author: connor macneil | contributor
Trump has managed the unthinkable: he beat the polls, he beat the media, he beat his own party, and hell, he even beat the popular vote. However, the most stunning aspect of this victory may not be all the external factors that Trump overcame to win, but those inside the man. In the course of this stunning upset, Trump beat Trump.
If I told you that 63 per cent of Americans believed that a candidate running for the office of president did not have the temperament to lead, you’d probably guess this person ended up losing the election. If I told you that this person was also viewed unfavourably by 58.5 per cent of the American public, and that that this candidate was involved in multiple ongoing criminal trials, you would likely guess that this person lost in a crushing landslide defeat. Instead, Donald J. Trump is the 45th president-elect of the United States with a nation stunned and the world shocked.
There was no worse enemy to the chances of a Republican victory in this election than Trump himself. Picking fights with the parents of dead war heroes, criticizing John McCain for being captured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, ridiculing a disabled reporter, the “grab them by the pussy” tape, publicly admitting on the debate stage that he evaded taxes, calling the election rigged and unfair before a single vote had even been cast, and not to mention Trump’s countless off-the-handle twitter tirades at 3 a.m. Trump could hardly have hurt his chances of victory more in the final weeks if he had tried. Trump’s character was roughly on level with Nelson Muntz.
With this ample ammunition, Hillary pounded home the message that Trump was not fit to lead. The American public agreed, exit polls say 61 per cent of voters believed Trump was not qualified to be President. Seemingly, this strategy worked, insofar as it matched up with the underlying public opinion on Trump’s leadership qualities, his short temper, his lack of self-control, and his lack of any governmental experience before this election; although the public did agree with this message, it wasn’t what mattered to them.
The American people spoke loudly on Nov. 8. They do not care if their president is a racist, a narcissist, a hothead, or a sexist. Trump’s objectification of women as sexual objects, and characterization of Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and drug pushers not only did not matter to the general voting public, they seemingly didn’t even matter to the groups these comments were about. Trump won non-college-educated, white women by the greatest margin of any president since Ronald Reagan, and he outperformed Romney’s 2012 campaign in terms of the Hispanic vote. Trump was able to overcome his own detestable personal traits because of what he stood for to the people.
What the entire election process has shown us is that above all else, the American people want someone who will deliver change. Sanders did spectacularly well in the Democratic primaries running on the message that he was not a conventional Washington politician, and that he would fight to bring about real change. Just as Bernie described his campaign as not just a campaign, but also a “political revolution,” Trump on the victory stage proudly told the public that his campaign was not an election campaign, but a “movement.” The common thread between the successes of these candidates had nothing to do with who they were, what they had done, or even the specifics of their policy. It all came down to a hunger to change everything people have come to hate about American politics.
To many, the Clintons perfectly encapsulate what American politics has become, and this was Hillary’s biggest disadvantage. It was not her policy, her character, or even her scandals that lost her the election. It was what she represented: old news in Washington. The experienced Hillary lost to a supposedly under-qualified junior senator from Illinois named Barack Obama because she couldn’t match his message of change; and eight years later, Hillary lost to a definitely under-qualified reality TV star named Donald Trump because she did not match his message of change. Americans have become desperate for something new.
At the end of the day, the people wanted change, and they didn’t care who delivered it to them. It could have been Trump, it could have been Bernie. People wanted things done differently. As Trump so eloquently put it, the people want to “drain the swamp” that is Washington D.C. The biggest advantage Trump could have ever had is that this election was about them, and not about him.