There will be many reasons why the 2016 election will go down in history. Some of those reasons are good. In all likelihood, Americans will, for the first time, elect a female President. Some of the reasons are not so good: The evening news came with language warnings as we watched the line between reality and reality television evaporate. The word “unprecedented” was used so frequently it felt stripped of meaning.
But beyond the race for the Oval Office, 2016 will quite possibly be remembered as the last election with a two-party system. It’s becoming very clear that Americans are tired of being handed more of the same. On the right, this has given us Donald Trump; on the left, Bernie Sanders. They may be diametrically-opposed ideologically, but both were bolstered by their outsider status; both tapped into growing discontent with the status quo. Their campaigns have made it impossible for party insiders to turn a blind eye to voter alienation any longer.
On the right, radicalism has trumped reason leaving the Republican Party virtually unrecognizable and inhospitable for more moderate members. There’s every indication he’ll be defeated on November 8, but there’s little indication that the Trump circus will pull down the tents and leave town. And if he really is planning to launch Trump TV, he’ll continue to have a platform from which to stoke the discontent and anger that brought him thus far. Even in the unlikely event that he goes gently into the night, the rage that fuels his base will not. The party of "morning in America" has a very long, dark night ahead as a split seems all but guaranteed.
While terms like “civil war” have largely been reserved for the right in this election cycle, the left has its own soul-searching to do. On election day, Democrats will largely line up behind Clinton but for more than a few this is about who she’s running against and not what she’s standing for. For Democrats, some of the most problematic revelations from the Wikileaks email dumps were not the examples of a politician doing political things; it was her characterization of the heroes and causes of the left.
And it looks like Clinton should be prepared to “feel the Bern” as just this week the Vermont senator said he plans to leverage his surprising success in the primary to push forward on liberal legislation with or without Clinton’s support. Like the rage on the right, the restlessness on the left is unlikely to be soothed by the result on November 8; even if that result puts a Democrat in the Oval Office.
A large portion of Americans on all points of the political spectrum feel alienated and left out of the political process. Clinton has become the standard-bearer of politics-as-usual. Can she recast herself from political insider to a voice for change? It would be one heckuva pivot but it may be her last best hope to hold the party together.
As November 8 approaches, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of how the Presidential race will play out. But what comes next? In an era when the left and the right have little common ground, there seems to be one thing both sides seem to agree on: the two-party system is an insiders’ game and it needs to end.
Derek Riedle is the publisher and founder of Civilized.
Banner image: Manheim, PA - October 1, 2016: The oversized crowd waves signs as Donald J. Trump speaks at his campaign political rally Lancaster County. (George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com)