So, How Exactly Did Trump Win?
According to a recent poll, about 75% of this country is upset that Donald Trump won the election. No other American election result has seen this much street protests. Not Abraham Lincoln who's election resulted in the Southern States seceding from the United States and the resulting Civil War. Not the 1876 election where the results of the Electoral College was overturned and the victory was taken from Samuel J Tilden and awarded to Rutherford B Hayes, nearly resulting in a second Civil War. Not even the 2000 election where Republicans prevented the hand counting of thousands of Florida ballots the machines could not read, resulting in Bush winning the election by a mere 127 votes. It's been a week, and streets across the country are still mobbed with protesters, even though this time around there is no contested election. Which begs to question, where were all these people on election day? If 75% of the country apposed a Trump presidency, why didn't they prevent it?
Trump was the candidate who was never suppose to win. The media outlets were against him. Newspapers everywhere were against him. Magazines were against him. Almost every celebrity was against him. Michael Moore rushed a movie out in record time warning Americans not to vote for him. Every late night comedian treated him as a joke, and joked about fleeing to Canada should he be elected. While The Pope never directly came out against Trump, he did comment that his policies were anti-Christian, which lead to Trump responding with an insult. It seemed like everyone everywhere was on board to prevent him from being elected. Even his own party seemed to be against him. Sure he had supporters. But they seemed like a minority. The fraction of mostly white and mostly racist Americans, with a few supporters of color thrown in. He was the candidate almost no one wanted. The one almost everyone was afraid of, and thought of the possibility of him getting into the Whitehouse a nightmare. Even Trump seemed to be against himself. He continuously did things and made statements that would have sank any other candidate, not just a few times, but almost on a daily basis. He was the exact opposite of what a winning candidate should be. So how the hell did he win?
I was as baffled as anyone else by the election results. Even Trump supporters were shocked by the results. They went into election night knowing all the polls showed their candidate was well behind in the states he needed to win. It even looked like Texas was going Democrat for the first time in decades. They were expecting to be the ones marching on the street, protesting an electoral process their candidate told them all was rigged against outsiders. But perhaps the ones who were the most shocked and horrified by the results were neither Democrat nor independent, but Republican. The "Dump the Trump" movement which was still alive and well on election day, and included many prominent Republicans including the entire Bush clan, still stinging from Jeb's defeate, and the more recent career destruction of Billy, who wound up being the one punished for Trump's rude jokes about molesting women instead of Trump himself.
For most of us, the Trump nightmare did not happen until the night of the general election. We forget that for many Republicans that nightmare began six months earlier when Trump won the primaries. For the Democrats, Hillary had always been ahead in the polls. Every time Trump caught up, he would make some sort of comment, or release some sort of tweet, or get caught on tape saying something that would sink his poll numbers. For the Democrats there was no question that Trump could not possibly win the election. That was until he won the election. But for the Republicans the specter of a Trump presidency loomed over them for more than half a year, and the only way to avoid it was to vote against their own party, and to elect the one woman Republicans had hated most of all.
With the Dump Trump movement spiting the Republican Party, it seemed inconceivable that Hillary should still loose. Did the Dump Trump movement evaporate on election day? Did every Republican including the Bush clan have a change of heart when they arrived at their poll sites and vote their tickets? I decided to call a friend who is Republican and lives in one of those states that Hillary lost, Florida. Last I checked he was part of the Dump Trump movement, and not wanting it to be made public he voted for Hillary, he asked me not to use his real name. Lets call him Ted.
"My entire family voted for Hillary." said Ted. "You have to understand, our family has been Republican since my great great grandfather arrived in America in the eighteen hundreds. He was met at the dock by a Republican politician who made sure he had a job and a place to live." ( Probably housed him in a slum and got him work at a sweatshop, which in turn was probably a far better life then what he left behind in Europe. Many politicians did favors like that hoping to gain the votes of the arriving immigrants. But I digress. ) "My family has been voting Republican ever since. This is the first time a [ Ted ] has voted Republican since then. And it was my entire family. Me, mom and dad, my sisters, my uncle, everyone. I had Republican friends who voted Hillary. The Dump the Trump movement was solid. If you want to blame someone, blame all those Democrats who voted against Hillary."
