In a web ad released Friday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign posits what a Trump presidency might look like, with the blunt, melodramatic tagline “Reality has no rewind.” In it, scenes of plummeting stocks, tanks rolling through suburbs, and attack helicopters strafing the ground suggest something that looks more like the exposition-opening of a summer Hollywood blockbuster. But with the race undeniably tightening in the final days of the campaign, it’s probably time to take an honest, sober look at that thing which I, for one, have been avoiding thinking about for the last 15 months: What ill portents does the Trumpocalypse hold for us?
To be clear, these conjectures are based solely on my gut, a gut which hasn’t had an amazing track record so far in this race (let us reminisce back to July, when I thought Clinton’s emails had become “too unsexy” to cause her any more political harm; clearly I didn’t realize she was in danger… Carlos Danger). Even as the forecasters and the betting markets still favor Clinton, it’s probably not unwise to take a moment to think through the reality of what might go down in a Trump presidency; at least that way, if it should come to pass, we won’t be wholly unprepared.
The Supreme Court Vacancy
This is one of the more fascinating questions to puzzle through, less because of what Trump might do and more because of the strange stage the Republicans have set for Senate confirmations, namely, not doing them. Since it seems unlikely that Republicans will win a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate, it’s feasible that the Democrats could hold Trump’s nominees to fill Scalia’s vacancy hostage just as the Republicans did to Obama’s nominees.
But let’s say Trump gets a nominee on the court and that he or she is, as promised, in the vein of Antonin Scalia: On the chopping block are LGBTQ rights (including the recently accepted transgender bathroom case), women’s reproductive rights (including access to abortion), and voter enfranchisement (especially regarding ID laws). This is just one branch of the government, and already it’s pretty dark.
This one is trickier to parse since there are more variables, but let’s hit on Trump’s biggest foreign relation messages. First, let’s say he does renege on NATO, and signals to Putin that portions of Eastern Europe are his for the taking. What happens if Russia invades Latvia, and the executive and legislative branches differ on how to respond? Have we ever had a situation where Congress has declared war when a sitting president hasn’t asked it to?
And that’s probably the more straightforward scenario: On the other side of the planet, what happens if Trump starts the foretold trade wars with China? I don’t want to get hyperbolic, but it seems an opportune moment to revisit one of the things that prompted Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor back in 1941.
Let’s assume Trump gets Congressional approval for his wall, and let’s assume he builds it — both stretches at this point, but hey, let’s live a little. Aside from the potential ecological catastrophes such a wall poses, we also have the disruptions to the economy that will come with his mass deportations: Who will fill the 5 percent of the workforce currently that illegal immigrants account for?
According to FiveThirtyEight, there’s an 11 percent chance of Trump winning the Electoral College but losing the popular vote. While this would no doubt feel horrible, it might be the one silver lining to a Trump victory for liberals, as it could spark real electoral reform — it wouldn’t even have to occur at the national level, if enough states approve the National Popular Vote interstate compact. It wouldn’t fix all our nation’s electoral ills, but it could change the way presidential campaigns are run, since everyone’s vote would count.
In the end, I hope beyond hope that all of this conjecture is ultimately unnecessary, and that years from now we’ll all be able to tell our kids and grandkids about how we (narrowly) avoided the Trumpocalypse.