Hillary Clinton will soon face the strangest general-election campaign in modern American history. In a conventional sense, it’s the easiest. That’s because her likely opponent, Donald Trump, is almost certainly too unpopular to win. A full two-thirds of Americans view him unfavorably. To be sure, Clinton’s unfavorability rating is high as well: It’s around 50 percent. The difference is that she retains the support of core Democratic constituencies, like African Americans, Latinos, single women, and the young. Trump, by contrast, is disliked by literally every major demographic group in the country: Even the blue-collar whites who are supposedly his base.
But while Clinton should find winning this fall’s election easier than past nominees have, she’ll also find it uniquely perilous. That’s because this year, more than at anytime since the 1970s, the country’s racial and class conflicts threaten to spiral out of control. Trump’s supporters constitute a minority even of working-class whites. But they are a desperate minority, driven by a toxic combination of economic hopelessness and racial resentment. And, already, Trump has repeatedly spurred some of them to violence.
Politically, Clinton can defeat Trump by rallying President Obama’s “coalition of the ascendant”: minorities, single women, white professionals, and the young. But since it is losing—politically, economically, culturally, and racially—that has driven Trump’s supporters to back him in the first place, defeat will only leave them more aggrieved. And more dangerous.