How Did Trump Happen?

Donald Trump took the 2016 Presidential Election, winning 279 electoral votes, 61 more than Hillary Clinton. Winning key states Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Republicans now hold the White House, the House Majority and the Majority Senate. Winter’s coming, rearing its ugly, red, elephant shaped head.

I was working at my other job last night, passing around hors d’oeuvres at a corporate cocktail party. The atmosphere was predominately Democrat. Rounds of applause rang out when Hillary swept the East and West coasts. As the evening progressed however, the mood quickly descended from optimism to despair. In the wake of what every single media outlet called the most contentious election of our lifetime, so many people could only ask themselves ‘how could this have happened?’

From the moment Trump rode down that escalator in New York last June, he was a wildcard candidate because he did not fit the bill of what a traditional politician should be. The press and Trump’s staunchest critics never took him seriously, but did take his rhetoric literally. His supporters did the exact inverse and did not take his comments literally, but took his candidacy seriously. What we were left with was the Trump Paradox, and like a horrible Black Mirror-esque alternate reality, here we find ourselves a year and a half later.

First off, the idea that Trump is an everyman president or that he represents the disenfranchised American needs to be addressed and clarified. Running a campaign under the guise of patriotism and military chauvinism that in actuality feeds on sexist, xenophobic, homophobic and racist sentiments is not helping the disenfranchised or disillusioned. That is called manipulating desperate voters using a Ponzi scheme. Except in this case, the Nigerian prince is Donald Trump and he needs your money and vote to make America great again. Most of those Americans will never see a return on their investment.


Secondly, Trump’s apathy for political correctness never should have been a source of pride and respect from his supporters. Elected officials should be held to higher standards then most by virtue of their positions. Obama succeeded in being simultaneously honest and politically correct for eight years and never at the expense of his political competence. Other Republicans and media outlets sympathetic to the right are equally to blame for refusing to acknowledge Trump’s bigoted rhetoric until it became politically beneficial for them. As election night was coming to a close, Republican politicians and pundits alike managed to reach ultimate hypocrisy as they lectured Democrats and Independents about how it was their civic responsibility to work bipartisanly. A collective refusal to take Trump’s socially regressive threats and insults seriously only strengthened his campaign, allowing him to radicalize fragile Americans who felt abandoned by both parties. CNN correspondent Van Jones perfectly articulated how electing Trump represented a ‘white-lash’ against a changing country. If that narrative still seems too cliché for you, I urge you to look at an election map and take note of how many states coloured in red are predominantly white Evangelical. A New York Times exit poll found that the Clinton campaign got 88% and 65% of the African American and Latino vote respectively and 78% of the LGBT vote.

Lastly, it is impossible to talk about the Clinton campaign without also talking about an inherently sexist double standard. Comments that attempted to question Clinton’s ability to manage the nation based on her menstrual and menopausal cycles are simply too stupid to take seriously. I am referring to the underlying fact that a woman with over thirty years of experience in public service as a Senator, First Lady and Secretary of State lost to a man with absolutely none with the exception of being able to ‘make deals’- whatever that is supposed to mean.

As a First Lady of Arkansas in the early eighties, she was heavily criticized for keeping her maiden name, an indicator that she was not fully devoted to her husband. As FLOTUS, political and media critics painted her as a shark who looked down upon stay at home mothers for taking an assertive role in the White House. Between her tenure as Secretary of State and as a presidential candidate, two FBI investigations were launched for her controversial use of a private email server and thirteen Congressional reports were published regarding her involvement in Benghazi. None of the fifteen investigations found Clinton guilty of any wrongdoing, yet many still call her the most untrustworthy politician to ever step foot in Washington. Clinton started her campaign with one hand tied behind her back; she was never able to let her experience speak for itself, it always had to be weighed against the actions of her male colleagues.

As a history alumni, the idea that a society can only only grow and progress according to its history is inherent. The only variable is whether or not we choose to heed the lessons that history offers us. Take the 1964 presidential election for instance. Lyndon Johnson led the democratic party to a sweeping 434 point victory over Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. Goldwater ran on a platform of small government ideals that at the time were considered very radical. Although Goldwater suffered a candidate’s worst nightmare, he catalyzed a grassroots movement that would eventually galvanize the Republican party back into superstardom in the 1980 election when Ronald Raegan trumped (no pun intended) re-elect hopeful Jimmy Carter 489 points to 49. What lessons can this anecdote offer in the wake of the 2016 election? That even the biggest political movements start from the ground up, that incredible things happen when a population works together towards a common goal and that soul crushing defeat is sometimes the only remedy for complacency.

To believe that the election is now over just because it’s no longer November 8th is wishful thinking for the delusional. Like it was aptly put by CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, just like a tube of toothpaste, no one can simply put all the stuff that came out over the election back where it came from, shut the lit and never return to it again. The poisonous nature of modern politics is a monster of our own creation, and we are therefore responsible for putting the reigns on it. Informed voting must replace a system that advocates for politicking for the sake of entertainment and voting for the collective success of all persons must replace the sentiment that we vote to see someone else lose.



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