By Mehmet Zorluoglu
With Donald Trump emerging from Tuesday’s election spectacle victorious, many people are shocked and wondering what to make of the recent developments.
The reactions of Democratic, Independent, and even Republican voters who find Trump unpalatable have ranged from anger, to fear; from hopelessness, to uncertainty.
However, no matter your political preference– and no matter how this election makes you feel, one thing is clear– as a nation we must carry on, because in the days, the weeks, and the years after this election we still remain one nation, a unification of 50 states.
As one nation, it is within all of our best interest that we see a successful four year term from Trump. That should go without saying. As President Obama said, “. . . we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country.”
However, as with the end of any unsuccessful campaign, the reasons for why things unfolded as they did must be examined in order to extract lessons for future reference. I will go through many of the main causes for this outcome as I see it and examine whether anything could have been done differently to result in a more successful campaign for Hillary Clinton.
TPP and Other Such Trade Issues
A cornerstone of Donald Trump’s campaign has been to bring jobs that have been “shipped overseas” back into the United States. It is no secret that many voters in the so-called “rust belt states” of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania see these issues as very important.
Regardless of whether this anxiety over trade deals and economic policy in these areas is justified, there are clear indicators that it cost Clinton dearly.
For example, during the primaries against Bernie Sanders, Clinton was going into a debate in Flint, Michigan, with upwards of a 20 point lead in the sparse polling that was done in the state. After the results were in, Senator Sanders was able to achieve one of the greatest political election upsets in the history of the United States.
The fact that many voters saw Trump as more authentic and trustworthy on this issue is likely due to Clinton publicly championing the TPP as the “gold standard” of trade deals many months before the start of this grueling campaign season. While Trump has also been proven to outsource his own jobs overseas on many occasions, this public push for the TPP may just have taken a heavy toll on Clinton. She ended up losing every single one of the rust belt states sans Illinois, which always votes firmly Democratic.
As the results have trickled in, it is apparent both from anecdotal evidence and hard numbers that there was a sizeable enthusiasm gap between these two major party candidates. It is clear that many presumably liberal leaning voters who came out to the polls for President Obama once, if not both times, either switched over to Trump or abstained from voting altogether. That is clear from the vote tallies.
Trump was able to defeat Clinton in the electoral college even with fewer votes being cast for him than for Mitt Romney. Fewer people voted for a major party candidate this time around, and Trump was able to muster enough support in key states such as Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to just edge out all of the electoral college votes in those states.
Regardless of what you think of the electoral college system, this lower voter turnout seems to have worked in Trump’s favor, as he was not even able to win more votes than the campaign’s of Romney and McCain, both of which were unsuccessful against Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, there is an argument to be had that sexism played a part in the result of this campaign. I suppose this reason may be one filled with more speculation rather than empirical evidence, but whether sexism had an impact on this race is certainly worth questioning.
On the one hand, there was the first female major nominee for president in the United States, a woman who was formerly a US Senator and had also served as Secretary of State. Some would argue that Clinton was one of the most qualified candidates for president in the recent history of the United States.
On the other side was a businessman and reality tv star known for things such as his controversial statements, and constantly being in the tabloid news. He had never served in the military or held public office, and he is now the president elect. This is the first time in the history of the US that something like this has happened, and perhaps it is more than a coincidence that it happened against a female candidate who had much more experience in jobs that would normally be a prerequisite for any presidential hopeful.
However, while sexism could have played a part in the results of this election we must also consider the equally plausible scenario that the “woman card”, as Trump has called it, had been played on too many an occasion and therefore had lost its meaning in the minds of voters.
This is not to say that the sexism does not exist, but simply that it is equally possible that the Clinton campaign made what, in voters’ minds, may have been a mistake that was overplaying the “woman card” during the primaries and general election. Perhaps accusing a man like Sanders and many of his supporters of sexism during the primaries, despite most of these accusations being unfounded, made the claim of sexism later on in the campaign lose its impact.
Being too Scripted and Meticulous
Hindsight is 20-20 and looking back on the past two years, Trump seems to have latched onto something from the onset of his campaign that very few establishment figures– whether it be pundits or politicians– seemed to know was there. He was written off from the beginning, and each step he took towards the presidency was met with reassurances from the establishment that he could not possibly reach the next step. This cycle continued until, finally, he became the successor to Barack Obama.
Perhaps his anti-establishment mantra and constant reiteration of things such as “draining the swamp”– referring to Washington as a cesspool of corruption that he will fix when he wins– should make it self evident that Trump was the anti-establishment candidate. While this topic perhaps deserves its very own subsection, it seems apparent enough, where instead talking about how he came off as an anti-establishment figure may be more important.
Donald Trump rode an anti-status quo wave all the way to the presidency, and this sentiment manifested itself in many different ways.
One way was the manner in which Trump spoke throughout the campaign. While many pundits seemed to view his bombastic speaking style as well as his word choice as a hinderance to his general election chances, many voters were clearly not in agreement with that judgement.
They perceived his approach and cadence as authentic and perhaps even more relatable than Clinton’s. This perception of authenticity and speaking off the cuff is perhaps what allowed him to survive even after all the pundits thought the next controversial thing he said would certainly be the downfall of his campaign.
Hillary Clinton’s well prepared and measured public speeches seemed to only work against her in this extraordinary rejection of politics as usual. It appears that Donald Trump chose the perfect time to run for president while Clinton picked the worst time, according to the way each chose to carry out their campaign efforts.
With all this being said, disillusioned opposers of Trump should not hang their heads low. Instead, we should stand up for everything that we believe in at all costs. This is true no matter who is elected president both this year and going forward. That is what makes this country as great as it already is.