It wasn’t even close.
Not only did Trump more or less run the table in the battleground states that he needed to win, he won the states he was expected to by larger than expected margins, and Clinton only narrowly squeaked by in the states she was expected to win. Indeed, had it not been for the presence of Gary Johnson running as a libertarian, who probably siphoned off far more votes from Trump than Clinton, the margin may have been even greater. America has spoken loud and clear. President Trump has a mandate.
Dems should have gone with Bernie.
This was the year of the outsider. The disenchantment and anger with the establishment and desire to bring sweeping change to the polity was a very real and deep one. Trump successfully managed to tap into this anger and sense of alienation, and project himself as the outsider who would “drain the swamp,” clean up politics, and stick it to the elites. In this climate, Bernie Sanders would have stacked up far better against Trump, and given those who felt that they wanted to shake things up a real choice.
Nobody knows anything.
The polls and pundits could not have been more wrong. From Day One, the so-called experts dismissed Trump’s candidacy and clearly had no clue as to either the source of his popularity, what makes the American voter tick, or indeed what they were talking about. Almost all of the polls were off, and the other tools the experts brought to their analysis were similarly unequal to the task of accurately understanding the political landscape and thus predicting the election outcome.
Politics as usual is finished.
Not only was Trump’s election a repudiation of the political elite, it was a repudiation of all the conventional wisdom that Washington has long taken for gospel truth. It turns out that political experience, discipline, a good ground game, a tight campaign team – none of these are in fact necessary to win the presidency of the US.
No one cares what the media thinks.
Not only is politics as usual finished, the influence of the media has also been shown to be irrelevant. No candidate has ever been so reviled by such a large portion of the media, and in the end it simply made no difference. Trump wore the media hostility as a badge of honour, and, if anything, it won him popularity with the voters. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, it doesn’t matter if the mainstream media doesn’t like you.
Identity politics is alive and well.
This was a clear backlash vote. Exit polls indicate that Trump won the presidency based on white votes. Fully 58% of all white voters voted for him, against a mere 21% of non-white voters. It seems clear that a large part of his appeal was his demonization of Muslims and Mexicans and lack of respect for the country’s first African-American president.
Key demographics didn’t turn out for Clinton.
Fully 53% of white women voted for Trump against 43% for Hillary Clinton. Similarly, it looks as though, based on exit polls, Trump did better among African-Americans and notably Latinos than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
A divided nation.
Trump inherits an America that is as divided as it has ever been, and what makes the divisions even more worrying is the fact that they are based on race and class lines as much as, if not more so, than ideological ones. Given the ugliness of the presidential campaign and the deep antipathy that exists between the two sides, his election could usher in a period of internal strife the likes of which the US has not seen since the 1960s when Vietnam and the civil rights movement split the country.
Trump has the tools.
However, it should be noted that not only does President Trump have a mandate, he also has a Republican House and Senate to do his bidding. This is the first time the Republicans have controlled the presidency, the Senate, and the House since 1928, and many of the Republican congressmen owe their seats to Trump’s coat-tails. He owns them, lock, stock, and barrel, and they will do what he wants. He will be most powerful president since LBJ. He now bestrides Washington like a colossus.
Trump the statesman.
Trump has always said that he could be presidential when the time came, and he did show increasing discipline and focus in the final days of the campaign. His acceptance speech was gracious and conciliatory, and he pledged to bring the country together and to govern for all Americans. How he reaches out to Muslim and Mexican-Americans, for instance, remains to be seen, and whether he will be willing or able to pivot and govern more inclusively will be the key question of his presidency.