The one-term presidency of Trump/Clinton

At ages 70 and 69 by Inauguration Day in January, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would seem to be unlikely two-term presidents. Not only would Trump become our nation’s oldest person elected president (after Ronald Reagan), but should Clinton win, she would become the second oldest. Perhaps more powerful than Father Time are the odds that neither of these two highly polarizing and disliked candidates can heal a deeply divided country and become a trusted leader. Against the backdrop of a nation reeling from a burgeoning terrorist threat, economic deterioration, and painful racial division, the campaigns of two singularly unpopular presidential candidates have left most Americans feeling emotions ranging from disappointment to despair.

Based on the examples of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, we can expect the opposition party to savage the new president. Yet Trump or Clinton could also face revolt from within their own parties. While it wouldn’t behoove them to declare anything publicly, and make themselves a lame duck, Clinton or Trump could reasonably conclude that leaving after one term is preferable to the stain of potential defeat. Much could change, but as of today Clinton appears to be the kind of politician bent on making her own historic mark, signing bills with whoever controls Congress, perhaps even defying her increasingly liberal party. Trump already appears ripe for a 2020 primary challenge, and seems to be someone who, at age 74, may prefer to return to the business world he has loved his whole life…

Should Trump win, but fail to unite his party in governing, he will face pressure from two factions hoping to depose him. The NeverTrumpers, both inside the conservative movement as well as the establishment, will not wait until 2020 to field candidates to challenge him. Cruz won’t even wait until Trump’s inauguration. Democrats would divide their time under a President Trump by trying to undermine his administration while vying for primacy and trying to define their party in a post-Clintons world. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as more moderate “Third Way” Democrats aligned with Clinton on trade and national security, will wage a fierce fight for power.