Thursday 3 November 2016 7:00 pm

There are silver linings to this depressing presidential election – whether Trump or Clinton wins

Kate Andrews is associate director at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

After a gruelling year of primaries, scandals, attack ads, FBI investigations, and breaking news day-in and day-out, Americans are only four days away from choosing their next President. Now, more than ever, we all need a dose of optimism.

I’m aware that feeling doesn’t come easy right now. Over the course of this election season, this fortnightly column has been filled with laments directed at both sides of the aisle. Neither of the two frontrunners has earned my trust, or allowed me to invest hope in them in any real way.

Even the third party candidate, who didn’t have far to fall, has managed to let his supporters down; despite Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton being the most unpopular nominees in modern history, Libertarian Gary Johnson looks like he may fail to muster up even 5 per cent of the vote.

But we Americans are positive people. And with the polls tightening drastically – especially in swing states like Nevada and New Hampshire – now is the time to acknowledge the silver linings in either outcome.

Trump has been rallying his supporters in New Hampshire (Source: Getty)

A Clinton presidency comes with scandals abound. And although back in 2008 (and arguably more recently during her time as secretary of state) it was reasonable to believe that Clinton was economically a centre-left pragmatist, her recent pivots further to the left leave us all in the dark concerning what policy stance she’d take.

But there are positives. A Clinton win drives a stake through the heart of the intolerance and xenophobia that has emerged from the shadows during this election season. Thanks largely in part to the Republican nominee and his open embrace of extreme fringe groups and alt-right supporters, the scapegoating of minorities is coming back in fashion.

This cannot be tolerated. America was supposed to have put this kind of campaigning to bed decades ago – it would be a travesty for Trump’s tactics to find validation through winning.

Read more: From Brexit to Trump, the elites have lost control over politics

And while Clinton’s swing to the left may have people feeling confused and dismayed, there’s reason to believe she may return to the centre post-election. Clinton recognised she needs backing from the Bernie Sanders crew to become President, and they wouldn’t tolerate her support for TTIP and other market-minded policies.

But if her goal post-win is to be an effective President, she will need to work with at least the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and very possibly a Republican Senate too. If she wants another four years down the line, she needs America’s economy to thrive – and that’s only going to be achieved by a pro-market approach.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Campaigns In Las Vegas
Clinton needed left wing Bernie Sanders's backing to win (Source: Getty)

On the other side, a Trump presidency ushers in an era of right-wing populism that – if unchecked – could have serious repercussions for the state of the economy and civil liberties in America. If Trump wins, centre-right, free-market, small-state conservatives and libertarians alike are left without a political home, and it will take time (time we arguably don’t have) to rebuild any credible voice to speak out against the populist right and the radical left.

But the positives: a Trump win shakes up the Republican Party radically, but it also shakes the Democrats, the DC establishment, and it turns politics in America on its head. The overthrow of the political elite has been a long time coming, and, when weighed up, is probably an overall positive. No one should feel safe in their political seats.

Read more: Why everyone called Brexit wrong: Analysts are too close to the elites

Moreover, if Trump finds himself winning the presidency by a relatively comfortable margin, there is a good chance he will have brought in with him a Republican Senate too. That, coupled with the safely conservative House, would give the “Republican” camp a unique opportunity to implement real reforms – from simplifying the tax code, to scrapping onerous business regulation, to helping pave the way for states to implement school choice bills – which would greatly relieve many of the burdens felt by everyday American families.

Feeling optimistic? Me neither. Silver linings don’t help much when you’re falling through transparent clouds, hurtling towards rock bottom. But reality is going to hit hard on 8 November anyway, and we’ll all come out a little better if we choose to look on the bright side of post-election life.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.