On the Sunday before the 2016 election, when media and political elites still imagined that Democrat Hillary Clinton might become the 45th president of the United States, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was asked what he thought would happen if the candidate he was supporting, Republican Donald Trump, were to prevail.
The former speaker of the US House of Representatives did not paint a rosy picture of peace and prosperity and national unity. Quite the opposite. Gingrich imagined more division.
Much more division.
“November 9th?” asked Meet the Press host Chuck Todd. “What do we do as a country on November 9th? Because this has been a rough election. And I want to use your words. This is what you said in January of 2001 after another very contentious presidential election. You said the following: ‘Most Americans do not find themselves actually alienated from their fellow Americans or truly fearful if the other party wins power. Unlike in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, or Rwanda, competition for power in the US remains largely a debate between people who can work together once the election is over.’”
“That was American circa 2001, as far as you were concerned,” continued Todd. “Do you believe that’s the case in January of 2017?”
“No. No, I think tragically, we have drifted into an environment where…if Trump is elected, it will just be like Madison, Wisconsin, with Scott Walker. The opposition of the government-employee unions will be so hostile and so direct and so immediate, there will be a continuing fight over who controls the country. I think that we are in for a long, difficult couple of years, maybe a decade or more, because the gap between those of us who are deeply offended by the dishonesty and the corruption and the total lack of honesty in the Clinton team. And on their side, their defense of unions, which they have to defend, I understand that. But that will lead to a Madison, Wisconsin, kind of struggle if Trump wins.”
“Wow,” replied a nonplussed Todd, who reflected momentarily on the picture Gingrich had painted, and then said, “I’m going to let you go.”
That option no longer exists. We must take Gingrich, and Trump, seriously.
The Trump team is in charge.
The “billionaire populist” has won the presidency, empowered by white working-class voters who were so desperate for change that they embraced an oligarch. Clinton has conceded her defeat in the bitterest presidential race since 1800. Trump has won an Electoral College majority, even if he is likely to lose the popular vote.
The Republican president will have what Walker and many other Republican governors had who were elected in the “wave” year of 2010: “trifecta” control of the government, with GOP dominance of the executive branch and both chambers of the legislative branch.