As of today,
the second seal has been broken and a rider on a red horse has come forth Donald Trump is essentially the guaranteed Republican nominee for president. Let me give some predictions of what's going to happen next:
(1) People will start to argue harder and harder that Trump isn't really that bad, and he doesn't actually mean all the things that he says. Even while you'll never hear this from his campaign, it'll be a major theme among commentators, especially those tied to the Republican establishment.
The main thing driving this will be cognitive dissonance: if you believed that the American public had just nominated a not-particularly-crypto-Nazi, then you would have to conclude that the people around you are either evil or fools, and that's not something nice to think about. But if he's not really that bad, then it's OK. The second thing driving this will be the underlying urge of many disaffected (white, working or middle class) people to support him and the things he actually says; if you've got a narrative where it's not really that bad, it's fine to vote for this, then you can feel more comfortable considering it. And the third thing (affecting mostly professional politicians and media heads) will be simple professional party loyalty; the cost of defection away from a nominated candidate, in terms of career and so on, is just too high.
(2) You will hear a strong campaign from the Republican establishment (not Trump) that Clinton is the Devil and must be beaten. They won't be able to put together a clear story of why; to be honest, almost nobody ever has been able to. It's become so reflexive to see her this way that people have forgotten where it started. (That's not to say that Clinton isn't deeply flawed, but none of those flaws have anything to do with the weird conspiracy theories that will be circulating)
This is mostly a way for the people in the establishment, the ones with the most dissonance to deal with, to focus themselves on saying "not Clinton" so they don't have to spend too much time saying "yes Trump."
It's going to be an incredibly nasty campaign, but that shouldn't surprise anyone.
(Yes, Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee. I know Sanderistas can come up with arguments until the cows come home about how it's still perfectly statistically possible for him to win 64% of the remaining pledged delegates or somehow convince all the superdelegates to join him but... no. There is no way that actually works. Sanders gets to shift the party platform but he has no serious chance of being the nominee)
And if, God forbid, Trump were to be elected? I suspect that we would find that he is quite an honest man after all, at least insofar as he has no incentive to lie. I suspect that his promises about immigrants will quickly become a priority for him, with a certain amount of reality gating. Things we'd actually see:
(1) Punitive taxes and/or seizure of remittances abroad. This would cause massive economic disruptions all over the world (about $125B per year, most of it going to poor communities) and would probably ultimately be moderated in some way, but not before causing tremendous pain and chaos.
(2) Laws demanding strong proof of citizenship to work, and enforcing severe penalties against employers who violate them. These would cause a different kind of chaos, because a good quarter of citizens don't actually have such strong proof. Presumably offices would be set up to help people get that, and deployment of the law would be staged -- but that assistance would be sharply canted towards white communities. The intent, and effect, of the law would be to cause mass unemployment among Latino and Black communities. This would, indeed, cause many to flee the country, but even more to be dropped into extremely dire straits. I have no idea how this would play out.
(3) Laws enforcing Draconian penalties against anyone who helps people without knowing their immigration status. This would run into actual trouble for Trump once it started to affect better-organized churches; the Vatican may actually end up being a major counterforce, and this might have long-term consequences.
(4) Laws restricting employment of legal immigrants in various ways. Not in service industries, but in places where a demonstration of nativism will be politically useful. This will often be used as a negotiating tactic against businesses.
(5) Actual wall-building might start in a symbolic fashion, but the absurd logistics of it would prevent anything other than a flashy display.
Of course, none of this even starts to deal with his plans to institute trade wars with both China and Mexico (two of our three largest trading partners), or the effects that would happen when the leaders of politically savvy rival countries (e.g., China) realize that he can easily be goaded into foolish moves. Or what might happen if someone else (e.g., Kim Jong Un) tried to rattle sabers; I doubt that he has any deep understanding of just why the US hasn't tried to blow up North Korea in the past. (Answer: we could do it, but in the process South Korea would be turned into rubble, and Japan would probably lose a city or two. And it might escalate into a full regional war.)
So even though I anticipate several months of people telling me how he really isn't that bad, and of the curious experience of seeing a politician's supporters get exasperated and angry ("you're not repeating that old lie again!") when I suggest that their candidate might be honest, I don't think that just because he's the nominee, he's suddenly going to change his
white sheets stripes.