Trump’s monumental ego would be blown up even more by a presidential victory, and his modus operandi in business and the nominating process—telling his subordinates to act with no questions asked, using bluster and intimidation to force others to bend to his will—would be reinforced. He has already threatened House Speaker Paul Ryan with consequences if Ryan does not go along with his desires and priorities. And Ryan, Senate Leader McConnell, and other key Republicans and Democrats would not go along with most of them. Would Trump move unilaterally with executive actions, going far beyond any previous president? The prospect of American leadership in the world under a President Trump is downright frightening. What happens when Mexico and China tell him where to put his demands that they pay for a wall and alter their currencies and trading habits? What if Trump early on faces the kind of international challenge George W. Bush had when China shot down an American plane and refused to give it up? Would Trump react as Bush did, with restraint by using diplomatic means? Would Trump try to use the resources of the executive branch, including the Secret Service, the military, the IRS and intelligence agencies, to force members of Congress, the press and other countries to comply? Perhaps not. But there could quickly be a crisis in governance that has not been seen in generations.
Many mainstream Republicans have comforted themselves by noting that Trump has no strong or fixed ideology, and as a lifelong dealmaker, is used to some give-and-take. Maybe they are right. But given that he has no understanding of policy or how policy is made, no ties at all to veterans of politics and government, and disdain for all those who have been inside and made those terrible deals, it would be a long, long time before he would or could recognize the reality of governing in a democracy.
These questions, and the most probable answers to them, are enough to make us look for property in Australia. But it remains true that the likelihood of a Trump presidency is slim. That brings us to the other grim reality of American politics, the continuing tribal conflict and division in Washington. If Republicans in Congress can’t help themselves from giving a collective middle finger to the outgoing president, how will they treat a new Democratic president? If Hillary Clinton wins—after the vast majority of Republicans in Congress endorse their presidential candidate by demonizing the alternative, and given the long history of contentiousness between the Clintons and Republicans in Congress—is there any way it can be better?
The answer is maybe, at least in a small way. A Trump loss might finally empower Republican leaders in Congress, including committee leaders who want to recapture their party and brand it as a problem-solving conservative party, to find areas to work with the new president, at least for a while before the permanent campaign and the midterm imperative take over again. If a President Clinton chooses early priorities wisely, she might be able to help a few over the finish line, in areas like infrastructure and tax reform. Despite the rhetoric of Republicans in Congress, many in the Senate have had very good personal and professional relationships with Clinton from her time there, and she showed a strong grasp of the legislative process when she was in the Senate. And Clinton would be able, through her appointments to executive and judicial positions, to shape a lot of policy, at least incrementally, outside the legislative arena.