Saturday will mark the one-month countdown to Election Day, and it’s here not a moment too soon. It’s been a slog of an election — by Nov. 8, nearly 600 days will have passed since the first candidate threw his hat into the ring. As John Oliver pointed out in August 2015 following the first GOP primary debate, “There will be actual babies born on Election Day 2016 whose parents haven't even met yet.” So why, Lord, why, why, why, just 32 days shy of being shut of presidential politics for a moment, are people already talking about Election 2020?
It’s hard to know exactly who to blame for this. I blame The Hill for sticking the succinct tweet in my feed. I blame Morning Consult and Politico for conducting the poll, even though it shows a savvy understanding of what readers will inevitably want to know more about. I think I blame Mike Pence for his strange, Sphinx-like victory performance at Tuesday night’s debate, which he won by not saying a word about the many, many inflammatory words spoken by his running mate.
But mostly, I blame you. And me. I blame us. We’ve done this to ourselves. And the worst part is: I think Election 2020 might be even worse than 2016.
Let’s think this through: There are basically four possible outcomes that would lead us into the 2020 election.
The first (and let’s indulge a little fantasy here and call it the best) outcome would be if Clinton wins in 2016, and has a moderately successful (or better!) presidency. Unemployment stays low, wages rise, the economy continues to grow, the problems of Obamacare are addressed, nobody nukes anybody.
The second, more likely scenario — since politics and the world are hard — is that Clinton wins in November and has a middling or unsuccessful presidency. Then we can expect the misogyny from 2016 to morph into a kind of “I told you so, women don’t have the brains/gravitas/genitals to be president” sexism. Regardless of whether it’s deserved or not, the anti-woman rhetoric will be painful — probably more so since Clinton will at that point be 72 years old, and, you know, society hates older women.
The third possibility for 2020, which I will refer to as Nightmare Scenario A, is if Trump pulls out a victory this year, and his presidency goes as badly as everyone anticipates it will. The wall is an immigration (and financial and environmental) disaster, the economy crumbles, we get into a trade war (or a real war!) with China, etc. Short of an unprecedented GOP overthrow of an incumbent candidate, we'll have to sit through a second Donald Trump campaign, litigating every last one of his old (and new!) travesties. This is all assuming he doesn't suspend elections with his Presidential Powers Cosmic Act, and save us the trouble.
The final — and frankly, most terrifying — setup for 2020 will be if Trump wins in 2016, and then things sort of go OK. I don’t know who in the Democratic Party will step up to try and take him on, but an incumbent Trump with a half-decent economy could be the seven-headed hydra of electoral politics. In fact, as I envision this (hopefully distant) possibility, there’s only one hero I can think of who would be able to take him down.
Help us, Michelle Obama, you’re our only hope.