One year ago today, everything seemed to be in place for a Clinton Presidency. Some polls showed an above 90% chance and all media seemed to be readying themselves for the first female President. Even Trump didn’t believe that he would win, electing to hire a smaller hall in New York so that he could lose with a little bit of dignity.
Then, what many had believed (or hoped) to be unthinkable, happened. Donald Trump lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college- and, ultimately, the Presidency. Secretary Clinton made a phone concession to her rival, and Trump took to the stage of the Hilton Midtown with his large family, now President-elect of the United States.
The Trump campaign was certainly an interesting one. Gaffes were made, insults thrown and promises bounded about. He also managed to inspire hope and excitement in demographics who have previously felt disheartened by the political process, bringing out voters who in other years wouldn’t have even left home on polling day. Trump was a man of confusion and contradiction, something that thrived in his campaign. He courted controversy with statements on women and minorities whilst receiving huge praise from the disgruntled working class, who were bitter about the economic conditions and socio-political changes that are overtaking America. The Republican elite hate him, but many of the Republicans on the ground genuinely think he’s the greatest person in politics right now. The affluent Republicans are wary, but Trump has reached out to the poorest in society, and they are hugely receptive.
Firstly, why did he win?
Hillary Clinton- Regular readers are probably bored of hearing this writer bash Clinton, but absolutely anybody could have won against her. Trump couldn’t get the popular vote, but someone like Cruz and Kasich probably could- bearing in mind a lot of Republicans didn’t vote for Trump, whereas they would have for one of the more conventional nominees. Clinton is a hugely polarising figure, and many Democrats could have spoiled the ballot, added a different name or voted for Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Her candidacy itself was extremely controversial due to the tight opposition she received from recent Democrat Bernie Sanders, who many believed had a chance against Trump had he won. The anti-establishment rhetoric definitely helped Trump, but in a way, so did the establishment- their push to make Clinton the Democratic candidate allowed Trump a bigger chance than he could have had.
Anti-Establishment- Though LePen and Wilders would later lose their elections, the anti-establishment wave swept the world this year. Brexit showed how the disgruntled had finally voted for the anti-elite, voting against the status quo and there is a good chance the success of it finally encouraged voters in the United States. LePen and Wilders didn’t have a high chance of winning, but we remember that the US is a lot more conservative and divided in ways Europe is not. Whilst Obama presided over economic prosperity, many working class voters were angered because they were passed over, watching as their incomes were squeezed or even eliminated as industry shut shop and moved abroad. The social conservatives were worried about mass and illegal immigration- especially from Mexico and Muslim societies or resented the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. The elites seemed to push these things, maybe not so much the Republicans, but there had previously been eight years of a left-wing presidency. The working-class, especially whites, just wanted someone to understand they had concerns and for someone to actually solve it. For years, frustration had fallen on deaf ears, but now someone seemed to be listening to them, and better yet, shared her concerns.
Media- They say 2008 was the first social media election, but this is probably the first US election that it really matted. With Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat influenced many voters as they saw adverts, watched as things came straight from the horse’s mouth and debated with friends. The thing is, Trump is first and foremost a celebrity. Since the 1980’s, he’s been the quintessential American mogul- loud and proud, flashy almost to a fault. He’s appeared in everything from Sex and the City to Home Alone 2 (nice of him to show Kevin to the lobby). Even when he’s said something controversial, there will always be someone watching the news or listening to the radio that will perk their head up and go ‘hey, I agree with that.’ Love him or hate him, the average American couldn’t get away from him. With the rise of right-wing news sources such as Breitbart, there was more opportunity to get away from conventional news sources such as MSNBC and CNN. These traditional news outlets are definitely more against Trump (with Fox News being the exception), so usually there may not be as much (balanced) coverage, but new social media platforms allow for a better, clearer debate. Plus, there’s Trump’s Twitter. That’s all we need to say about that.
Wide Berth of Candidates- Whilst the Democratic field was only really Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (maybe Martin O’Malley too, at the start), the Republicans had a record number of candidate. At times, even smaller candidates such as Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson were riding high in the polls. At the earliest point in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, there was such a wide field that they catered to every Republican. Moderates went for John Kasich. Deep conservatives went for Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. Traditional Republicans went for Jeb Bush. The split in vote did not benefit anyone, though Trump did start off extremely well for someone who was still seen as a bit of a joke candidate. This allowed Trump to get enough votes over his closest opponents (usually Cruz and Kasich) to win whichever primary that was occurring.
The American Dream- If there is one thing America loves, it’s a victor. When someone reaches up and makes a huge success, they love it. Success is essentially the American Dream. Ok, Trump didn’t live in the ghetto like Dr. Ben Carson or some of the other candidates did, and received help, but he built up his empire and became a huge figure. He’s a multi-billionaire who has hotels, casinos and other business ventures. He bankrolled much of his campaign, which his supporters loved, but one supposes that’s hardly a victory considering how expensive Presidential campaigns are and how it’s unfair on good candidates who just can’t raise money.
This is the first of three articles from Sarah Stook on the first year of Donald Trump's Presidency. The next will be on the Cabinet.