Some unforeseen disaster (think Florida, circa 2000) some time in the next 36 hours we should know who the next President of the United States is going to be. But whoever surpasses the 270 electoral votes needed to be elected, whether it be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, won't necessarily be the big winner of this election season. In my opinion, the person who has benefited the most from this election and its ensuing aftermath is Vladamir Putin.
You read that right; Russian President Vladamir Putin is the biggest winner in this year's election. Why? Because regardless of who wins, the United States will never be the same again.
If Donald Trump manages to pull out a win (unlikely and absolutely terrifying to consider), Putin will most likely have himself his own little puppet in the Oval Office. Trump not only lauds Putin as a "great leader" because of how strong he is in his country (ignoring the fact that he rules with an iron fist), he frequently seems to take up Russia's positions. He has voiced doubt as to whether or not Russia has gone into Crimea (they have), denied that they are responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee or had any part in the WikiLeaks hacked e-mails, and said that our NATO allies must pay their "fair share" in order to earn our military assistance.
Those positions seem to tout the Kremlin's propaganda, not to mention the numerous ties that have been suspected to exist between Trump, his associates and the Russians that imply a relationship between the two that has been kept secret. Little has been proven, mostly due to the fact that the FBI seems to be filled with pro-Trump supporters, so what their credibility must be questioned at this point.
Regardless of any ties that do or do not exist between Trump and Russia, one thing seems for certain, Trump seems to be in lock-step with Russia and its President at the expense of the United States and its allies. So if Trump wins, Putin could possibly have free reign to do whatever he wishes without worry of the United States.
If Hillary Clinton wins, Putin won't have the sway or freedom he would like with Trump, but he will win in another big way. For over 200 years, the United States has been a shining light of democracy for the world. One of our country's biggest areas of pride is that every four to eight years who have a peaceful transition of power from one President to the next, regardless of political party. It has recently been touted by President Bill Clinton that President George H.W. Bush left him a note when he was inaugurated letting him know that, despite their different political party affiliations, he was routing for his successor because his success would be the country's success. For the elder Bush, the country succeeding was much more important than Clinton being defeated by Republicans. This is an incredible example of how wonderful our democracy is.
Until Donald Trump entered the picture and is threatening to tear everything down. From calling Hillary Clinton a criminal who should be locked up, to calling the system rigged and that the election will be stolen from him, Donald Trump threatens the very fabric of our democracy. Though a concession from one candidate isn't required for our constitutional process to work, it's a sign of respect that the likes of Al Gore, John Kerry, John McCain and Mitt Romney have all exercised even though the outcome was not in their favor. Trump not only has not shown any interest in making a graceful concession, but it is also not inconceivable for him to try to legally challenge the outcome of the election if it's close, thus calling the eventual outcome into question.
Even if Trump does gracefully concede, he has instilled so much anger, hatred and doubts in his supporters that many have already said they will not accept the results if Hillary Clinton wins. Some have called for a revolution, others have said they will march on D.C. and prevent her from entering the White House, and others have implied acts of violence. This would completely throw the fabric of our democracy into chaos, damaging and causing widespread doubt into the outcome for election cycles to come.
The United States will be weakened, plunged into internal turmoil not seen since the Civil War and a President with little to no political capital. No longer will the United States be a shining example of how democracy can work and will risk teetering on the edge of becoming no different than third world countries who constantly protest election outcomes that the electorate views as rigged.
The big winner? Vladamir Putin.
So no matter who becomes our next President, the biggest winner this election season is Vladamir Putin.