A shocked and scandalized nation waits for answers

(CNN)It’s almost over. The campaign that has consumed America’s attention for so many months finally reaches a conclusion. It seems that we have seen everything under the sun.

The nation has been shocked, it has been scandalized, it has been totally absorbed in this historic confrontation between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
    The obvious and most consequential questions that will be answered are who will inhabit the White House and which party will control Congress.
    But it is also possible to step back and pinpoint three other questions that have loomed large during the final months of the campaign. The results that come in on election night should begin to answer these.

    Is the Republican Party facing a civil war?

    This is the question that Trump’s campaign has raised ever since he defeated a long list of “establishment” candidates in the primaries. His rise to power has generated commentary that the Republican Party is split in half. There is a major battle unfolding between the Trump Republicans and the rest of the party that has dominated the GOP for many years.
    According to this narrative, the party will face a moment of reckoning when this election is over, particularly if Trump loses and the GOP enters into a moment of soul searching.

    Impeach

    Much more likely is a standoff between a Clinton White House and a Republican Congress that produces four years of gridlock, obstruction and investigation. Some Republicans have already been talking about the possibility of impeachment. In the Senate, there are open threats that the GOP would not confirm Supreme Court nominees put forward by a President Clinton.
    There could be a governing moment if Trump defied the polls and won the White House, along with a Republican Congress. Despite all the tensions within the party, polarization and partisan incentive would have a powerful effect on getting the GOP leaders to find common ground.

    Will voting rights be suppressed?

    For all the talk of a “rigged election,” the real fear among many political experts is the potential impact of anti-voter-fraud measures that will make it more difficult in many states to vote. For many decades, as Ari Berman and Michael Waldman have recounted in their excellent books, there have been concerted efforts in conservative states to impose measures to make it more difficult to vote.
    The measures were put into effect based on allegations of voting fraud although there has been no solid evidence of that kind of wrongdoing at any serious level. Once the Supreme Court overturned a key part of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder (2013), the floodgates opened. Though the courts have knocked down certain voting-rights restrictions, overall the measures remain in place.

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    On Election Day, in what Berman called “The First Presidential Election Since Voting Rights Act Gutted,” it will be crucial to observe what effect those laws have in states like Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The impact of the laws could be magnified by the fears of intimidation and physical violence that have emerged as a result of Trump’s fiery rhetoric, in which he urges his supporters to act as poll watchers.
    A little over 50 years since Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act, the question of whether some states, with the consent of the Supreme Court, have successfully undermined the ability of eligible voters to exercise the fundamental right of democracy should be front and center as we search through all the data.
    Voter disenfranchisement could also have a very important partisan effect this election. If the polls about a tightening of the race are accurate, any depression of the vote among marginalized and lower income communities could greatly benefit Trump — a countervailing force to the superior ground organization of the Clinton campaign — given that Democrats are counting on a robust turnout for victory.
    We’ll start getting the answers to these questions Tuesday night. The results will play a major role in setting up the debates that the next president and Congress will have in the years to come.

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