And he had a good point. Not only would Trump have needed most registered Republicans to turn up at the polls and vote for him, he would have also needed a significant amount of registered Democrats to defect and vote Republican. This included Hillary loosing states that the Democrats had not lost since the Reagan era. And if the Dump the Trump movement in the Republican party was still going as strong as my friend said, then we are not just talking about a few defectors here to overcome that deficit.
Dump The Trump
On June 16, 2015 Donald J Trump held a press conference in the basement of his own building, descending an escalator to where the press was gathered and announcing he was running for president in the Republican primaries. This had been an announcement Trump had made in a few other general election cycles, but each time quietly backed out before the primaries. Each time the speculation was that Trump never really intended to run but made the announcements for the publicity.
In 2003, during the wave of popularity of reality game shows, producer of Survivor Mark Burnett created the show The Apprentice around Trump. The premise was similar to Survivor, only with two teams of businessmen and businesswomen competing for the grand prize of working in the Trump organization. Although initially a hit, the series gradually declined in the ratings and faced cancellation when Burnett decided to size on the popularity of Dancing with the Stars and reformat the show as Celebrity Apprentice. Labeled a reality star, being associated with unstable celebrities like Dennis Rodman and Gary Busey, and in general being famous enough that his statements went public, he soon had an image of being a bit of a blowhard and a bit of a kook. He had become a caricature of himself, and much like Gary Busey, a celebrity of poor reputation. It did not help that Trump made himself the spokesman for the Obama birther movement, where those opposed to Barak Obama insisted he should be removed as president because he was not born in the United States. Even after Obama produced his birth certificate proving he had been born in the United States, Trump continued to insist he was born in Kenya.
So by the time of the 2015 announcement, Trump had his poorest reputation. And although had once been in consideration by George Bush Sr. as his running mate for the 1988 election ( he selected Dan Quayle instead ), by 2015 Trump was thought of as too damaged a reputation to have a chance of ever winning any election. It did not help that Trump shot his presidential run in the foot within it's first three minutes. During his over the top speech where he accused Obama of being the worst president ever and promised to overturn every single one of his programs, he then turned on the Mexican immigrants. Completely ignoring that illegal aliens pour in from Canada all the time and no one seems to care, Trump boasted he would build a mighty wall along our southern border and make Mexico pay for it. He explained the need for the wall with the following statement: "
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. ...They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." While there is no doubt that with any immigrants that criminals could be among them, Trump had painted the entirety of Mexican immigrants, both illegal and legal, as criminal deviants. While such statements were sure to gain points with the hardliners and bigots in the party, the comments were also considered foolhardy. The goal of any presidential nominee is to win as many votes as possible. With this statement he had not just lost the Latino and immigrant vote, but any chance of a liberal vote as well. He even succeeded in getting himself fired by NBC as the host of Celebrity Apprentice, as well as having networks drop his other programs. He had began his campaign by labeling himself a bigot and possible racist.
As far as the rest of the Republicans were concerned, Donald Trump wasn't even worth mentioning. "We were very happy with our prospects [ for a candidate ] that fall." said Ted. "Obama was at his term limit and Biden was not running. All the Democrats had was Hillary, and the Benghazi and email scandals had turned her into damaged goods. On our side we had a field of 15 candidates with many heavy hitters. [ Texas Governor ] Rick Perry, [ Former Governor of New York ] George Pataki, [ Former Governor of Arkansas and Fox News personality ] Mike Huckabee, [ New Jersey Governor ] Chris Christie and [ Former Governor of Florida ] Jeb Bush. There was also those Tea party guys I would rather not mention, but were also strong candidates. We felt sure we would take the Whitehouse back."
However, throughout the summer and fall, it was Trump who got all the news coverage while the other candidates were largely ignored. Ted and other Republicans felt the media's coverage of Trump was what bumped him up in the polls over the other candidates. "Trump was the media's darling. They covered him 24/7." Since so many were running, the decision was to split the pack in two for the debates. The eight who polled the best earned the right to be in the prime time debates while the others were relegated to the poorly televised B debates. "Trump was acting like a clown. At one point he was even boasting about the size of his dick,... during a debate!!! He called all the other candidates incompetent liars. He was making Republicans look bad. And the media didn't care because Trump was giving those debates ratings."
