So… yeah. That just happened.
Are there words? I’m not sure, but I’ll try my best.
I’ll start off with one: unprecedented.
Every aspect of this election has been unprecedented. This election has seen the first female candidate in a major party. It has seen scandals that would normally ruin a candidate’s chances. I won’t waste anybody’s time relisting them all; it’s just depressing.
24 hours ago, nobody would’ve guessed this. Clinton was polling close to four points over Trump across the board. The polling guru, Nate Silver of 538, had Clinton’s probability at around 70 percent and that had been low for the past two weeks. The Democrats boasted of high numbers of early voters, particularly in the Hispanic and Latino communities. The Republicans were nervously watching the down ballot polls, hoping and praying for a miracle that would save their party.
And it looks like that may have just happened.
In the early hours of the results, everybody was stunned, and then scrambling to find some rhyme or reason. Donald Trump surged to a lead in the key swing states of Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. All three of these states had been tightly contested, but slightly favouring Clinton by the national three-to-four points. Nobody expected to see the highly controversial Republican find any serious footholds amongst the swing states. But that is exactly what he did.
Trump’s unexpected early leads caused some serious panic at Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn. Going into the eighth, Clinton had a healthy lead and there was faith amongst the party that the famed “blue wall” would hold against Trump and his apparent “shy voters”, the quiet voters who had somehow been missed by pollsters, or so Trump claimed (and he may have been right). The Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party had been cautiously certain that they had a clear path to that magic number of 270 electoral votes.
But just as he has been throughout this campaign, Trump proved to be wildly unpredictable. Nobody in their right mind had Trump making major gains in states like Florida or Pennsylvania. Or heaven forbid, any of the “blue wall”, particularly the upper Midwest with Democratic strongholds like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
However, this is exactly what happened.
Before last night, election experts claimed that Trump’s path to the White House was incredibly narrow: relying on him winning big along the east coast and then taking at least one Rust Belt state, preferably Pennsylvania with its 20 electoral votes. Nobody, not even the Trump Campaign thought that this was likely.
So how did this happen?
Trump’s “shy voter” actually existed
Throughout his campaign after the GOP Convention, Trump has claimed that there is a group of voters that has been overlooked, both by pollsters and politicians in Washington DC. This group seems to have turned out in force. Trump excelled amongst white voters, even subgroups that he was expected to struggle in. The whole concept of a “shy voter” is fairly unique to Trump, a polarising candidate.
Clinton did not get Obama level turn outs in key areas
In the weeks leading up to election day, the Clinton Campaign was throwing top level surrogates like the Obamas, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Bruce Springsteen, etc. into states like Michigan and Florida. Michigan, in particular, was seen as a potential weak spot for Clinton. Michigan’s economy has struggled for years and it has a largely white blue collar population in most parts of the state. Clinton needed to carry the more populous counties with margins like Obama did in 2012 and 2008. However, it appears as if there was a significantly lower African-American turnout than previously expected, and this hurt Clinton in the Detroit area in particular as she lagged behind in a brick in her “blue wall”.
Third party voting
It is incredibly rare in an American election for a third party candidate to have any sort of effect on the national election. But if you look at states like Florida, third party candidates actually had a fairly detrimental effect on Clinton’s numbers. Voters who saw the two candidates as two equal evils split the vote, leaving Clinton with wider margins than expected. It seems as if undecided voters in the 18-24 range, generally those who had supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, lent their support to third party candidates.
Nobody thinks their vote counts
It’s a common misperception amongst voters that one vote doesn’t mean anything. I think if you asked Hillary Clinton today if every individual vote counts, she would say a resounding yes.
All of America has a Clinton trust issue, but they also have a Trump trust issue
In the exit polls, the percentage of voters who did not trust either candidate was staggering. While Trump and Clinton both had disapproval ratings of upwards of fifty and sixty percent, President Obama currently has an approval rating around fifty-five percent. Years from now, I’m sure that they will be pointing to FBI Director Comey’s mishandled October email surprise as the final nail in what will most likely be Clinton’s final run for office.
Americans have spoken and it seems as if they are tired of the system. And this was clear in their results. Blue-collar workers are tired of being overlooked by the elites in Washington. Typically Democrat areas are done with the corruption in DC. This ought to be a wakeup call to not just the Democratic party, but also to the Republican party. The American public is no longer going to be complacent in allowing policymakers in DC to operate independently from what they want. And many seem to think that Donald Trump is the wakeup call that our system needs.
Many Republicans were losing sleep over what a third consecutive loss of the White House could mean for the future of their party. On the surface, this result seems like a positive for the Republicans; but this could be argued differently. I think that the Republican party as it currently operates is on its last legs. There is a serious divide in the Republican party between younger party members and the old guard. The Republican party is woefully out of date with a number of its policies, particularly as it relates to social issues. Any other election and this potentially would have been a crib death for a Republican candidate. But not this year. And to be perfectly honest, the Democrats will be facing a similar issue. This could very well be the end of the two-party dominance in American politics.
These are uncertain times to be sure. Trump’s fiery rhetoric about immigrants and other minority groups are certainly cause for concern. Even if Trump’s administration does not follow through on his sound bites, he has given legitimacy to fringe groups that spew hate and vitriol. One can only hope that perhaps a more reasonable President Trump will do something to restrain this. Trump does actually tend to be more centre of the aisle than many other Republicans and even his running mate, Mike Pence, who is known for his extreme policies towards the LGBT community.
Trump has actually shown a significant amount of support for the LGBT community, contrary to the party line. There has even been a quiet murmur about the possibility of Trump’s fiery comments actually stemming from a mentality that Republicans have been seeking out a more extreme and vocal candidate. This leaves a possibility that Trump’s actions in office won’t be as extremist as his campaign suggested. I wouldn’t put money on it, but one can hope.
Clinton called Trump and conceded the race. Trump gave his victory speech. And it honestly wasn’t as bad as one might have thought. He sounded, dare I say it, presidential. “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division, we have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say, it is time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump said during his victory speech in Midtown Manhattan. “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”
Now, it is time for everybody to get some sleep. Nobody can predict what will happen in a Trump presidency or anything really (clearly based on this election). All we can do is wait and see what Trump’s plan going forward is.
And in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic.”