Raise your hands if you accurately predicted the outcome of this election. Come on, no cheating. Okay good. What just happened?!?
Polls had predicted a robust victory for Hillary Clinton last Tuesday, and even many on the Trump side believed that the party was over and that they would have to live with Hillary as president. In fact, the unlikely win created a “betting Armageddon,” costing book makers millions. However, the moment of truth approached and the ballots were counted, and lo and behold, the polls were wrong, and Donald Trump was elected president with 306 electoral votes (editor’s note: at the time of publication, Trump leads Michigan).
All conventional political and statistical assumptions have been thrown out the window this year, and the political establishments of both parties have been shaken to their respective cores. This is an election that will be studied in political science classes for the next two hundred years, and it arguably tops 1824 as the most interesting election in American history.
The blue wall that Democrats have touted as an inherent Electoral College advantage was torn down with surprising victories by Trump in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and a stunner in Wisconsin. In addition, Ohio, considered to be a bellwether state that decides elections, favored Trump by over eight points, and Minnesota, a state that hasn’t voted Republican in 44 years, was within a percent and a half of doing just that.
Two weeks ago, traditionally red states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas were considered swing states, and even Utah was considered up for grabs due to Evan McMullin splitting the conservative vote in that state. The Clinton campaign did put forth an effort to win some of those states by rallying minority turnout, but despite her campaign’s best efforts, Trump won all of those states.
There are many reasons why Donald Trump got the upset to win this election.
Some say that Trump’s victory was driven by racism and sexism, and they claim that the country, especially whites in the Midwest, are engaging in a “whitelash” against the nation’s first black president and its first female presidential candidate.
Others might say Trump won due to the lagging economy and the his own personal popularity being the driving force for political change.
While both of those and many other driving factors can be seen as peripheral reasons why Trump won, there is one factor that is greater than all others, and it can be found in the following video.
Why did I leave a Bill Maher skit here? Because this is the driving factor that put Donald Trump into office. As Milo Yiannopoulos said, this election is rare and unique in that it is fought over social issues as opposed to fiscal issues, and in this day and age, the biggest social divide in the country is between rural and urban America. Of the coastal cities and flyover country. Of Whole Foods and Cracker Barrel.
The political establishments of both parties was perceived to have been ignoring rural America, and it focused mostly on the issues and concerns of those in DC and those living where donors are concentrated. As a result, the concerns of the white working class, especially in Appalachia and in the Rust Belt, were forgotten. Though there aren’t too many sources of big money and special interests in the Great Lakes, there are quite a few votes, and with the exception of Illinois, those states are swing states, and its those votes that usually decide the presidency.
Rust belt voters saw Hillary as being an out of touch political insider and the candidate of Washington DC and Wall Street. While Democrats denigrated Trump and focused on issues like immigration reform, these voters were asking where the jobs went, and felt that the political correctness coming from the left and the condescendence of their problems as a mockery of a real crisis in middle America.
Though Trump is similar to Hillary in that he is also a wealthy New Yorker, he spoke the language of middle America, and brought up the issues that mattered to them. He spoke about restoring jobs, preserving the rural and suburban way of life, and fighting against the absurdity of political correctness. Even though many predicted that his controversial and racially charged statements would lead to an increase in heavy Democratic support from Latinos and African Americans, that rise never came. In fact, while Obama won 93% of the black vote and 71% of the Hispanic vote, Hillary Clinton only won 88% of the black vote and 65% of the Hispanic vote according to the New York Times exit polls. Simply put, Hillary failed to garner much enthusiasm for her own campaign, and the scare tactics against Trump worked in creating a Bradley effect, where those who are ashamed to tell a pollster they’re voting for Trump still did so in the polls.
