I was close to tears as the results were coming in, I couldn’t believe what I was watching, I felt the world was ready for a woman President. I knew within me that the most qualified Presidential candidate ever was Hillary Clinton. Results from Ohio, Florida, Michigan et al shocked me.
This made me think and set myself for a moment of a sober reflection. Why did Donald Trump (a complete outlier) win?
Some reasons popped inside my head.
- Silent Trump vote
There really was a silent Trump vote that the polls failed to pick up on. The nationwide polling average gave Clinton about a 3-point lead overall, and the state-by-state polls indicated that she would win at least 300 electoral votes but the polls were as wrong as the pundits. Obviously, showing problems with the polls’ methodologies.
It seems equally reasonable to conclude that many Trump voters kept their intentions to themselves and refused to cooperate with the pollsters.
The extraordinary role of FBI Director James Comey in the presidential campaign cannot be underestimated either. Two weeks ago Clinton seemed on the verge of winning a double-digit victory but Comey’s Oct. 28 letter to congress which announced that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Clinton’s State Department emails, changed the momentum of the race. Clinton retook the polling lead at the end of last week, but the final polls masked the lasting damage that the Comey letter had done to her campaign.
Whatever the ultimate explanation for the polls’ failure to predict the election’s outcome, the future of the polling industry is in question after Tuesday. Trump’s astounding victory demonstrated that the polls simply cannot be trusted.
- Celebrity beat organization
A longstanding assumption of political campaigns is that a first-rate “Get out the Vote” organization is indispensable. The conventional wisdom in 2016 thus held that Trump’s lack of a grassroots organization was a huge liability for his campaign but as it turned out, he didn’t need an organization. Trump has been in the public eye for over 30 years, which meant that he entered the race with nearly 100 percent name recognition. Trump’s longstanding status as a celebrity enabled him to garner relentless media attention from the moment he entered the race.
One study found that by May 2016 Trump had received the equivalent of US$3 billion in free advertising from the media coverage his campaign commanded. Trump seemed to intuitively understand that the controversial things he said on the campaign trail captured the voters’ attention in a way that serious policy speeches never could.
Most important of all, he had highly motivated voters. Trump’s populist rhetoric and open contempt for civility and basic standards of decency enabled him to connect with the Republican base like no candidate since Ronald Reagan. Trump didn’t play by the normal rules of politics, and his voters loved him for it.
Trump’s victory would seem to herald a new era of celebrity politicians. He showed that a charismatic media-savvy outsider has significant advantages over traditional politicians and conventional political organizations in the internet age. In the future, we may see many more unconventional politicians in the Trump mold.
- Populist revolt against immigration and trade
It will take days to sort through the data to figure out what issues resonated mostly deeply with Trump’s base.
However, immigration and trade seem virtually certain to be at the top of the list. Trump bet his whole campaign on the idea that popular hostility to liberal immigration and free trade policies would propel him to the White House.
From the beginning to the end of his campaign, he returned time and again to those two cornerstone issues. In his announcement speech, he promised to build a wall on the Mexican border and deport 11 million unauthorized immigrants. He also pledged to tear up free trade agreements and bring back manufacturing jobs. From day one, he made xenophobic and nationalistic policies the centerpiece of his campaign.
Critics rightfully condemned his vicious attacks on Mexicans and Muslims, but Trump clearly understood that hostility toward immigration and globalization ran deep among a critical mass of American voters.
His decision to focus on immigration and trade paid off in spades on Election Day. It’s no coincidence that Trump did exceptionally well in the traditionally blue states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, all of which have large populations of white working-class voters. Previous Republican nominees such as John McCain, who embraced generous immigration policies, and Mitt Romney, who advocated free trade, never managed to connect with blue-collar voters in the Great Lakes region.
Trump’s anti-immigration and protectionist trade policies gave him a unique opening with white working-class voters, and he made most of it.
- Outsiders against insiders
Trump will be the first president without elective office experience since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. Eisenhower, however, served as supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II and had unrivaled expertise in foreign affairs.
So how did Trump make his lack of government experience an asset in the campaign?
The answer lay in the intense and widespread public hostility to the political, media and business establishments that lead the country. Trust in institutions is at an all-time low and a majority of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. The angry and volatile public mood made 2016 the ultimate change election.
Amid such a potent anti-establishment spirit, Trump’ vulgar (the most populous being ‘ grab em by the pussy) , intemperate and unorthodox style struck voters as far more genuine than the highly cautious and controlled Hillary Clinton. As the brash and unpredictable Trump positioned himself as an agent of change, Clinton seemed like the establishment’s candidate, an impression that proved fatal to her campaign. Indeed, Trump used Clinton’s deep experience in the White House, Senate and State Department against her by citing it as evidence that she represented the status quo.
Ironically, Bill Clinton won the White House 24 years ago using a similar anti-establishment strategy. In the 1992 election, he successfully depicted incumbent President George H. W. Bush as an out-of-touch elitist. Eight years later Bush’s son, George W. Bush, employed the same tactic to defeat Vice President Al Gore. And in 2008 Barack Obama successfully ran as an outsider against John McCain.
Trump is thus the fourth consecutive president to win the White House by running as an “outsider” candidate. That is a lesson that future presidential candidates forget at their peril.
Donald Trump has won. The world must move on, it is a hard pill to swallow but we have no option other than to support the incoming President.
God bless Nigeria!
God bless America!!
God bless the world!!!
Jake Corleone, single, is a financial and political analyst. His twitter handle is @hitee_