How Donald Trump won the U.S. Presidency
By Howard T. Brody and Louis Mamo
When Donald J. Trump threw his hat into the political arena in June 2015 and declared that he was running for the Presidency of the United States of America, very few people, including one of the two authors of this article, took him seriously.
For eighteen months politicians poked fun at him. Newspapers and news networks admonished and ridiculed him. Comedians and TV hosts mocked him. In many cases, they had good reason to. The Donald, it seemed, had no filter. He bluntly said what was on his mind in public and no matter how controversial the subject, he would replicate that mindset on Twitter. For many, he seemed like he was doing everything he could do to NOT get elected.
Still, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 9, 2016, when the smoke cleared, the New York real estate tycoon who was considered a joke going into the campaign, had the last laugh coming out of it. Billionaire Donald J. Trump was the President-elect.
But how did he do it?
How did Trump, a man with absolutely no public service experience, zero political experience, and no verbal filter whatsoever, actually win the presidency?
Sure, we could do what all the political analysts have done to date and examine the numbers. We can take a look at the demographics, the charts, the maps and the trends, and draw a viable explanation for how Trump was able to beat the odds and win an election he should never have been part of. Or, we can look at the cause of what enabled him to get involved in the first place.
For nearly 30 years Trump played with the idea of running for president. In 1987 he considered a run but backed out when he got strapped in dealing with large debts caused by his Atlantic City Taj Mahal casino purchase. Thirteen years later Trump entered the 2000 race as a candidate of the Reform Party. Before dropping out, he received more than 15,000 votes in that party’s California primary. Then in 2003, just as he was beginning his stint on “The Apprentice,” he again contemplated a presidential run, but eventually decided not to participate. In 2008, he briefly talked of running, but he balked and stood on the sidelines, endorsing Democratic contender Hillary Clinton in the process. By 2011, two years after the Tea Party movement seemed to have split the Republican Party, Trump toyed with the idea again; especially after a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed him leading all other presidential hopefuls. When he ultimately decided not to run, Trump, who had publicly considered himself a Democrat, seemingly switched allegiances and endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
By 2015, Trump saw something apparent in the American public that most candidates did not and he turned that hunch into a legitimate campaign. This time, however, instead of running for a small party or even as an Independent candidate, he chose to go the mainstream route and focused his efforts on the Republican Party.
Even though there were more than a dozen candidates who would vie for the top of the Republican ticket, Trump saw an opportunity in that the country had become more verbally dissatisfied with the Obama administration than before and that the Republican Party was still split and really had no a clear-cut leader among its field of potential candidates.
While the pollsters and pundits wrote him off, Trump gambled that the general public was sick and tired of the political establishment. After all, eight years earlier Barrack Obama, a junior politician, won an election based on the premise that real change would come to Washington. While many changes did, in fact,
take place during the Obama administration, some good some bad, the political reform behind those changes never did come to pass, and to the masses, it was simply political business as usual.
For the most part, Trump understood that disillusionment with Washington. With the Tea Party still fresh in the minds of many registered Republican voters, and the fact that Trump was a genuine political outsider, the eagerness for change over complacency trumped all other political factors and enabled the Donald to pick off the candidates one by one.
Going into the primaries, pollsters, and polished journalists were picking former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio as the Republican favorites. What nobody counted on was that Trump’s unabashed style would resonate with so many people. He said things that would normally never be said in public, and when he did it, while some people cringed, others found it refreshing because they thought they finally had a candidate who, although might be full of himself, wasn’t full of shit. Whether he would win or lose, Donald Trump was the proverbial straw that stirred the drink that was the Republican Party.
While Trump was able the garner more primary votes than any Republican candidate in history (13.4 million), he also had more votes against him in the primaries than any Republican candidate in history (16.6 million). This can be attributed to many independents coming out to vote Republican as well as many Democrats who switched parties. By the same token, the Democratic Party was also suffering from what could best be described as an anti-candidate syndrome. Clinton, who won the Democratic nomination, amassed 15.8 million votes compared to Bernie Sanders, who compiled 12 million. Considering the total number of votes cast during the Democratic primary in 2016 was down about 9 million from 2008 and that 43% of the votes were cast for a candidate that proclaimed himself to be a Socialist, illustrated just how divided the country became. While Clinton topped Sanders by 3 million popular votes, some people, including Trump, claimed the system was “rigged” and that Sanders never really had a chance against Clinton because she was able to secure 572 of the 712 superdelegates prior to the primaries.
In Alaska, both candidates scored one superdelegate each, despite the fact that Sanders won the state by an 82-18 margin.
In Utah, where Sanders won by a 79-20 margin, two of the state’s four superdelegates backed Clinton.
In Washington State, while Sanders crushed Clinton by a 73-27 margin, Clinton had 10 of 16 superdelegates while Sanders had none.
In Minnesota even though Sanders won the state’s caucus by a 62-38 margin, 11 of 16 superdelegates supported Clinton.
In Wisconsin, where the Vermont Senator won the Badger State’s -primary by 14 points, only one superdelegate supported Sanders while 10 backed Clinton.
In Rhode Island, all nine superdelegates supported Clinton, even though Sanders defeated the former Secretary of State by a 12-point margin.
