Frankly, I think it spells a certain doom for both parties. Putting aside his policy decisions, executive actions, and appointments, a Trump victory would symbolize that the country has flat-out sold the establishment candidates. As it stands, even losing the nomination, both he and Sanders represent a significant dissatisfaction with both parties, and if he gets the nomination and loses in the general, it’s definitely turmoil in the Republican party, but obviously reasonably fine for the Democrats, barring a disastrous presidency by Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
If, however, he beats Hillary, that means the electorate so thoroughly rejected her, as the most establishment candidate from either major party, that they chose him, the embodiment of anti-establishment, over her, I think would leave the party leadership looking at how they need to adjust their message to bring back the sort of fire that Obama did in 2008 and Hillary lacked in her loss to him Trump only 8 years later. And, obviously, we can posit how disastrous Trump’s presidency may be, but if it’s neutral to positive, they HAVE to go toward a more youth-appealing message, and if it’s negative, we might just end up with another candidate like Hillary in 2020.
If, however, it ends up being Bernie that he defeats, I think we’ll end up seeing a double-down on an establishment candidate from the Democrats in 2020, that Bernie was just too extreme or too liberal and they needed someone more like Hillary to pull the middle to the Democrats. The thing is, though, I’d honestly think that’s the wrong lesson to take, but I also think this is an unlikely scenario.
For the Republicans, I think Trump has already done most of the damage he’s going to do. It may not really manifest this election cycle, but it’s shows the continuing fragmentation of the party. Hell, I think the most damage he could do would be if he DOESN’T win the nomination, particularly due to some shenanigans resulting in a brokered election for Cruz or Rubio. All the supporters of Trump would feel disenfranchised, and they’d stay home, vote third party, or even vote for Hillary (though unlikely for Sanders) to demonstrate their dissatisfaction. Hell, I saw not too dissimilar to this situation play out in Virginia in the last gubernatorial election, the Republican candidate selected by caucus for fear a less establishment candidate might get it, and even an unpopular Democrat was able to win.
Let’s not forget the conspiracy theories, particularly among more hard-line Republicans that Trump is actually a secret Democrat and he’s deliberately doing this to help his friends, the Clintons, win by speeding up the fracturing of the party. And maybe if he DOES win, he’s just secretly going to push the liberal agenda… or something.
So, really, I guess Republicans are in a lot of trouble, Democrats potentially in some, and then it all depends on just how it plays out