Well, maybe not every news outlet did not care. The Republican establishment was alarmed at Trump's rise in the polls. and for the first time were worried at the possibility that he would win the nomination. This included FOX news which became critical of the candidate. This was evident during a FOX sponsored debate where Trump was asked a number of tough questions by moderator Megyn Kelly about his character while the other candidates were mostly given softball questions. The other candidates began ganging up on Trump, calling him unfit to be allowed in the oval office. The Dump the Trump movement had begun.
Ted: "Trump quickly became a liability. But no matter what he said during the debates, no matter who he insulted, he still did well in the polls. He even boasted that he could murder someone on Fifth Avenue and not loose any of his supporters. It was him and those Tea party candidates up in the polls. We thought none of them were electable. None of the good candidates polled well at all. Half of them did so poorly they dropped out well before the primaries began. It began to look like we would be stuck with a Tea Party candidate."
For a brief moment it seemed as if the Republicans found their compromise candidate when Ben Carson surged in the polls. Liked by both the established Republicans and Tea Party members, Carson was labeled as an outsider which appealed to Trumps supporters as well. And being an African American, he was the perfect candidate to attract the same Americans who had elected Obama. But Carson's popularity was short lived, and by the time the primaries rolled around his poll numbers fell off.
The first election in the primaries was the Iowa Caucuses which were won by Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz, and for a brief moment it seemed as if he was on his way to winning the nomination. There was even speculation that Trump would use the loss as an excuse to drop out of the race. However, Trump then went on to win the New Hampshire primaries, and the next two contests that followed. Huckabee and Rick Santorum suspended their campaigns after Iowa. Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul after New Hampshire. Finally Jeb Bush, who a year earlier was predicted to be the Republican's candidate, suspended his campaign after the Nevada Caucus. Chris Christie, who was one of the more vocal critics of Trump during his campaign run, quickly joined Trumps team after suspending his campaign. However, most of the other candidates that dropped out threw their support to the three Tea Party candidates still remaining in the race. The hope was that either Cruz, or Mark Rubio or John Kasich could win the nomination over Trump.
Ted: "Most Republicans hated Cruz. There was hope that either Kasich or Rubio would become the front runner. But then it became apparent that they were all splitting the Dump the Trump votes. I think someone from the RNC asked two of them to step down, that no one had a chance of beating Trump if all three candidates remained in the race. It was a nightmare. At this point it was no longer about keeping Trump off the ticket because he would loose the election. It was keeping him off the ticket because we thought he could win. The guy was a maniac. He was someone to dangerous to ever be allowed that much power. As much as a Hillary Clinton presidency scared us, a Donald Trump presidency scared us far more. But none of the Tea Party candidates would step down. Finally there was no mathematical way any one of them could win the nomination. At this point the only thing we had left was to keep Trump from winning enough delegates to win the nomination. We wanted a contested convention. That way the RNC could pick a different candidate. Perhaps Mitt Romney. We wanted Kasich to drop out. Kasich won only one contest, but still insisted on staying in the race, taking votes from Cruz. So Trump won the damn primaries."
In March of 2016 Mitt Romney came out against Trump, urging Republicans to vote against him and asserting that he was too dangerous to be allowed in the Whitehouse. But with Kasich still stubbornly staying in the race, the Dump the Trump vote was split between him and Cruz. Trump won the nomination. But the Dump the Trump movement had not given up. They hoped that they could somehow block Trump at the convention itself. But that attempt was quickly blocked. The only way left to block Trump was in the general election. And that meant making sure Hillary won.
Ultimately the RNC decided to back rather than block Trump. They still had their congressional races to think of, and decided their best bet was to attempt to make Trump as appealing as possible to the rest of the party. Plans to launch a third party conservative candidate ( once again possibly Mitt Romney ) were nullified. But not everyone was on board. At the convention, Ted Cruz refused to endorse Trump during his speech. Other party regulars who initially agreed to give Trump a chance were put off by his demeanor of his delegates and the tone he brought to the convention. Traditionally the Republican National Convention is where their candidates make the pivot, trying to appeal to Democratic voters by toning down the conservative rhetoric and promising to be a President of all the people. But this did not seem to be the case when during Chris Christie's speech he lead the chant "Lock Her Up!" signifying that Hillary Clinton should be imprisoned for the infraction of her emails going through her server instead of the Whitehouse server. This despite the FBI concluding after a long investigation that no crime had been committed, and that she was not the only Washington politician of any party to make the same mistake. But rather than pivot, Trump doubled down on the conservative rhetoric during his speech, letting it be known in no certain terms that Democrats and liberals would be under attack during his administration.