To many, it was that disparity and disconnection which prompted Trump to claim that the elections were “rigged” and that the system needed overhauling. When the Presidential election was over, and some of the Millennials began protesting the outcome, many believe Sanders would have been more electable than Clinton and perhaps could have beaten Trump head-to-head.
While that is nothing but speculation at this point, in hindsight some will say Trump succeeded in his bid to become President by awakening a popular movement of anger and frustration among white, blue-collar, less educated, mostly male, voters, particularly in non-urban areas by promising them jobs, safe borders, and dignity, thus prompting them to respond by turning out in droves at his pre-election rallies and eventually the ballot box, carrying him to victory, others will say he won because Clinton was less attractive to the traditional Democratic base of urban, minorities, and more educated voters.
Even the outgoing POTUS had a take on how Trump won. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Obama was asked if he still believed the U.S. was a “progressive country” following Trump’s election. Like many he pointed out the Democrats’ failure to reach working-class white voters, as he had won the 2008 and 2012 elections. “In this election, [they] turned out in huge numbers for Trump,” Obama said. “And I think that part of it has to do with our inability, our failure, to reach those voters effectively. Part of it is Fox News in every bar and restaurant in big chunks of the country, but part of it is also Democrats not working at a grassroots level, being in there, showing up, making arguments. That part of the critique of the Democratic Party is accurate. We spend a lot of time focused on international policy and national policy and less time being on the ground. And when we’re on the ground, we do well. This is why I won Iowa.”
However you choose to analyze the outcome, for many of those who participated in the vote, this election wasn’t about who was the best candidate for the job, it became a vote against the person people didn’t want to see in the White House.
On the one side there was the Washington outsider, who was touted as being a homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, sexual predator and racist, and on the other side there was the established politician who was riddled with her own closet skeletons including questions about her health, the 2012 Benghazi attack, the 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak, the Clinton Foundation–State Department controversy, the John Podesta emails, and the private email server issue, ensuing FBI investigation and potential indictment that hung over her head.
Many believe the negative advertisements used against Trump by the Clinton campaign, which were non-stop and brutal, actually backfired. The Clinton strategists used every harmful comment that Trump made during the election cycle against him, including the now infamous “grab them by the pussy” comment he made years ago regarding women. What they didn’t consider was that people didn’t want to hear or see the negative ads anymore as that was considered
didn’t want to hear or see the negative ads anymore as that was considered standard operating procedures for Washington politicians.
But that wasn’t the only strategy that backfired on Hillary’s campaign. Instead of fighting in the trenches for the minority vote herself, Clinton relied too much on President Obama to do the talking for her. After Obama invited members of Black Lives Matter – which was funded by billionaire Clinton supporter George Soros through his Open Society Foundation – to the White House in an effort to ease escalating racial tensions between the black community and law enforcement, many law enforcement supporters became disenchanted with the President, feeling that he was doing more harm than good and ultimately promoting divisiveness between the two sides. When Milwaukee, Wisconsin County Sherriff David A. Clark, Jr., an African-American male, called Black Lives Matter a terrorist group on Fox News, CNN, and other media outlets, it did irreparable harm to the Clinton campaign as they did not count on the backlash against them and that Trump would garner an overwhelming amount of support from the law enforcement community.
In addition, while Clinton’s poll numbers were at an all-time low for trustworthiness, by Obama being on the campaign trail and touting her as perhaps the most qualified candidate of all time, it made him look foolish; especially considering that many of the accusations Trump was hurling at Clinton during the campaign were the same that Obama accused her of eight years earlier. With Trump supporters being able to post those old videos of Obama questioning Clinton’s ethics that were on YouTube to such sites as Facebook, it killed his credibility. Combining that with the fact that voters did not want to see the President himself out on the trail knocking a candidate in the manner Obama was doing to Trump, it ended up working against Clinton and playing into Donald’s favor.
If that weren’t bad enough, another black eye to the Clinton campaign was when the undercover video came out that showed two DNC strategists – Robert Creamer (founder of Democracy Advocates) and Scott Foval (national field director of Americans United for Change) – discussing voter fraud and their roles in planting paid agitators at campaign events for Trump.
But to many, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Fox Business News host Stuart Varney reported on a story that he complained was getting “no media play at all, except here.” It was a video clip of a November 4 interview with millennial Latino outlet mitú in which President Obama appeared to have encouraged illegals to vote, promising “no repercussions if they do.” In the aftermath of that controversy, several mainstream media outlets claimed the piece was edited to be specifically deceptive. Even with all this, going into Election Day, the analysts were still showing Clinton with the lead.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the election booth; the pollsters got it wrong, and at the end of the day, it didn’t matter what either of the two candidates said or did. Those who voted for Trump or against Clinton looked past his flaws and foibles and those who voted for Clinton and against Trump did the same thing. While those who backed their candidates saw nothing wrong with anything they did or said, many took the path of voting for the lesser of two evils.
So, years from now when historians look back and ask how did Donald J. Trump win the U.S. Presidency? Love him or hate him, it will probably go something like this…
When President Trump initially ran for POTUS, he went against the grain by speaking his mind, telling people what they wanted to hear, took his battles with the media public, broke all the rules of campaigning, rewrote some new campaign rules and above all out-smarted and out-politicked every pollster, pundit, and politician who stood in his path.