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Clinton May Win the Election, But Lose the Nation

9-9-2016

This is my first official post on this blog. I will keep it short. It has been an extraordinary year and the most intense, volatile, and significant presidential election in sixty years.  There are real, serious, and far-reaching economic and political challenges facing the American economic and political space. A recent post by Larry Summers observed that in 25 years over one-third of adult males will be unemployed. (I think his numbers are conservative). In addition, the on-going integration of the global political order is bringing an end to the nation-state system and preparing for new forms of political organizations. Both of these movements--the economic and political--are irreversible. The fear surrounding these epochal changes is immanent and visceral. It is this fear that is producing a deep and comprehensive anxiety in the private and public consciousness of hundreds of millions of Americans.  In multiple domains of American economic, social, and political relations, this fear and anxiety has led to increasing questions about the legitimacy of the legal and political institutions of America. It is in this maelstrom of consciousness, power, and politics, that we are conducting a presidential election.

Just when one thought that things could not get more complicated, more strained, and more fragile, there was the release of the now infamous Trump audio recording. The recording is repugnant. It does not matter that it was private. However, the release of this tape is the worst thing that could have happened and it represents a significant danger. If the Clinton campaign orchestrated it for political advantage, it is the single worst strategic blunder in American political history.  In fact, the potential advantage gained by the release of the tape--it destroys Trump's campaign and hands the White House to Clinton--is precisely what makes is so uniquely dangerous. Why? For the first time in my political memory, and perhaps even for the first time in the history of presidential elections and debates (someone correct me if I am mistaken here. Quite possible), the question of the legitimacy of the political system and the peaceful transition of power has been called into question. I was astonished to hear Mr. Holt, the moderator of the first presidential debate, ask each candidate, with complete seriousness and gravity, whether he or she would accept the outcome of the election. Each candidate begrudgingly said yes. It was a truly surreal and terrifying moment. Here we had the candidates on live television, before almost 100,000,000 million voters, nervously discussing the potential end of the Republic. A sort of democratic theatre of political suicide. Right now, the only thing separating the peaceful transfer of power and the continuity of government and social and political instability is a thin thread of legitimacy.  If the release of this tape leads to a significant and blistering defeat of Trump, then it is likely that his supporters, already peering into the economic and political abyss, and who already feel abandoned by the economic and political transformations now underway, will interpret the loss as caused by this dirty, underhanded "October" surprise, orchestrated by the Clinton machine and the "establishment" elite.  Having no where to turn, and no longer willing to commit to what is left of the legitimacy of the process and institutions, they may, as the Governor Kentucky, Matt Bevin, recently said, turn to violence. In this case, Clinton will have won the election, but lost the nation.