Now that the hate fest that is the Republican National Convention has officially designated Donald J. Trump as their nominee for president, attention turns to the November general election.
The prospect of a Trump presidency fills few people in America — or the world — with joy, save for his ardent supporters and comedians in need of new material. The rest are holding on to the belief that there is no way Trump will be able to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But there is a very good chance they will be disappointed.
After all, no one believed Trump would end up on the general election ballot in the first place. Yet, here we are.
An Obama presidency followed by Trump seems like a deleted scene from Mike Judge’s 2006 film “Idiocracy.” Nevertheless, even with a strong, Democratic opponent in Hillary Clinton, it remains a real possibility. On election night, it will come down to who gets the most votes to meet the electoral college threshold.
It will be a contest between ideological purity and reality.
The GOP primary stood out with the sheer number of candidates and a level of vitriol that could only be matched by high school bullying. As Trump continued to rise in the crowded field, attacks against him grew. He prevailed even after being called a narcissist, egomaniac and madman.
And that was just the Republican party.
Influential Republicans spoke candidly of how they would not support a Trump candidacy, and rumors persisted that active searches were underway for a viable alternative. The #NeverTrump crowd made one last ditch effort on the first day of the convention to change the rules so the delegates could unbind their votes. Now that those efforts have failed, the same detractors are calling for party unity, albeit reluctantly.
As former Louisiana Governor and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal put it, “I think electing Donald Trump would be the second-worst thing we could do this November, better only than electing Hillary Clinton to serve as the third term for the Obama administration’s radical policies.”
The lack of excitement over the nominee is palpable, and it appears, at least publicly, that many Republicans would rather not have to cast their vote for Trump. Some prominent GOP supporters say they will actually support Hillary Clinton, should she win the nomination — though most will likely vote against the Democratic nominee, or not vote at all.
Even while acknowledging the nightmare possibility of Donald Trump’s election as president, Republicans refuse to accept their responsibility in creating this situation and will choose party over the people.
Of course, this is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention throughout the past seven years. Still, Trump cannot win with just Republican votes. Even with decades of gerrymandering and voter suppression, there is just not enough GOP support to give him a win. He will need help from moderates and Democratic voters.
Unlike the GOP, Democrats have a solid, though imperfect, candidate in Hillary Clinton and in all probability the majority of the base will support her. While the rancor between the final two candidates and their supporters has been amplified via social media, it is nowhere near the level observed among the GOP or even between Clinton and then candidate Barack Obama during the 2007 primary season. The discord was further amplified by Sen. Bernie Sanders delayed endorsement of Secretary Clinton.
In the end, Bernie Sanders was firm in his support and has promised to help with the campaign.
However, there is a vocal contingent of Sanders supporters who are understandably disappointed that their preferred nominee was not victorious. This has increased tensions within the party, with many ardent Bernie Sanders supporters claiming they will not support Hillary Clinton under any circumstances, even after Sanders’ suspension of his campaign.
The “Bernie or Bust” movement claims that the goal isn’t just to have a Democratic administration, but one that will prioritize Bernie Sanders’ platform. For some Bernie supporters, a Trump presidency would simply be collateral damage on the road to dismantling the status quo — much like the Tea Party insurgency that cleared the path for Trump.
It’s hard to imagine that disillusioned progressives would vote for Trump, but they could decide to sit out the election or vote third party. It’s not just antipathy for Clinton that could affect the outcome. Sanders campaign’s perceived dismissal of the diverse “Obama Coalition,” along with his criticism of the president, could reduce support and ultimately lower progressive turnout.
The Democrats cannot win without President Obama or his passionate supporters, as the midterm elections so clearly showed us. For all the controversies and missteps, Obama’s two terms have been groundbreaking — and, yes, successful. He remains highly popular among his supporters and has even won over skeptics. When adding the historic impact of his presidency, it will be a tough act to follow.
Yet America will have to choose someone.
Casting a vote is extremely personal, as well as a tremendous responsibility. Deciding not to vote is a perfectly valid option under normal circumstances, but this election is nowhere near “normal”. Our system is far from perfect, but it’s the only one we have at the moment.
The right combination of low turnout on the Democratic side, coupled with the “anybody but them” mentality from Republicans and the Anyone But Hillary crowd could be just enough to guarantee the swearing in of Donald Trump in January 2017.
It’s a case of your choice, our future. Choose wisely.
A previous version of this article first appeared on Care2.