What we know for a certainty is that these two great population trends — aging and immigration — will, to a large extent, shape the United States’ future. If elections are about the future and not the past, you would have expected much of the campaign to have been involved in a serious discussion of how to deal with them. You would, of course, have been wrong.
On immigration, what we got from Trump was demagoguery that played to the basest fears of many Americans. He would deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, a cruel and impractical proposal that he modified repeatedly. He’d also build a wall along our southern border, a policy that — as part of a larger package legalizing most of today’s undocumented immigrants — may be worth a try. But Trump’s proposal was all one-sided. By contrast, Clinton favors “comprehensive immigration reform” but is vague on how she would reduce illegal entry.
On aging, there was an unspoken consensus: Don’t go there.
But as a society, we’re already there. The United States is getting older and will continue to do so. Immigration is changing the country ethnically and will continue to do so. The question is how much we control our future or how much it controls us. The inattention of Campaign 2016 to these fateful issues is the real national embarrassment.