At this exact moment, it is the Democratic Party’s turn to panic about their chances in the fall. Next week, the giant, frisson-filled ball of freaking out that has been passed around like a ticking bomb the entire election cycle will probably return to the Republicans. And back and forth, back and forth, for the rest of time. Or at least until November.
Anyway! Below, find our patented ranking of political freakouts that may be stressing you lately. We tried to include a diverse array of worries, but unfortunately, America’s anxiety seems to be mostly attributable to Donald Trump right now. Apologies.
6. Freakout: Trump might win the nomination
Nearly everyone said that Trump would never win the Republican nomination. But what if he does?
Stress Level: Well, that happened. This was the case that suddenly made all other freakouts look far more probable. Anyone who was once freaked out about this and has now moved on to be worried about one of the other election scenarios below has to supplement their stress ranking: However worried you are about the election, make it even more harrowing by imagining you are balancing an Easter egg painted like the United States in a spoon for the next five months.
5. Freakout: Trump might become president
Everyone says that there is no way that Trump can win the White House — but we said the same thing about him winning the nomination, and look what happened. WHAT IF WE’RE WRONG? Oh dear, I don’t know, this could happen, right? The polls look close between Hillary and Trump — that’s bad, right? What if the economy tanks in the next five months? What if something awful happens with ISIS? What if there’s a scandal with President Obama or the Clintons? What if Bernie Sanders’s supporters don’t turn out? What if no one wants to vote for Clinton? Oh god, this is inevitable, isn’t it; I’m going to go look up Airbnbs in Canada right now before it’s too late …
Stress Level: Spending five months with the strange feeling that something is walking behind you, and you aren’t sure if it’s a terrifying clown or someone who has been desperately trying to give you a hug that you don’t want.
Reality Check: The electorate that picked Trump to be the nominee is very small. According to Gallup, about 42 percent of Americans are Republican or lean Republican. Although this primary season has featured record turnout, that still means that usually less than 20 percent of eligible voters in any state are casting ballots. That’s not a lot of people. The data does show that a lot of people do not like Trump at all. Seventy percent of women have an unfavorable opinion of him. Back in March, Republican voters told the New York Times and CBS News that they were mostly embarrassed by the Republican Party. Trump’s rivals spent most of the primary not bothering to go negative on him — which means that the Democratic Party will have plenty of opportunities to share salacious tidbits from the Trump archives with voters who probably haven’t heard them yet. Plus, because his campaign was so slapdash and shoestring, he is way behind Clinton when it comes to fundraising and organizing.
4. Freakout: Trump might win, international edition
Mexico and the U.S. are finally starting to get along. Much of the world feels pretty good about President Obama. What is going to happen if Trump is elected?
Stress Level: See: Trump is going to become president.
3. Freakout: Bernie might never stop running
The math doesn’t look good for Bernie Sanders. Unless he wins landslides in all the primaries on June 7, there is no way he can get ahead of Clinton’s pledged delegate lead. But what if he doesn’t drop out after the primaries are over? What if he takes his campaign all the way to the convention in Philadelphia? What if he doesn’t even stop there, and runs as an independent?
Oh my sainted hanging chad, this is a disaster. How is it going to look if the Republican convention is a somewhat staid affair featuring everyone coming together around Donald Trump, and the Democratic convention is beset by endless infighting? Does this mean that Trump is going to win? (See: Trump is going to become president.) It sure doesn’t sound like Bernie wants to stop running anytime soon. He has said for months that he plans to take his campaign all the way to the convention. Sanders has been trying to convince superdelegates to flip to his side. He’s even started to criticize the Democratic Party itself more — and endorsed the person running against the current chair of the Democratic National Committee. That doesn’t sound like someone who wants to concede to his opponent anytime soon.
Stress Level: Like when you’re afraid to drink your tea because it’s too hot, and then you wait for five minutes and it tastes perfect and immediately calms you down.
Reality Check: You know who else didn’t sound like someone who wanted to concede to her opponent anytime soon? Eight years ago, everyone was equally worried that the Democratic convention was going to be a box of horrors after Clinton refused to exit the race — even though her chances of winning looked remote (and she was way closer to winning than Sanders is at this point). Take away the attribution, and it’s impossible to differentiate 2008 Clinton from 2008 Sanders. "I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan. And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention — that's what credentials committees are for,” Clinton said in March 2008.
And you know what happened? She dropped out of the race after the last primaries in June and endorsed Obama, despite all her rhetoric to the contrary. And for those who support Sanders, or at least his message, his decision to stay in the race is influencing the party in the meantime — the DNC just gave him a major voice on the committee that will help form the party’s general election platform.
2. Freakout: Bernie voters might never vote for Clinton
OK, say that Bernie drops out of the race and Clinton becomes the nominee — won’t his supporters be very angry? What if they don’t vote — or write in Bernie’s name in the fall, or vote for Trump?
Twenty-five percent of Bernie supporters say they won’t vote for Clinton in the fall. You saw what happened in Nevada — these young people really want Sanders to win. They are already planning to hold rallies with tens of thousands of people in Philadelphia. Will Trump win if they don’t vote for Clinton? (See: Trump is going to become president.) Will they all move to Vermont and secede and form the Republic of Bernietopia if he doesn’t win? Oh god, does this mean that those “Feel the Burn?” STD ads are going to be around forever too?
Stress Level: There is a videotape on your desk. You have no idea what's on it, and you can’t play it because you don’t have a VCR. There's a note next to the tape that says that it is either a recording of “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical, or it is white noise. You will never know which.
1. Freakout: The polls say something scary
The polls said something I didn’t expect! What if they're right? Is this the end? The polls say that Trump will beat Hillary! The polls say that the presidential race is close! The polls say that everyone hates Trump! The polls say that everyone hates Hillary! The polls say that 21 percent of Americans have no idea if they think we should send humans to Mars!
Stress Level: When you are planning to go to the doctor for a terrifying surgery, which is canceled at the last minute, and you are told to come back in two months — at which point the surgery could be 10 times more awful or completely painless. But who knows?
Reality Check: First, breathe in. And exhale. Count to five. OK, we good? Now, first of all, what are you doing looking at general election polls before the conventions have even happened? This is not good for your health. It is also not good for your understanding of the election! Before you start biting your nails over those polls that show Trump ahead of Clinton, remember that Clinton is still in the middle of a primary fight, rhetorically if not mathematically, while Trump is in a “the cheese stands alone” honeymoon period. For those citing the polls that show Sanders far in the lead in hypothetical general election polls, remember that no one has been running negative ads against him during the primary, which tends to do wonders for people’s opinion of you. For people worried about Trump or Clinton’s approval ratings ... we don’t know what to tell you. They are bad, and have been for ages. It is kind of depressing that we are about to head into a general election with the least-liked presidential candidates in history. We also don’t know what to tell you about Mars, except that you probably won’t be able to migrate there if your least favorite candidate wins in the fall.
But anyway. The polls will probably change once July arrives and the race settles down a bit. If they don’t, feel free to freak out. But not until then.