Not much about this toxic political moment – the demise of trust in government, rage at elites who have controlled a broken system, brutal personal attacks, a disregard for facts, and rupture besting unity – is likely to abate after Election Day. Then we get to do it all over again in four years.
At ages 70 and 69 by Inauguration Day in January, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would seem to be unlikely two-term presidents. Not only would Trump become our nation’s oldest person elected president (after Ronald Reagan), but should Clinton win, she would become the second oldest. Perhaps more powerful than Father Time are the odds that neither of these two highly polarizing and disliked candidates can heal a deeply divided country and become a trusted leader. Against the backdrop of a nation reeling from a burgeoning terrorist threat, economic deterioration, and painful racial division, the campaigns of two singularly unpopular presidential candidates have left most Americans feeling emotions ranging from disappointment to despair.
Based on the examples of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, we can expect the opposition party to savage the new president. Yet Trump or Clinton could also face revolt from within their own parties.