At a minimum, Republicans are going to do incredible violence to President Barack Obama's accomplishments.... Trump will almost certainly abrogate Obama's international climate agreement and the global powers agreement preventing Iran from creating their own nuclear arsenal. Republicans will send Trump legislation undermining Obama's legacy everywhere they can find congressional majorities to do so, and Trump will sign those bills. Republicans don't know how to repeal Obamacare, let alone replace it. But they will try.The Supreme Court will return to conservative control, and over the next four years, it may very well become far more conservative. Voting rights will be further weakened; the constitutional right to abortion is vulnerable to abolition.But things could get much, much worse.
David Axelrod, the former senior strategist for President Obama, has long espoused an interesting theory about national elections. As Axelrod explained in January, "Open-seat presidential elections are shaped by perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent. Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have."By Axelrod's reasoning, it's expected that voters will choose a new president who is roughly the opposite of the departing executive -- an assertion that looks quite sound this morning.Some of this will be obvious immediately, because the shifts in presidential style will be jarring. President Obama is measured; Donald Trump is erratic. Obama is intellectual; Trump is incurious. Obama is honest; Trump is pathological. Obama is serious and committed to sound policymaking; Trump is clownish and dismissive of the details of public affairs.But come next year, the stylistic differences will be an inconsequential afterthought by the time a Trump/Pence administration begins governing alongside a far-right, radicalized Republican majority in the House and Senate. The New Republic's Brian Beutler had a good piece on this overnight:
There's a temptation among some to try to look for comfort where available. We collectively hit an iceberg, but maybe we can cling to some floating debris for a while until help arrives. Americans are resilient, and we've been through rough times before.I'd like to offer some kind of assurances along these lines, but I can't do so with any honesty.Millions of families are going to lose their health benefits. Efforts to combat the climate crisis will end and move backwards. The tax system will become radically more regressive. Wall Street will be freed from safeguards and recently created layers of accountability, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be decimated.Immigrants who consider the United States the only home they've ever known will be forced from the country. Minority communities will experience less justice and fewer voting rights. Higher education will be further out of reach for many young people.The United States will lose the world's respect. The Supreme Court will move even further to the right, and the clock on reproductive rights will be turned back a half-century.This is really just a sampling. At no point in modern American history have we seen a political party as radicalized as the contemporary Republican Party, and as a result of the decisions voters made this year, that GOP will dominate federal policymaking for the next several years -- making changes that will affect the nation and the world for generations.And if we look beyond legislative measures, we also see the worst major-party presidential candidate in history who will have access to nuclear codes.Yes, there are some political structures and institutions in place that may offer us some semblance of protection, but Trump has made no secret of his hostility towards democratic norms, his indifference towards traditions, and his affinity for authoritarian ideals.I'm looking for a silver lining. I don't see one.