The 2016 American Election & the prospect for political instability in the United States
With weeks to go before the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States (January 20, 2017), many alarming articles have been written, most apocalyptically forecasting the end of the United States as a global power and the end of the US international order founded back in 1945.
It would be easy to dismiss all of these articles as the febrile imaginings of progressive elites around the world, reeling at the prospect of Trump as US commander-in-chief – the antithesis of political correctness – were it not for the one sword hanging over the president-elect – outgoing President Obama’s investigation into claims that the Russian Federation had a hand in supporting Trump’s bid for the presidency.
While Trump has dismissed these claims outright, they are supported by the CIA, itself an instrument of American power long used to politically interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries.
With Obama prosecuting this line of inquiry so close to Trump’s inauguration, this could tip the American polity into a crisis the likes of which we have not seen since the Civil War.
Imagine, millions of voters (many of them armed) who passionately supported Trump as the anti-establishment candidate and believed that their system had delivered to them a person who could ‘drain the swamp’ of corrupt and unseemly dealings in Washington D.C., discovering they had delivered a Russian stooge to the White House.
This, if proven, would delegitimize the November 2016 election results in one stroke.
While we have no historic template for what may happen next, it is doubtful that the Democratic Party would celebrate the almost certain impeachment of a sitting president. Those who voted for Trump may well turn against him if indeed they were betrayed by him, but they will not vote for the Democratic Party and will, no doubt, be wary of any ‘establishment candidate’ the Republicans may put up to fill the void – including Vice President Mike Pence. Steady hands may well be needed to guide the ship of state through this rough passage. Could it be that Obama may even be given a third term in office?
If it were discovered that Russia had directly or indirectly brought Trump to power, the US national security establishment may consider Trump and a ‘penetrated’ Republican party a threat to national security. Normal democratic processes under these circumstances may well be expected to be suspended pending an investigation.
But even were this extreme scenario too much for people to consider, there are other options e.g. Trump’s possible impeachment; his possible assassination with the immediate aftermath being a rudderless Washington D.C., where the progressive elite’s political agenda might well be considered the lesser evil, while the conservatives tear themselves apart.
This prospect might not be as dramatic as the first one laid out, but a political crisis of the nature of scenario two which, if placed on a slow burn, can eat away at the soul of the United States leaving it a much smaller entity and leaving the field open to strategically smaller, more hungry states like Russia and China.