Hope for the Day After the Presidential Election

October 20, 2016, 10:30 AM UTC
Photograph by The Voorhes

This has been an exceptionally difficult election for anyone who cares about the future of American business or the prospects for American prosperity.

On one side, the Democratic Party has turned increasingly antagonistic toward business. The clearest evidence of that is the strangling entanglement of new regulations that has built up since 2008 and is the subject of this month’s cover story (read the full package here). Antipathy grew further during the seemingly endless election battle, as a self-declared socialist came within a hairsbreadth of winning the party’s nomination. Hillary Clinton’s true leanings remain a matter of contradictory evidence, but she has adopted much of Bernie Sanders’ fiery language, and if elected she will have to deal with his increasingly fierce supporters.

On the other side, Donald Trump has built his campaign on an attack on the very principles of globalization that fueled post–World War II prosperity. Moreover, he has catered to our basest instincts. His promotion of conspiracy theories, his fomenting of racist sentiment, his abusive comments and behavior toward women, his open adulation of authoritarian leaders, and his determination to trust gut over evidence all make him the least temperamentally suited candidate that either major party has put forward to lead the nation in modern times.

To learn more about business regulations, watch this Fortune video:

Business optimists imagine a postelection world in which a President Hillary Clinton lacks a clear majority in Congress and is forced to deal with Paul Ryan to negotiate a centrist agenda that addresses the concerns of both business and disgruntled Trump and Sanders voters. The outlines of such a deal are not hard to imagine: corporate tax reform and a moratorium on new regulations; increased spending on public infrastructure; an expanded earned income tax credit; and a much renewed focus on the training and education that American workers will need to survive in a rapidly changing workforce.

But any hope of such an outcome may founder on the final and potentially most damaging legacy that the Trump campaign threatens to leave the nation: discrediting the legitimacy of the election. The finest tradition of American politics, dating back to the days of George Washington, is that the election loser quietly exits the stage. But Trump’s premature insistence that the election is “rigged” against him—by the likes of Clinton, Ryan, the “media,” or anyone else who gets in his way—and rumors that he is preparing to build a media outlet of his own to continue the campaign set the stage for a battle that lasts well past Election Day. We hope that’s not the case; there is much that needs to be done. But we fear it will be.

A glimpse back at a classic Fortune 500 cover, from July 1961.

This cloudy political outlook reinforces the need for business leaders to take a larger role in addressing the issues that face our society. That’s why Fortune and Time will be assembling a hundred of the world’s top business leaders, along with other prominent private sector voices, in Rome next month to begin a conversation about what the private sector can do to make the global economic system work better for all. It’s an important conversation, and one we plan to continue in the months ahead.

As a side note, you’ll notice in this issue we have changed our look to adapt to changing times. The new design harkens back to the best of Fortune past but also provides a striking, clear visual representation that we believe will help carry us into the future. Our readers are united in facing the two great business challenges of our times—adapting to an unprecedented pace of technological change and creating a new social compact that will allow business to prosper. With its strong, clean new look, Fortune intends to be their trusted guide.

A version of this article appears in the November 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “Hope for the Day After.”

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