The 2020 presidential election remains very much up for grabs, but one thing already seems clear: It will end with about half of America triumphant, and the other half furious and fearful.
Whichever side ultimately prevails in November, red and blue America are diverging along both demographic and geographic lines as sharply as at any other point in modern American history. The biggest lesson of the coming year may be that for all the divisiveness that President Donald Trump has stoked, the political divide may still continue to grow wider.
The 2020 election looms as a “Battle of the Bulge” between a Republican coalition that represents what America has been and a Democratic coalition that embodies what it is becoming. By all indications, turnout in next year’s election is poised to be the highest in decades, in part because so many Americans consider the stakes to be so high. Across the red and blue divide, it is now common to hear voters say they fear that the America they believe in will disappear if the other side prevails in 2020. That anxiety and antagonism has been building for years, but it has dramatically intensified since 2016.
Trump is the first president since at least the Civil War to so directly kindle the nation’s political conflicts. He has governed almost entirely as the president of red America, excoriating his political opponents while wielding the power of the federal government to punish blue America. He has been unique among presidents in offering virtually no concessions to viewpoints outside of his coalition.