But perhaps pivoting was impossible anyway. His one attempt to pivot, on the issue of illegal immigrants, met with swift criticism from his own supporters when he suggested not every illegal alien would be deported. He immediately pivoted back on the issue, insisting that he would round every last illegal up no matter what their age, and once deported build his Mexican paid for wall. The RNC was faced with a candidate who could not possibly win over Democrat and liberal votes, and was even alienating the liberal wing of their own party.
And as his campaign progressed, he began to alienate more than the party's liberal wing. There was his twitter attack on a gold star family for being Muslim, an another attack, and overnight rant of a former beauty pageant contestant for being overweight. He announced that he knew how to fight wars better than the nation's generals, said that John McCain was no war hero because he had been captured, praised Britain for their disastrous Brexit, jokingly suggested that gun owners assassinate Hillary, and not only praised the Russians for hacking into the DNC servers and releasing their emails, but encouraged the Russians to continue hacking his opposition. One by one prominent Republicans publicly came out against Trump, asking members of their party to either vote Hillary or not vote at all. When the Access Hollywood tape was leaked where he joked about sexually assaulting women, even the RNC seemed as if they were ready to cut all ties with Trump for good. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was especially critical of Trump. With what looked like at least half of the Republican party vowing not to vote for Trump, and weekly controversies, each single one which would have sunk a candidate in the past, it looked as if there was no way for him to win no matter what candidate faced him. Unless of course that candidate was Hillary Clinton.
Ted: "What do they say? What goes around comes around? My party spent the past 25 years vilifying Hillary Clinton. We started when she was the first lady, a package deal with Bill, continued when she became senator [ for NY ], and then after when she worked under Obama. Most of us realized a lot of this was petty. That we were singling her out for mistakes we let other politicians slide on. That we blamed her for stuff we knew she was not even guilty of. But you got to understand, we did not want another Clinton presidency. The Dems wanted to install Hillary when Bills term limit forced him out of the oval office and we spent every year since trying to convince the rest of America that she was bad news. Now suddenly we needed her to win. But now America had fallen for all that rhetoric, and they all hated Hillary. My opposition to Hillary was purely political. I did not want a liberal that powerful in office. I did not actually believe she was crooked. At least no more crooked than the rest of Washington. But we had hacked away at this woman's reputation for so long that America hated her more than they hated Trump."
Both Hillary and Trump had historically low approval ratings when they began their campaigns. Hillary had the extra burden of the primaries. Instead of going in unopposed, she faced Bernie Sanders who won over a third of the party, the young voters in particular. While she should have locked up the nomination early in the primaries, they dragged on instead all the way to the end with Bernie vowing to take the fight all the way to the convention. Even when Hillary finally secured the nomination late in the primaries, Sanders campaigned for the super delegates to change their votes at the convention. Even after Bernie finally conceded to Hillary, many of his supporters vowed not to vote for Hillary, believing that through the super delegates she had stolen the nomination. Democrats worried that the Bernie supporters would be vindictive enough to vote Trump.
There were a few weeks when Trump was ahead in the popular vote polls. But Hillary still managed to have a lead in enough vital states to be ahead in the electoral college. Then came those leaked Access Hollywood audio recordings, followed by those women who said Trump had touched them without asking first. Hillary surged to a lead in the polls. Trump began saying the election was rigged. His supporters vowed protests should he loose, and worse. At the debates Trump was asked if he would accept the election night results, and his answer was basically "Only if I win". Once again the RNC chastised Trump for this response, saying it was dangerous and irresponsible. It seemed as if both Trump and the RNC were getting ready to explain their impending loss, Trump blaming it on a rigged election and the RNC blaming it on Trump.
And ten something changed. The RNC was suddenly back in Trump's camp. FBI director James Comey, who had previously closed the investigation on Clinton's email server scandal saying she had broken no laws, suddenly announced he was reopening the investigation. Comey's public announcement so close to the election was widely criticized as unethical, even by a few Republicans. But if Come was really trying to influence the election, why did he wait until the last week to drop this latest bombshell? It would have taken a few weeks to go through all 650,000 emails and conclude they were just duplicates of the ones found in Hillary's server. That meant that Comey knew about them for a couple of weeks before he made his announcement. More to the point, if he wanted to influence the election, then why close the initial investigation? He could have easily left it open until after the election. The apparent answer to these questions came when Trump's very first pick for his administration, the prime job of Chief of Staff to RNC chairman Reince Priebus. Obviously Trump owed him a favor. And that favor could only be Comey's October surprise.
