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Nightmares
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Nightmares

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Historically, the American political system has functioned best when there was a strong, robust second party or opposition party with which he party in power needed to compete accomplish its agenda. This certainly has been the case in the U.S. with a presidential system and in Britain with a parliamentary system. While some democracies which have a multi-party system also have had viable strong coalitions of opposition parties, these systems tend to have less cohesive governing coalitions and oppositions.

As the 2016 presidential election mercifully is approaching a close, one of the most intriguing and curious questions is what will happen to the American two party system. While it appears likely that the factions or wings of the Democratic Party are likely to return to a semblance of normalcy after the Clinton-Sanders face-off, it is totally unclear what the future of the Republican Party will be like, regardless of how Trump or the GOP does next Tuesday.

At the moment there appear to be at least four factions within the Republican Party with no clear direction or indication of what will emerge even if Trump were to be elected. There is the historical centrist Republican Party epitomized best by Maine Senator Susan Collins and to a lesser extent Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, and even the Bushes. The conservative wing of the Party has within it a wide variety of current and former office holders and conservative intellectuals including: Speaker Paul Ryan; Governor John Kasich; Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio; and Bill Kristol, Jonathan Tobin, and John Podhoretz. Finally there is the extreme wing of the party (alt-right or almost alt-right) which includes Trump campaign CEO and Breitbart head Stephen K. Bannon, and Susannah Bean.  

It is, however, the fourth group that is the truly unknown variable; Donald Trump and his minions. The challenge for the party will be what to do with the millions of people who support or supported Donald Trump after he loses or even wins. It is not clear where they go, who will lead them, who will speak for them, or will there be a new Republican Party that might emerge from the ashes of this viciously destructive election?

Similarly, it is not at all clear what Trump himself might do. He certainly has not shown serious interest in party politics, only in winning the Presidency. Trump can walk away and resume his business life, go into the television business (as has been reported in some circles), or—as some genuinely fear—challenge the very efficacy of American democracy. This could lead to anarchy or chaos within the states and even in Washington; or even worse.

As to the prospect of whether there will be a Government able to function and govern in the months ahead this too is not entirely clear. Regardless of the results, some of the Republican forces will want to take off against Hillary, the Clinton Foundation, and the new FBI investigation. Impeachment of a President Hillary Clinton could be a possibility. If any of these become the dominant themes for Republicans after January 20, all guesses are off as whether any new President will be able to lead the nation. 

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