomplishing anything. How many polls do we have to read showing that people thinks they’re all a bunch of useless partisans? Many an incumbent will get re-elected, but that isn’t a vote of confidence. It’s just a lucky accident.
The Democratic Party, too, has its work cut out for it. The Bernie Sanders devotees aren’t going away, and many of them will decide in the next four years whether to stick with the party. If Clinton wins this election, she’ll face a serious opponent in 2020, and many in her base may abandon her. When you look around the country, it’s easy to see that the party isn’t overloaded with rising stars.
My warning to both parties is that if we’re treated to more gridlock and government shutdowns, many of them will be booted out of office come 2018. No matter who wins what office on Election Day, this year’s results won’t be a vote of confidence in anyone.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.