The 2016 presidential election was one of the most unexpected and outrageous in recent memory. After a bruising primary and general election season that seemed to take forever, Americans finally got their wish, as Donald Trump won the presidency in a resounding victory. It was quite the upset, as Hillary Clinton had been widely seen as the favorite to win the race.
Trump’s win marks the first time in 40 years that the United States have gone back to back to back elections without either of the two parties switching roles. Not since 1976 has a president been re-elected with the same party holding both the White House and Congress. With the 2020 elections less than a year away, it’s worth taking a deep breath and looking back at the unbelievable odds that helped propel Trump to victory in 2016.
Clinton Was the Least Favorite to Win In a Decade
The American public’s opinion of Hillary Clinton took a beating in the months before and after the 2016 presidential election. As the former Secretary of State was poised to formally accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in July 2016, just 25% of Americans had a favorable opinion of her. Three months later, that number had dropped to 14%.
Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 presidential election dealt a crippling blow to Clinton, as 66% of voters said they had a unfavorable opinion of the former Secretary of State. It wasn’t just the results of the election that hurt Clinton, as Trump’s victory also shattered her political career, resulting in her stepping down from her post as Secretary of State.
The Media Margin Of Error Is Large
Much of the mainstream media coverage of the 2016 presidential election was openly hostile toward Trump and virtually ignored Clinton, leading to a rather unfair depiction of the democratic process. However, the mainstream media failed to take into account that many of their so-called “facts” were actually wildly inaccurate. For example, the New York Times was forced to issue two corrections after two separate reports on Trump’s military record were determined to be inaccurate. In both cases, the Times had alleged that Trump lied about his military service. While this may be true, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Trump served with distinction during the Vietnam War. Similarly, the liberal MSNBC station corrected the record several times in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election, with host Rachel Maddow slamming Trump for lying about being in Vietnam and accusing him of ‘getting the Vietnam deferment’.
Trump Won the White House With a Record-Breaking Number of Electoral Votes
The more than 290 million valid votes that were cast in the 2016 presidential election represent the largest popular vote margin in U.S. history. Not only did Trump win the presidency with a stunning 306 electoral votes, but he also won the popular vote by a margin of more than 75 million votes. In addition, Trump won virtually every state that he competed in, giving him the keys to the White House. The only states that he didn’t win were Hawaii and California, which he lost by a thin margin of 1% and 2% respectively.
This was a true landslide election, with the media largely ignoring the fact that Trump won the presidency with fewer electoral votes than his predecessor, Barack Obama, had received four years earlier. The unprecedented size of the Trump landslide should not be ignored, nor should the fact that he won the presidency with a record-breaking number of electoral votes. To put it into historical context, Obama won re-election in 2012 with 332 electoral votes, and Bill Clinton won the White House in the 1990s with a huge 426 electoral votes.
These are the kinds of numbers that will give Trumpers plenty to celebrate. However, the story doesn’t end with Trump’s impressive victory. It’s also important to look back at the improbable journey that led him to become the 45th president of the United States.
A Pro-Business, Pro-War Career
Before Trump, there was a whole lineage of presidents who spent their entire professional lives either in politics or the military. These men and women entered the political arena to serve their country, only to find themselves at the center of the biggest story ever told. While Trump began his career as a businessman, he soon transitioned into politics, serving as the chairman of the Trump Organization and as the publisher of the New York Times. During this time, he also sat on the board of directors of the Washington Post and took an active interest in the newspaper’s editorial side.
Trump’s political journey began with his service in the Vietnam War, where he was tasked with creating a marketing campaign to save the struggling Trump Tower project in New York City. In 1971, Trump filed for a total of five federal income tax refunds, claiming losses of more than $1.2 million on his taxes for those five years. This enabled him to write off nearly all of his income from military service and play a large role in lobbying for the U.S. military’s behalf while in office.
The Key to Trump’s Victory Was His Campaign Promise
The key to Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election was his campaign promise to protect the interests of working class Americans. Throughout his tenure as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Trump made it clear that he would be an antagonist to the political elite and a defender of the middle class. His message resonated with voters who felt that they had been ignored and mistreated by the political establishment.
This group of Americans was a key part of the Trump electoral coalition, and they helped the billionaire businessman overcome his initial lack of popularity and elect him to the White House. One of the main reasons why this group supported Trump is because of his criticism of the political establishment, including his willingness to take on the Republican Party’s elites. According to the 2016 American National Election Survey (ANES), conducted by the American Institute for Research (AIR), 51% of white voters with less than a high school education backed Trump, as did 48% of Latinos. Compare that to only 33% of college-educated white voters and 32% of Asian-Americans. The vast majority of women (72%) also supported Trump, as did 54% of men.
These are the Trumpers. They supported him because he was “the only one who seemed to be speaking for them,” as one individual noted on social media. The future of the United States may very well lie with this group of Americans, as Trump’s victory proves that his political views and messages can resonate with the electorate, even if they aren’t widely embraced by the general public. Simply put, Trump’s victory proves that not everyone wants to see the same old politics as usual.
Why Didn’t The Media Take More Interest In The Democratic Nomination Race?
The 2016 presidential election was the first in which Internet-based media played such an integral part in the campaign trail. Early adopters of the Internet in the 1960s and 70s grew up in an era when journalists could no longer play a passive role in the coverage of politics and elections. Instead, they had to engage with and report on the issues that matter to citizens, including the presidential race. The rise of social media and the viral nature of memes gave the public a new way to engage with journalists and the media, leading to more diverse and open-minded coverage of controversial topics and issues.
This trend continued into the 2020 presidential election, as the media coverage of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders was more in-depth than ever before. Whereas in the past, journalists may have covered the presidential nominations in a cursory manner and may even have slanted the coverage in favor of one candidate or the other, the coverage of the 2020 Democratic primary was an all-out war zone. The two men who won the Democratic nomination for president tore into one another’s records, proposals, and ideologies, resulting in one of the most rancorous primary election campaigns in U.S. history. The level of vitriol that was heaped upon the two men by their supporters was unprecedented, and indeed many of their heated exchanges were broadcast live on TV.
With all of the negative press that they received, it’s not surprising that both men underperformed in the general election against Trump. Even still, it’s important to remember that the Democratic Party failed to offer an alternative to voters, as 68% of America’s adults said that they didn’t know enough about the former Vice President to have an opinion on him. It seems that many Americans still don’t know much about Bernie Sanders, as 61% of respondents in a recent ANES survey said that they didn’t know enough about the Vermont Senator to have an opinion on him. Both men “lost the women’s vote in a big way,” as Vox writer Tara Golshan put it.