Wherever you go the overwhelming sentiment is that people can’t wait until this election is over. Psychologists are calling this “Election Stress Disorder.” While November 8th will clarify who wins and loses we would be naïve to believe it all ends after the votes are counted.
Win or lose, the populist Nationalism movement, for which Donald Trump has been the face and voice, won’t go away. The schisms in the Republican Party will have repercussions and bring change. If Trump wins, traditional or mainstream Republicans will likely be forced to find a new home. If he loses, Trump followers will likely bolt, much as the Whigs split and formed their own party in 1834.
It is hard to envision any Republicans scenario that doesn’t result in a split. Nowhere will this be more in evident than in North Carolina, where the battle for the heart and soul of the party is well underway. North Carolina Republicans will cite Jim Martin and Pat McCrory as examples how more moderate Republicans were able to win but there is a vocal element, fueled by the Trump movement, who would rather be “right” than win. Republicans, however, are not alone in facing challenges.
Win or lose, Democrats will be forced to reckon with the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren liberal faction of their party. If Clinton wins, the more liberal faction will claim her victory was a result of support from their followers including Millennials, those demanding change in the financial sector and supporters for free college and universal healthcare. They will insist on a stronger voice in policymaking. If Clinton loses, progressives will blame the defeat on her not being liberal enough.
Counteracting that pressure will be Democrats who remember the Mondale/McGovern era that moved their party so far to the left that not only did they lose those elections but also large numbers (largely white men) revolted and joined the Republican Party. Leaders will remind Democrats that Bill Clinton’s election and success in governing was the result of moving to more moderate political positions. Here in North Carolina we are watching the fledging group called “Main Street Democrats,” espousing more middle-of-the-road, pro business philosophies. They are likely to gain strength to counteract efforts to move their party further to the left. Whatever the election results, it is hard to envision Democrats facing a party split to the extent facing Republicans.
It would be idyllic to hope the rancor, partisanship and divisiveness we’ve experienced would yield to unity in coming months. Al Gore faced a similar hard-fought and highly controversial election in 2000 and began his concession speech reminding us of Stephen Douglas’s concession to Abraham Lincoln. Douglas said, “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism.”
A disappointed Al Gore told the nation, “Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done. And while there will be time enough to debate our continuing differences, now is the time to recognize that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us….This is America and we put country before party.”
We can only pray this sentiment would prevail.
Tom Campbell is the executive producer and moderator of NC Spin.