Ted: "I could not believe the party leaders would pull that trick for Trump. I thought they were all on board on not allowing him near the Whitehouse. Why were they helping such a dangerous man win? Well, now we know. [ Priebus ] sold us out for a plumb position in the next administration."
But even though the new email scandal had eroded Hillary's comfortable lead in the polls, she was still ahead. Democrats went into election day confident Hillary could not loose. Ted was not as confident. "Every hand was on deck to block Trump as far as us Republicans. Out of all the Republicans I knew, only a couple were voting for Trump, and that was because they were old timer racists. Others were either staying home, or writing in Mitt Romney. And most of us were going to vote Hillary just to be safe. And you know who was saying they were voting for Trump? My f__king Democrat friends! They kept saying they wanted to send a message to the Democratic party. I said 'Do you really want Trump to win?' and they were saying 'Trump is going to win Florida anyway'. I dare any news outlet to take a poll. They will find out that most Florida Republicans voted Hillary or Mitt, and most Florida democrats voted Trump. Those idiots lost Florida for Hillary!"
There may have been a defection of Democrats not seen since the Reagan era, but countering this was a defection of Republicans, many who saw Trump as not one of their own but a dangerous outsider. But what ultimately tipped the balance in favor of Trump was the "silent voters" who were somehow, for the first time ever, not picked up by any poll other than the actual election. Ted is convinced the majority of the silent voters were all Democrats, afraid to admit to pollsters they were voting against their own party. This would make sense as most Trump supporters were anything but silent. But how could so many Democrats turn against their own party? Even factoring in disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters would not account for the numbers needed to turn the election in Trump's favor. The last time Democrats defected in such numbers was for Ronald Reagan. But Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan. Trump promised to wipe out all of Obama's achievements and turn the supreme court conservative. Voting for him would erase everything since George W Bush. Electing Trump was not in the best interest of any Democrats, no matter how much they hated Hillary.If the silent voters were neither Republican nor Democrat, then perhaps independent? And if so, then why tell the pollsters they were voting for Hillary?
And then there is the theory that Russia managed to hack the electronic voting machines. While no evidence of hacking has yet to surface, some voting rights advocates feel the discrepancy in the various polls and the election night exit polls can not be explained by silent voters, and fear that Russia or someone else could have changed the results in key swing states. They are asking for a recount. Of course the idea that the election was hacked is a long shot. But then again so was the possibility that Trump would even win. And even if the election was hacked, there is still the disturbing fact that Trump needed to be close to the margin of error for the tampering not to be detected. In other words, at least 45% of those who voted, voted for Trump.
While what exactly went wrong on election night is still a mystery, what is not in doubt is the immediate aftermath. 75% of the nation opposed to his presidency. That number growing as some supporters are now outraged that Trump picked Washington insider Priebus and others as his staff. An entire nation in shock, as well as the rest of the world. And the Republican party fractured, very possibly fatally. "I think I may be done with them." said Ted. "I think I will have to find another party. Not the Democrats. Someone else. But not the Republicans.We were suppose to unite and prevent Trump from becoming president. Now look at all the Republicans rushing to Trump's side. Not just Priebus, but now Mitt Romney, and all the others. All those turncoats. They should be preparing to impeach Trump, not embracing him. It is like they abandoned us all, abandoned the Dump Trump movement, and embraced the radicals. It's just sickening. All they care about is themselves. I can not be in a party that supports Donald Trump and what he stands for. I am sorry. If they want to be the party of racism, misogyny and radical Christians then I am out."
Ted and the other Republicans may not be alone. If in fact it was Democrats who got Trump elected, then the Democratic party is fractured as well. A split between those angry enough to vote against their own party, and those who were so convinced Hillary would win. It could be that in the near future we see the demise of both parties by a country so fed up with their politics that they would elect Trump just to punish both. And then again, if Trump turns out to be what many feared him to be, there will no longer be a democracy for the two parties to call their home.