The 2016 presidential election has been one of the ugliest races in the nation’s political history, and its after-effects could be even worse.
No matter who wins on Tuesday, half the country will be angry.
If Donald Trump wins, Democrats will blame FBI Director Jim Comey.
If Hillary Clinton wins, Trump and his supporters will likely blame the GOP establishment for not uniting behind him.
And that’s just the beginning.
If Clinton wins, Republicans in Congress are already talking about years of investigations and even the possibility of impeachment.
Eyeing likely midterm gains, the GOP will have little incentive to cooperate on possible bipartisan compromises with a Democratic president.
If Trump wins, he’ll need to deal with a Democratic establishment that will be hoping to gain congressional seats in 2018 and make him a one-term president by 2020.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a Trump supporter, summed up the situation on Sunday.
“Tragically, we have drifted into an environment where if Hillary is elected, the criminal investigations will be endless,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And if Trump is elected…the opposition of the government employees will be so hostile and so direct and so immediate….We are in for long, difficult couple of years, maybe a decade or more.”
In a normal election, the losing candidate offers a concession speech that seeks to unite the country in some way.
After this campaign, which some parents have shielded their children from due to the R-rated content, it’s anyone’s guess if that will happen.
Here’s a quick look back at the concession speeches of the last four presidential cycles:
Mitt Romney in 2012: “I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters.”
John McCain in 2008: “In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, [Obama’s] success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.”
John Kerry in 2004:”Earlier today, I spoke to President Bush and I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory. We had a good conversation. And we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity for finding the common ground, coming together. Today I hope that we can begin the healing.”
Al Gore in 2000: “Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”
The loser on Tuesday night would be wise to read these speeches, and mimic them.
Yet even if such a speech is given, there is likely to be little unity in Washington or in a divided country.
Here’s what is likely to happen.
IF CLINTON WINS
Trump and his movement are not going silently into the night.
If Trump launches some kind of media enterprise, as has been widely expected, the GOP nominee would have a megaphone to go after his enemies – Democratic and Republican alike.