A Trump win will drive both the left and the right to the political extremes | Opinion

Andres Oppenheimer
·4 min read

If pollsters got it all wrong and President Trump wins Tuesday’s elections - something that doesn’t look likely at the time of this writing, but could still happen — get ready for a dramatic shift to the extremes in American politics.

As weird as it sounds, a Trump victory would turn the president’s ridiculous claim that the Democratic Party has become “socialist” into reality.

In a nutshell, if Trump wins, the Democrats’ leftist wing — Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and others — would argue that the party blundered by going after independents and moderate Republican voters, instead of courting more liberal younger Americans and getting them out to vote.

“We lost the 2020 elections because we made a big mistake in electing a centrist like Joe Biden as the party’s candidate,” left-wing Democrats would say. “We need candidates with bolder proposals, who can excite our base, just like Trump did with his base.”

That’s the opposite of what — wisely, I believe — Biden has done. In fact, I have not seen any Democratic presidential candidate in recent decades try so hard to win over independent and Republican voters as he has.

In addition to picking Sen. Kamala Harris rather than a progressive like Sen. Elizabeth Warren as his running mate, Biden gave much more time and visibility to Republicans converts than to leaders of his own party’s left wing during the Democratic National Convention in August.

Republican former Ohio Gov. John Kasich got almost four minutes on stage at the Democratic convention, while former Secretary of State Colin Powell was given 2.5 minutes. Former Republicans such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg got precious air time, too. By comparison, progressive Democratic superstar Ocasio-Cortez was given only 1.6 minutes.

Since then, Biden has gone out of his way to get right-of-center endorsements. He has received plenty of them, including those from late war hero Sen. John McCain’s widow Cindy McCain and dozens of former top generals, national security and business leaders.

But if Trump once again wins the election in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote, as he did in 2016, growing numbers of Americans will conclude that the United States has become a country dominated by white rule.

They will argue that U.S. presidents are increasingly winning elections in the electoral college, where smaller, less populated and whiter states have bigger representation than bigger states. Trump won in 2016 despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million.

The current system allowed a minority-elected president like Trump to appoint life-long Supreme Court justices whose ultra-conservative stands on race relations, abortion rights and gun safety are not supported by most Americans. If Trump gets re-elected, many Americans will conclude that the country has become a dysfunctional democracy.

However, I still think that Biden will win. The average of polls by CNN, FiveThirtyEight, RealClearPolitics and virtually all major news organizations have Biden leading by between 7 and 10 percentage points nationally. Even the polls of Fox News, Trump’s de facto propaganda and misinformation outlet, show Biden ahead nationwide and in key swing states.

Pollsters tell me that they have corrected many of their 2016 mistakes. For instance, this time they are including in their surveys many more people without college degrees, which are the ones who helped Trump win in 2016. Also, pollsters are spending much more resources in polling key swing states than they did in 2016.

As a result of these changes, pollsters sound confident that they will get it right this time. (If they don’t, they better look for another line of work after this election.)

But if Trump wins, we are likely to see a further polarization in America, and greater political violence.

Republicans would conclude that Trump’s populist race-baiting worked, and would increasingly become the party of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and science deniers. Democrats, on the other hand, would increasingly lose faith in America’s democracy and increasingly become the party of antifa and other far-left groups.

A Trump victory would bolster the extremes. That’s one of the many reasons why so many independents and moderate Republicans who want a return to normalcy are supporting Joe Biden.

Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show at 8 p.m. E.T. Sunday on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera