What seemed to be the impossible just happened. Donald J. Trump has been elected President of the United States.
During this long and gruesome election cycle, we were told this could never happen. We were told his candidacy was a joke. We were told he could never win even the primaries. We were told that Hillary Clinton had this election locked up. Virtually everyone in the mainstream media thought Trump had no chance going into Election Day. They were all wrong.
Donald Trump pulled off a stunning upset. He defeated the mainstream media. He defeated the pollsters. Most importantly, he defeated the political establishment. He won without the support of most members of his own party.
The big question is how he pulled off this victory. It is difficult to precisely explain, but we can get some important clues from looking at the electoral college map.
Three states explain his victory. Those are Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. He was not expected to win any of these states. His most surprising victory is probably the state of Wisconsin. The last time a Republican won it was in 1984. Going into the election, the RealClearPolitics polling average had Hillary Clinton ahead by 6.5 points. Trump won the state by 1 point. This means that Trump outperformed the polls in Wisconsin by 7.5 points. That is well beyond the margin of error in any of these polls.
How did Trump manage to outperform the polls? The answer is most likely enthusiasm. Trump has inspired a right-leaning populist movement in the United States. Throughout the campaign, he was filling stadiums. Hillary Clinton was not inspiring a movement that made millions of people enthusiastic. She was mainly running on being the first female president and continuing the policies of Barack Obama. In addition, few people trusted her given the criminal investigation of her email server and her many failures as Secretary of State.
An enthusiastic vote has the same value as an unenthusiastic vote, but enthusiasm does translate into high turnout. That was Trump’s key to victory. The Rust Belt States are evidence of this. Trump won Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and most likely Michigan because of the populist movement that he inspired. These places were hit hardest by globalization and trade deals such as NAFTA. Manufacturing has declined by more than 50% in some parts of these states. Whether or not he can deliver, Trump has promised to bring back American manufacturing.
Hillary Clinton failed to bring many traditional Democratic voters to the polls. African American voters did not turn out in the numbers that she needed. She failed to inspire them in the way that Barack Obama did. Latino turnout was higher than in past elections, but it was still insufficient to counter the enthusiasm of the Trump movement.
The Trump movement succeeded because Americans believe that the political establishment has failed them and the mainstream media has covered for their failures. Many of these people voted for Barack Obama in the past and have not seen his policies improve their lives. Trump represents a repudiation of the bipartisan consensus in Washington that has failed them.
The elite can and will continue to shrug off Trump’s message as racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other forms of bigotry. They can call him and his movement anything they want, but it can no longer be ignored.