It could fairly be described as one of the biggest upsets in Presidential election history. On November 8th, Donald Trump overcame horrendous public opinion and defied all odds to become the next President of the United States.
How did he do it? How did he overcome insurmountable obstacles to defeat Hillary Clinton? There are a few theories of how he managed to win, and we will investigate the most probable theories in order to try to figure it out. Love him or hate him, he achieved a huge upset that nobody predicted, not even Trump himself.
Before we delve into how he did it, it is important to define exactly what he won.
Electoral College 306 (57%) 227 (42%)
Popular Vote 62,984,825 (46%) 65,853,516 (48%)
It is estimated that only 54.7% of eligible voters actually voted in the election. Shortly after the election, Trump claimed that he would have won the popular vote by a wide margin, had it not been for millions of fraudulent votes. Part of his claim was that all of the supposed fraudulent votes were cast for Hillary Clinton, and none went to him. He provided no support or evidence of his claims, and earlier in the year Mr. Trump’s own lawyers wrote: “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake,”. When your own lawyers state there was no fraud, it’s difficult to keep pressing the issue, but Trump did anyway, pledging he would sign an executive order to investigate the fraud.
This was a solid win for Trump. It wasn’t a landslide, and more people actually voted for Clinton, but because of how we run elections Trump won, and it wasn’t really that close.
The American people, for the most part, dislike the job the government is doing. Congress has a pathetic 18% approval rating. Most recent Presidents have an approval rating well below 50%. Even though there are almost 22 million people employed by government in the US, nothing ever gets done, and nobody is held accountable. There had been at least eight years of gridlock in Washington, and many people felt it was time for a change.
Leading up to election day, there was a lot not to like about Trump. He was brash and boorish, he insulted just about every other Republican candidate. He had a long history of childish and abusive behavior. He (his companies) went bankrupt, he didn’t always pay his contractors. He was involved in 3,500 lawsuits and used the courts as a way to intimidate others. A dozen women accused him of sexual harassment, and he was caught on tape bragging about sexually abusing women. He has been married three times and has been accused of cheating all on three of his wives. He insulted the entire country of Mexico. He waged a war against the Muslim religion. He insulted American war heroes like John McCain. He called Mitt Romney a “stone cold loser”. He said our Generals don’t know much. And of course, he made wild promises about the wall, healthcare, a secret plan to defeat ISIS, and winning so much that Americans would become tired of winning. There were reasons for women not to like him. There were reasons for Evangelicals not to like him. There were reasons for Republicans who supported their party not to like him. There were reasons for immigrants not to like him. There were enough reasons for just about every American to dislike something about Donald Trump.
So how does a candidate that has at least one thing about them that people dislike get elected? When there is a least one thing about the candidate that people like even more than the thing they dislike. All Trump had to do was to get people to like one thing about him. One thing that they liked more than all the things they may have disliked.
Many people were tired of a do-nothing government that never got anything done, and Trump had a history of getting things done. Trump literally wrote the book on making deals. Could he break the gridlock in Washington and get the country moving again? He said he could, he said he was the best, and many people believed him. Other supporters liked that he was going to finally address illegal immigration, something that other politicians barely mentioned. Many people believed him when he claimed to know exactly how to defeat ISIS, that he had a foolproof plan. Perhaps it was his promised to repeal and replace Obamacare with something that would be great, something everybody would love. Trump offered many bold and great promises that people could cling to, and Clinton did not.
Clinton did not propose any great changes in policy or practice. Perhaps it was out of respect to Obama that she rarely implied things were not as good as they could be, or that change was needed. Clinton promised more of the same. More of the same gridlock, more of the same immigration policy, more of the same health care, more of the same regulations, and more of the same everything.
Trump was successful in convincing people things were horrible and in terrible shape. According to Trump, things were so bad, only he could fix them. No other politician had the skill set necessary to do it. He needed to convince people that he would be their savior, and he did.
In the end, most Trump voters claimed that there was one thing that stood out about Trump that they could cling to. It may have been immigration and building a wall, it may have been healthcare, it may have been jobs, but Trump voters could almost always point to one thing that Trump said he would change that they liked. All the other stuff just didn’t really matter much. As long as he came through on the one thing that mattered to them, they could accept the other things. Clinton didn’t offer anything new. Clinton only offered an option not to vote for Trump, and that is really why Trump won.
So what will happen in 2020? It’s obvious that Trump will claim that the world is much better off than it was, that he overcame terrific hurdles (since everything was so bad), and nobody could have done better starting with such a mess. In addition, things are great in 2019 and nobody could make them better. Choosing any other politician will take us back to the dark days before he took office, total failure. It will be fun to hear him say it.Tweet