So here's my question:
Let's assume that HRC wins. If she beats Trump, who is anathema to so many voters, by only say, five points, does that mean that a less Trump-y type of anti-establishment candidate would have smoked her? I mean, when you look at Trump it's hard to believe that she's not ahead by 25 (which could happen, maybe).
Further, and more importantly, does that mean that the Democrats now have to find a way to deal with the fact that nearly half the electorate is willing to go for something radically different? I think it legitimately calls into question the assumption of a permanent Democratic majority based on future demographics.
Great questions, and if I had the answers, then I'd already know the future. And I'd be buying lottery tickets instead of commenting here!
I think that we can both overestimate and underestimate what current trends "mean." For example, Trump could actually (to borrow the old phrase) get caught with a dead girl or a live boy, and he still wouldn't get completely blown out by Clinton. The reason why? Because there's so much polarization. There is a large well of people that would vote for the GOP (or anti-Democrat) if the Democrats were running George Washington reincarnated, and the GOP was running Osama Bin Laden's brain-eating zombie corpse. It's just the way it is (and in reverse, as well).
What's more interesting (to me) is that Trump exploited a core demographic in the GOP that had previously fallen into line- a large portion of which is racist, a large portion of which is populist, and a large portion of which doesn't fall into the strong "moral values" category AND is opposed to the libertarian think-tanky ideas that animate the GOP elite. That was his floor - and it was a floor within the GOP that no other candidate had. More importantly (from my perspective) is that the GOP has used a scorch earth strategy for so long in devaluing political norms, in devaluing intellectual opinion, in devaluing media and journalism, in propagating bizarre conspiracy theories (or, at least, not denouncing them), and in devaluing their own party leaders ... that when it came time to try and put some type of authority into the arena ... they couldn't. I mean, seriously, when the party has to turn to Ted "Shut Down Gummint, and Everyone Hates Me" Cruz as a savior, you know things have gone seriously wrong.
Which leads me to three final observations-
1. I never believed in a permanent majority for either party. The two party system is an artifact of first-past the post and our legislative/Presidential system, and as long as we have it, we'll have two parties. As long as there are two parties, one can attain temporary supremacy, and then the other will adapt and change. It always happens.
2. I'm more curious about what happens to the GOP. This is unprecedented. It would be nice to see them react to this by returning to more moderate positions in order to compete. But .... we'll see. Thing is, the 2010 (census) election entrenched them to such as extent in the House and at the state-level, they may view this as an anomaly and just double down.
3. The Democratic primary was unsurprising. The Clinton moderation (from 1992) has run its course. At a certain point, you have to expect some pull to the left. In addition, the Democratic party (thanks to GOP abdication) is now occupying the whole range from middle to extreme left. Assuming Clinton wins, it will be interesting to see what happens in 2020 - will someone run against her?