In June of 2015, when he announced his candidacy, I thought it was a joke or a PR stunt. Then in July 2015, when he called John McCain a loser for being a POW, I was convinced he would be forced to drop out. When that didn’t happen, I knew it was time to pay attention and figure out what was going on.
First of all, STUNNING!! Like it or not, Trump ran a remarkable campaign – shrewd instincts, totally intuitive, he communicated in headlines (“the system is rigged”), unlike anything we’ve seen before. His ability to viscerally understand and tap into the frustration his supporters feel about the economy is extraordinary. And, of course, his tweeting is legendary. A lot of the credit for his success, in the final stretch, goes to Kellyanne Conway. She was one of the few people who could keep him on message.
Read on below for what I found most notable about his campaign – why he won, and Hillary ultimately lost – as well as what I’m anticipating this presidency will focus on for the next four years.
Also important to note: I am a British Citizen (with a green card) so cannot vote. I do not have a dog in this fight. This is purely my perspective on what has been an extraordinary campaign season.
HOW/WHY TRUMP WON
- 100% on his own terms. He had zero support from establishment GOP-ers or the business community. And remember, Donald Trump has not always been a Republican, he was a democrat from 2001-2008.
- He gutted the Evangelical Christian wing of the Republican Party (the anti-science, anti-gay, anti-women’s rights people). Nobody had been able to stand up to them, or stop them, until Trump came along.
- He took down two political dynasties – the Bushes and the Clintons.
- He got the support of white, working class males who have historically been stalwarts of the Democratic party and union members. Hakeem Jeffries (NY Congressman) mused how troublesome this shift of working class democrats to Trump is for his party. But Trump also got the votes of over 50% of white women and 45% of all college grads.
- The pollsters and the media got everything wrong about how successful his run for office would be. I live in NYC so understand what people here think, but I also have strong roots in a blue collar world (my own family as well as Brad’s family), so I innately understand what they have been going thru economically.
- For those of you who want to truly understand what just happened – why Trump was able to beat Hillary – I highly recommend you read J.D. Vance’s excellent book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.”
- Here are 3 insights from the book that are especially relevant at this moment:
- Trump’s message that “the system is rigged” resonates with these blue collar Americans who worked in the steel mills that built America but now feel they’re being ignored or outright mocked. “White trash” is the one ethnic group it is still OK to make fun of.
- Humans appear to have some need to look down on someone. And if you’re an elite white professional, the easiest targets are working-class whites. By looking down on the hillbilly, you get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe.
- Appalachians DO want to turn back the clock, but not because they’re racist or afraid of modernity. They want to go back to having good-paying jobs. They want to go back to being proud of themselves and the things they produced. For years, they’ve essentially been told to sign up for welfare and shut up. (NOTE: I have absolutely no faith that Trump will bring back factory jobs.)
5 REASONS WHY HILLARY LOST
- NOT because she’s a woman. She lost, primarily, because she has too much baggage from 30 years in public life (everything from the emails to Benghazi to Anthony Weiner to her highly paid talks to Wall Street banking clients).
- Bernie Sanders did a lot of damage to her – especially by casting her as a big money status quo candidate.
- While she is undoubtedly competent, she is not natural candidate. Younger voters prefer a more natural, on the fly campaigner. Trump’s questions about what she’s achieved after 30 years in office also resonated – and stuck – with many of his voters.
- Bill Clinton may have damaged her this go around. He shot off his mouth once too often when he got into it with Black Lives Matter protestors.
- Her strong focus on diversity (at the exclusion of working class whites), did not pay off. Black and hispanic voter turnout for her was disappointing – especially in Florida.
3 THINGS WE CAN EXPECT FROM A TRUMP PRESIDENCY – PERHAPS?
- Top of the list will be infrastructure projects – and I believe this will actually happen especially since the Republicans control the House and the Senate, so hopefully less gridlock.
- An overall more business-friendly atmosphere – although Trump’s populism runs counter to many companies’ M&A activities. He’s also not particularly supportive of the tech industry which is unfortunate because that is the future, not factories and coal mining!
- A huge surge in the stock market. Judging by CNBC today, businesses are raring to go, which will mean more jobs, more innovation, more forward-momentum.
I do NOT anticipate any walls being built, mass deportations, or any pullback on gay rights. But Trump is, without a doubt, a loose cannon who holds a grudge and likes to get even. Here’s hoping he can surprise us once again. This time by evolving into a great leader this country deserves. Fingers crossed.