What to Expect in 2016: Presidential Election – Who Will Win?

It’s officially the last week of 2015 and the world is waiting with bated breath for what’s in store for 2016. Let’s take a sneak peek into the future and highlight some of the major events, people, and trends to expect in the upcoming year.

A Trump Victory

If you thought that the presidential election of 2016 would be a nail-biter, you’d be right. After months of campaigning, the race for the White House finally came down to a battle between arguably the two most controversial candidates in history. On the surface, it was a battle between two highly unprepared individuals who’d never held political office – a fight that even the most partisan supporters would have to admit was a toss-up. Yet, in the end, it was Hillary Clinton’s unprecedented scandals and Trump’s unmatched tenacity that led to the Republican nominee’s victory.

To be sure, there were still many bumps in the road to this historic election. For instance, the Obama administration found itself at the center of several controversies surrounding the Russia probe and its interference in the election. Also, the Brexit referendum triggered waves of uncertainty and anxiety among voters in the UK and around the world. So, while we await the conclusion of this year’s election, let’s examine the major events and developments that’ll shape the coming year.

The Brexit Vote

Perhaps the biggest story of the year was the Brexit vote. When the dust settled after a long campaign, United Kingdom (UK) voters delivered a crushing blow to Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to remain in the EU. While the final result was unknown when these words were penned, the overwhelming vote in favor of leaving the EU (which stood at 48.9% vs. 51.1%) indicated that the British people didn’t trust Cameron and they decided to take a closer look at their options.

The Brexit vote is widely seen as a rejection of further EU integration. Indeed, since the UK’s accession to the European Union in 1973, the country’s leadership has championed “ever closer union.” However, with the exception of the Euro, or the Eurozone, Britain has always chosen defiance over affinity. In part, this was due to a common refrain among Euroskeptics that further European integration would weaken Britain’s national sovereignty. But it was also the result of an aggressive propaganda campaign by pro-EU politicians, who often conflated democracy with diversity and hyped the so-called “strengthening” of the Eurozone through British cooperation.

Cameron’s desperation for a win is understandable. He put a lot on the line during the campaign, particularly as it related to British politics. The UK prime minister had championed remaining in the EU since his party’s victory in the UK’s 2014 general election. However, with the support of arch-Euroskeptic Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP), he was dead set on proving his detractors wrong. Specifically, he aimed to show Euroskeptics that he was the right man for the job and that he could negotiate the UK’s exit from the EU without tearing the country apart. In addition to this, Cameron also vowed to resign if he lost the referendum. So, it was anyone’s guess as to what would happen once the votes were counted. Would the UK stick with the “Remain” campaign and attempt to negotiate a better deal from within? Or, would they pull the UK out of the EU altogether and create rifts within Tory ranks that could last for years to come?

Fortunately for Cameron, he won the referendum. However, the victory was tainted by accusations of vote-rigging and intimidation. Leave campaigners allege that the UK prime minister sought to sway voters by dangling the possibility of a third term in front of them. In addition, the Electoral Commission is currently investigating whether Vote Leave met the legal threshold for funding during the referendum campaign. So, while the final result was a shock to many, it was a well-deserved one. Even after all these years, British Euroskepticism remains as strong as ever.

The Hillary Scandal

Whether you loved Hillary Clinton or you despised her, there’s no denying that the Democratic nominee for president stole the show during the 2016 election. In fact, aside from the Brexit vote, the only other event that received more coverage during the campaign was the Hillary Clinton email scandal. And if you take a gander at the history books, you’ll see that there’s a good reason for this. Up until his death in June, Donald Trump was virtually absent from public life. So, when he finally showed up for work, he was faced with a monumental task: rebuilding a campaign that seemed to have ground to a halt, while taking on the most powerful political figure in the world — and one of the most polarizing figures in American history.

When he took the stage on Thursday, July 21, Trump seemed to have all the ingredients to make this speech memorable. The Republican nominee had waited years for this moment. He finally got his wish, as he went on to rip into Hillary Clinton, calling her “the most corrupt candidate in the history of politics” and a “narcissist.” And while he was at it, he went after former President Bill Clinton, too.

It was one thing for Trump to criticize Hillary, but quite another for him to name-call on Bill. This was the last thing that the Clintons wanted to see happen. In fact, Hillary’s camp quickly responded by demanding that Trump apologize for his “disgusting” remarks about her murdered husband. Yet, despite her protestations, Trump doubled down and kept defending his statements. In doing so, he not only showed tremendous political bravado, but also demonstrated that he was perfectly willing to fight fire with fire. Indeed, in the end, it was the willingness to engage with his enemies that helped cement Trump’s status as a political outsider who’d “drain the swamp.”

As stated, the email scandal was one of the primary catalysts for Trump’s political rise. Indeed, many see it as the key reason why he continues to be so popular even among those who voted for Clinton. After all, in a country where trust in government is at an all-time low, why should anyone believe that Hillary Clinton, who is arguably the most polarizing figure in American history, would be able to restore public faith?’

The answer, of course, is that they shouldn’t. Despite all of these allegations, there’s no indication that Clinton deliberately sought to hide emails on a private server. So, in the end, it was simply a case of negligent security. As Secretary of State, Clinton was ultimately responsible for ensuring that classified information was handled securely and responsibly. Yet, she has long blamed third-party contractors for the incident and claimed that they “were not equipped to handle State Department business”.

This incident alone wouldn’t be enough to sink Clinton’s campaign. But, given the negative tone of the 2016 election and the toxicity that surrounds both candidates, it certainly didn’t help. In a statement released after the third presidential debate, the Clinton camp called the email scandal “one of the most damaging and unprecedented scandals in American history.”

Despite the damage, the email scandal certainly helped inspire the creation of this blog. Back in 2014, a few of us in the security space began to see a pattern of mishandling highly sensitive information on private email servers. These servers, which are usually owned and managed by home-based contractors, can be exposed to a variety of threats, from cyber-attacks to disgruntled employees. As a result, we began publishing guides that detail how to secure a home email server from hacks and leaks. To date, we’ve helped thousands of people understand the importance of email security and encouraged them to move to government-hosted email services like Gmail or Yahoo. Of course, this isn’t to say that these companies are any less susceptible to cyber-attacks and leaks. But, at least with a government-hosted email, there’s an element of trustworthiness that comes with the badge.

More Scandals On The Way?

Based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s pretty clear that 2016 will be remembered as the year of the political scandal. From the Trump/Clinton marriage to the ongoing Russian collusion investigation, the news this year has blazed more trails than ever before. As a result, it’s difficult to predict what’s next. But, one thing is for sure: this is going to be an interesting year.