The bruising contest that was the US presidential election came to a surprising end in the early hours of the 9th of November. Donald J. Trump, the former real estate tycoon and reality TV star, defied the expectations of political observers at every turn, delivering his biggest surprise yet by winning the state of Wisconsin and thus clinching the presidency. The surprise victory for Donald Trump marked a stunning conclusion to a divisive, polarizing and often bitter campaign, unlike any in recent memory. In the end, Trump’s nationalist, anti-globalist, anti-political correctness message appealed to a disenfranchised disillusion “silent majority” that propelled him to the White House.
It was a historic election of firsts, as Hillary Clinton was looking to become the first female president, and Donald Trump was seeking to become the first president with no previous political or military experience. The outcome defied both polling companies and pundits alike, as most if not all had predicted a Clinton victory given her persistent, if modest, lead in the polls.
The former reality-TV star drove record-turnout during the Republican primary by mobilising millions of mostly white, working-class voters, who were invigorated by his populist message, opposition to free trade, and hawkish stance on immigration. Despite scepticism that he could replicate this success in the general election, with a bigger, more diverse electorate, Trump did exactly that. Before electoral day, polling revealed a country apparently divided down demographic lines. It was supposedly a country where men and white people tended to back Trump, while women and ethnic minorities flocked to the Democratic Party candidate. These demographic splits did come to light to a certain extent, but a key part in Clinton’s failure was the fact that ethnic minorities and women didn’t back her in the numbers initially expected.
Even though the overall share of the electorate for ‘whites’ dropped for the seventh consecutive election, to 70 percent, Trump prevailed by pushing Clinton to meagre levels of support among them. Exit polls showed that she won just 37 percent of all whites, including 31 percent of white men. The exit polls also suggest that while minorities such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans overwhelmingly supported Clinton over Trump, the level of their support was significantly less than that of President Obama’s campaign in 2012. At the same time, Trump managed to slightly increase his support among whites in comparison to recent republican nominees. The Hispanic share of the vote ticked up nationwide, there was evidence of a significant decline in participation among black voters, especially in the industrial Midwestern states, where Trump’s victory was sealed. On the point of gender, Mr. Trump made gains amongst men, and only suffered slight loss among women, despite accusations of sexual assault and sexism. In fact, a slight majority of white women (53%) voted for Trump over Clinton, and while Clinton won the female vote overall, the gap was surprisingly small.
Based on information from exit polls, Mrs.Clinton’s strong support was heavily outmatched by gains Trump made across rural America. Similarly, while Clinton made gains in larger metropolitan areas, she was thoroughly rejected in smaller cities, especially in the industrial heartland or “Rust-Belt states” of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan. This clean sweep through the Rust Belt, netting 64 electoral votes, the exact number that Mitt Romney fell short of the presidency four years ago, won Trump the election. These states were the manufacturing hubs that used to drive the American industrial engine in the 70s and 80s, but have suffered a dramatic collapse in recent years due to trade deals like NAFTA. As filmmaker Michael Moore said about the Rust Belt “From Green Bay to Pittsburgh, this, my friends, is the middle of America – broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the countryside with the carcass of what we use to call the Middle Class. Angry, embittered working (and nonworking) people who were lied to by the trickle-down of Reagan and abandoned by Democrats.”
Trump also won back the states of Iowa and Florida that the Democrats took in ’08. Clinton won a tight race in Virginia, but was unable to carry the neighbouring swing state of North Carolina and its crucial 15 Electoral College votes. Trump triumphed in the bellwether state Ohio, capturing its 18 Electoral College votes, the state being the only one to have successfully picked the winning candidate in every election since 1964. Trump won Florida’s vote for the 2016 presidency, marginally ahead of Clinton. As both the most elderly and equally one of the most racially diverse states in America, Florida had been one of the hardest to call swing states in this election, with margins in recent polling being too close to call. However, in the end, the deeply Republican “panhandle” region of Western Florida, as well as cities like Jacksonville, carried Florida for Trump.
Mr Trump will govern with a Congress fully under Republican control. The GOP fended off a Democratic challenge in the Senate, and the extended its grip on the House. The GOP protected its majorities in both chambers, ensuring that Republicans will have unified control of government for the first time since 2005.
In a victory speech devoid of the divisive rhetoric that had marked his campaign, US President-elect Donald Trump thanked his rival Hillary Clinton, and vowed that the forgotten men and women in America will remain forgotten no longer, and that the rebuilding of the nation will be done keeping their voices in mind. He said “Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream… The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it,”
It remains unclear what a Trump presidency holds for the world, although President-elect Trump has reassured Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he will be welcome in the White House on St. Patricks Day as tradition holds.
It’s important to note that, while Trump was able to win the Presidency, he did so without winning the popular vote. This has caused many to question the Electoral College system of election in America, as Trump reportedly received over 2.2 million votes less than Clinton overall.