Media  Foreign Affairs and National Security  2020.11.12

Nine scenarios for the 2020 U.S. elections

the japan times on october 27, 2020

International Politics/Diplomacy The U.S.A.

I always feel depressed in the last week of October before the U.S. presidential election every four years as people always ask me questions like who will win come Nov. 3. Studying the American election process has been my hobby for the past 44 years since I took U.S. Politics 101 at the University of Minnesota in 1976.

With that said, it had been relatively easy for me to predict the outcome of the 10 consecutive presidential elections up to 2012. Things have changed, however, since 2016, when most election geeks in Japan, including myself, did not foresee the Donald Trump victory — which is why I will not venture to make a prediction this time around.

I will say, though, there are more important things than the winners themselves. It is not that I do not want to be a bad loser. I just feel that something ominous has been happening to conservatism in America for the past decade.

When I talk about U.S. elections, I often apply matrix data analysis, focusing on various possibilities that could end in both victories and defeats for either party. Before drawing any conclusions, let me detail scenarios that may or may not happen on the election day as well as how it may impact Japan and and other nations in East Asia in 2021.

Scenario one:

Republicans win the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. This triple-red scenario would be the least likely this year according to the results of recently published national and state-by-state opinion polls. It will probably take at least a decade or two before we see such an outcome.

Scenario two:

Republicans win both the White House and the Senate but lose the House. This means the there will be no serious political or power changes in the nation’s capital. With the status quo maintained — a situation Tokyo knows well how to deal with — Beijing and Pyongyang would likely not be too thrilled with the outcome, while Seoul would remain ambivalent.

Scenario three:

Republicans win the White House while losing both the Senate and the House. This is probably one of the least desirable scenarios as Washington could become paralyzed and may stop functioning properly. And America’s friends and foes will have to deal with a divided U.S. government for the next two to four years.

Scenarios four and five:

Democrats win the White House but lose both the Senate and the House. Or they win the White House and the House. These scenarios are also problematic. The light at the end of the tunnel might be less uncertainty and more predictability in the White House, which is better news for East Asia.

Scenario six and seven:

Democrats win the White House and the Senate but lose the House. Or they only win the Senate. These could be the second least likely because it is inconceivable that Democrats will lose their majority in the House under the current electoral situation. Nonetheless, East Asia will have to deal with Washington regardless.

Scenario eight:

Democrats win all three: the White House, the Senate and the House. This triple-blue scenario might not be all that unreachable for Democrats. This also means that liberal and progressive Democrats might become re-energized and start undoing all the policies and measures taken by the previous Republican president.

Their pacifist, environmentalist and anti-big business ideologies may deteriorate and even divide the the Democrats running the federal government. Beijing and Pyongyang may find some breathing space and Tokyo could be taken by surprise, while Seoul would continue to remain ambivalent.

Still, there is even more. Four years ago, I wrote in my column at the Sankei Shimbun that “The most significant political event in 2016 is probably the fact that the Republican Party has started to disintegrate.” Although I could not confidently predict Mr. Trump’s victory at that time, I believe that this analysis of mine is still valid.

I also stated in the column that “American conservatism was united when the Reagan Democrats joined the Republican camp in 1980. President Ronald Reagan successfully rallied the anti-communist, small-government, religious, ethical, social or other various conservative Americans under the banner of the Republican Party.”

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the once iron-clad Republican solidarity has started to fade. The Neo-Cons lost credibility during the Iraq War and the Tea Party movement of a decade ago also failed. And finally, Mr. Trump’s leadership has begun to destroy the Grand Old Party itself.

By the same token, the rise of Trumpism has stimulated and radicalized the liberal and progressive wings in the Democratic Party. This may further bipolarize the American electorate and make the prospect of a post-COVID-19 era much grimmer and less promising. If so, I must add another scenario to my analysis.

Extra scenario:

This scenario predicts an overwhelming landslide victory in the presidential election.

Trumpism will not go away. That is because Mr. Trump did not create the populist, nationalistic, xenophobic and discriminatory movements — they found him in 2016.

If so, the only way to get the American governance back on track will be a landslide victory. What America needs now is either moderate conservatism or realistic liberalism. Otherwise, like in many other industrialized democracies, healthy governance may not prevail in the United States.

Can American voters really stop the degradation of U.S. politics? Will they make the right decision on Nov. 3? There is not much that friends and foes of the United States can do about it at this point. U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region can only keep their fingers crossed and pray for the best for American democracy.