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The 2016 Presidential Campaign Is Not Going To Change

November 3, 2015

(Now that it’s Election Day 2015, the Politics department here at MassCommons World Headquarters has grudgingly agreed to start writing about the 2016 presidential race.)

TrenchWarfareWe don’t do predictions.  This isn’t a pregame show or a Beltway cocktail party.

On the other hand, we’ve had a thought for some months now about how the presidential race might turn out, so we’re going to write it down now just in case it does turn out that way—not so we can say “I told you so” (satisfying though that might be) but so we can at least say “I thought so“.

The thought is this: nothing is going to change.  This is going to be the election campaign equivalent of World War I trench warfare—not because it will be so ugly, but because it won’t move more than a few yards back or forth.

Right now, just as she has all year, Hillary Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee and she has an edge over any of a handful of likely Republican nominees.  That’s how it’s going to stay for the next 12 months.

The economy will keep chugging along in low gear, adding a couple hundred thousand jobs a month.  Whatever global crises there are will not result in a major new war involving hundreds of thousands of US troops.  President Obama’s popularity and job approval ratings will stay roughly where they are now (and have been for years).

On Election Day 2016, Clinton will win a narrow but solid victory and become the first female president in US history.  Republicans will still control the House of Representatives.  Democrats may (or may not) narrowly retake the Senate.

That’s the thought.  It’s not a prediction.  The economy could slip into recession.  Violence overseas or terrorist attacks on US soil could draw the nation into another long, bloody and debilitating war.  Clinton could campaign poorly or an opponent could campaign brillliantly.  Any of a thousand unexpected and improbable events could reshape the campaign.

But the long, slow demographic shift that’s reshaping American society—not unlike the demographic shift in the wake of the great European migration in the late 19th-early 20th century—continues to grind forward, giving Clinton (or any Democratic nominee) a slight, but significant advantage.  That same shift—combined with the distribution of populations, the peculiarities of the American electoral system, and the emergence of two distinct electorates for presidential and off-year elections—means Republicans will continue to wield power in Congress and a majority of states.

There may come a time when the scales do tip and Democrats seize control, forcing a radical reshaping of the Republican coalition (or the party’s collapse, to be replaced by another center-right coalition party), but that time is not now.

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