The shock for Democrats if Clinton loses will likely be more severe than for Republicans if Trump loses.
One option for Democrats would be to moderate their policies, as the New Democrats urged in the 1980s and Bill Clinton did in the 1990s. After all, that proved pretty successful.
Two decades ago, lots of self-described moderates and even conservatives voted in Democratic primaries. Not so these days. The slump in Democratic primary and caucus turnout, from 38 million in 2008 to 31 million in 2016, was due to a sharp decline in turnout by self-described moderates.
Hillary Clinton’s move from her husband’s 1990s triangulation to her near-total acceptance this year of Bernie Sanders’ left-wing platform was a rational response to changes in the Democratic primary electorate.
One lesson of recent presidential primaries is that Democratic voters are transfixed by identity politics, having elected the first black president and chosen the first female presidential nominee. Another is that there’s a large constituency for left-wing candidates.
What they haven’t been interested in is cisgendered white male liberals. The largely forgotten John Edwards fell by the wayside quickly in 2008, and Martin O’Malley, with credentials similar to those of Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis, attracted zero support in 2016.
That leaves them with no obvious choices if Clinton loses this year. Their most visible and attractive left-wingers, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, will be over 70 in 2020. Prominent black and Hispanic officeholders tend to represent overwhelmingly Democratic constituencies and have made few of the bows to moderation that made Barack Obama a plausible national candidate in 2008.
It's amusing that everyone is focused on the changes that identity politics will make to the Republicans, when the much more serious change is taking place in the Democratic Party. Just like in local Minnesota politics, where the bigamist Somali woman pushed out the long-serving Jewish representative, there isn't going to be any more white Democratic leadership.
And that's when even the most staunch white liberals will start to drift Republicanward.