Instead of alienating voters en masse, Trump brought a new constituency to the Republican party. In the same way that Ronald Reagan used abortion to reach the evangelicals and bring the Reagan Democrats to the GOP in the 1980s, Donald Trump used immigration to reach the Trump Democrats. These voters are former Democrats from Appalachia and the Rust Belt who are from union households and aren’t necessarily liberal, holding conservative views on immigration, political correctness and gun rights. They saw the Democrats moving away from them on the issues that affect them directly, and didn’t like the increasingly elitist and condescending attitude of the left, whether it was from those like Bill Maher or from Hillary’s emails.
The writing on the wall came from Joni Ernst’s landslide victory over Bruce Braley in the swing state of Iowa. Despite Iowa being a state that benefits tremendously from subsidies, which Democrats are more supportive of, Braley lost to the “pork-cutting” Ernst, and this was due to the cultural differences between the two. Ernst was an army lieutenant, a farmer, and a local State Senator, whereas Braley was an eight year congressman who had grown out of touch with Iowa farmers. When video leaked showing Braley as an elitist who looked down on farmers and favored trial lawyers, he sealed his fate. Two years later, Donald Trump won Iowa by ten points in a matchup that represented similar themes.
Now, despite protests across the country, Donald Trump is our president, and we have to look ahead. His hundred days plan is one that most conservatives, even those who were uneasy about backing Trump, have favored, though term limits might be a very tough sell. Additionally, Trump’s anti free trade policies will be interesting to watch, and while TPP is dead now, there will likely be a big fight within the GOP on whether to remain in NAFTA, and whether to alter the generally pro free trade stance that the GOP has maintained ever since the Reagan Revolution. On a more bipartisan note, Trump may be successful in bringing a new transport bill to the table and fixing the infrastructure of the country, though it remains to be seen how it will be funded. The most interesting fights of the next few months will no doubt be nominating a conservative justice to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia, and repealing and replacing all or most of Obamacare.
On college campuses, this election seems like a repudiation of political correctness by the country, but in the short run, there will be rampant protests by the campus left over the election results and there will be open resistance to a Trump presidency at least in the first few years, as his election has triggered anger from many who feel as though a vote for Trump was a direct vote against them. While many who voted Trump have voted for him in order to end PC culture, presidents usually aren’t the shapers of culture, rather it’s the culture that influences the president that is chosen. While it may not seem that way due to the headlines, there is a real cultural resistance growing against political correctness, and the success of the last two seasons of South Park could attest to that. Just as how Ronald Reagan’s election was a rebuke of the pessimism of the 70s, Trump’s election could be seen as a counter to the PC culture spread by the vocal minority in our campuses and in our media
Speaking of millennials, the lack of enthusiasm of young people in electing Hillary has also had a big impact in leading to her loss. Since Hillary was not a particularly charismatic and trustworthy candidate, young people who would’ve otherwise voted en masse for her chose to vote third party, and in some states, broke nearly even for Hillary or Trump. The enthusiasm gap favored Trump, and not only did that help in making the millennial vote more competitive for Trump, but it also led to a more concerted ground game that made the difference in states like Florida and Wisconsin, where the 25-29 vote trended for Trump, and the college aged vote was tied respectively.
For example, the work of the Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans was important in making the difference in races for Donald Trump and Senator Ron Johnson, both considered longshots for victory.
“We ran and promoted an ad for Ron Johnson on campuses across the state for the final few weeks leading up to the election that reached over 50,000 students, 300,000 views and 1,000,000 impressions,” state chair Alex Walker recalled. “That paired with a great on campus ground game and volunteers pushed Johnson over fifty percent and pulled up Trump too.”
Considering the boldness of Donald Trump and his desire to be a transformational president, there won’t be a middle ground in terms of his legacy. He will either be the next Ronald Reagan and someone to set the direction of the country for a generation, or he would go down as one of the least popular presidents in the country’s history. He has high unfavorables to overcome once he enters office, and will need to earn the trust of both conservatives that doubted his ideological commitment, and those who fear him enough to conduct violent protests within days of his election. Regardless of what we think of him, now that Trump is in office, America should look at this new presidency with optimistic eyes and give him a chance to work with Congress “Make America Great Again”, while still holding him accountable to the promises that were made in the election cycle.