Emily Kowalik ’18
Assistant Opinions Editor
Many Americans, feeling blindsided by a Trump win on election night, are asking how this could have occurred. Trump was a candidate who had not been taken as a serious threat by many– not in the primaries, or after his nomination, or even in the general election. How could a candidate who had held no public office or governmental position, who ran a scathingly negative campaign, who battled controversy after controversy, who insulted many different groups of people, be our president-elect?
In the end, Donald Trump’s promise to restore America’s greatness mattered more than the mountain of slander, scandal, insults and controversies he built up over the run of the campaign and led him to win by paper-thin margins in swing states.
One reason Trump succeeded was due to the depth of his support among working-class white people, especially those without a college education. States that had, for decades before, voted Democrat partly due to support from working-class white voters now turned out the vote for Trump. Trump’s anti-immigration, anti-free trade and anti-establishment message resonated with working-class white people, who felt overlooked by the belt-way establishment.
Another reason for Trump’s victory is his spectacular resiliency against scandal. Throughout the campaign, Trump insulted war veteran John McCain on his sacrifice for his country and a Hispanic beauty pageant winner on her weight, got into many feuds with Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly and tapes were released of him boasting about making unwanted sexual advancements toward women. None of this seemed to matter – Trump’s personality and the simple appeal of his promise was so strong that even the most outrageous incidents failed to keep him down for long.
From the beginning, Trump cultivated his image as an outsider and an independent person. He beat a score of Republican primary opponents, while boasting that he didn’t need the backing of the Republican party establishment, from House Speaker Paul Ryan on down. This attitude appealed to many Americans who have become frustrated with Washington and its career politicians.
Hilary Clinton’s campaign did not seem as resilient as Trump’s. With each new chapter in the email server saga, especially right before the election when FBI director James Comey’s letter to Congress announced that their investigation was to be reopened, Clinton came to be seen by alienated voters as a ‘crooked’ politician.
But what truly pushed Trump to win the election was the turnout from voters in the rural and suburban areas in the Midwest. Trump managed to narrowly squeeze out a victory in states that hadn’t voted Republican since the 1980s. Trump’s message and his promise to oppose free-trade deals like NAFTA appealed to rust-belt voters in states with struggling industrial and rural areas.
Trump ran an outrageously unorthodox campaign which has managed to completely overturn conventional wisdom on how to win the presidency. Since the long night when the election results became known, major cities across America have seen huge protests against Trump’s presidency. These protesters, who are from all walks of life, came together to voice their fears that Trump is a threat to their civil and human rights, and took to the streets chanting “not my president” and “love Trumps hate.”
Will Trump be able to allay their fears? At this point Americans must be patient and give Trump a chance to demonstrate whether his personality during the campaign will be synonymous with his actions as president.