And I still can’t believe it. Honestly, after witnessing Donald Trump’s campaign from the beginning, I have to come back to the question — how on earth could anyone run such an cringeworthy, divisive, unending gong show of a race and still win the White House?!
There is only one answer I can come up with: the Trump campaign wanted it more. That’s it, in a nutshell.
That, and the fact that voters really were mad as hell at Washington D.C., and they expressed their outrage the only way they could: by voting for the guy who wasn’t from D.C. and had no political experience. They sure as hell weren’t going to change things by voting in Hillary Clinton, that was for sure. They were ready to boot the Establishment, and Trump connected with that mood and caught fire in a major way. It was a sight to behold.
His campaign simply outworked and outhustled Clinton. No doubt about it, Trump’s criss-crossing of the country, staging rallies in so many of these battlegrounds, paid off. He even paid visits this year to places like Montana and North Dakota, and my buddy Brian Zinchuk even went down to North Dakota and hurled questions at Trump at a news conference there — the highlight of his career.
Trump went everywhere, and it paid off. I think it was telling that Trump made a last-minute decision to stage one last rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan the night before the election — after hearing that Hillary was staging a rally there. Trump left nothing to chance. No wonder he won the election, in spite of himself.
During this campaign, Donald Trump was crude, lewd, and oftentimes rude. He insulted opponents, had no end of verbal gaffes and embarrassments, and was embroiled in controversy right from the beginning. Members of his own party disowned him, his own convention was chaotic, and the debates were a circus act. The media absolutely hated him, with editorial boards all over the United States rejecting his bid for President.
And yet Trump won the campaign. For better or worse, everyone was talking about him, all campaign long.
He won by setting the agenda from day one. His issues — on immigration, trade, terrorism and law and order — were exactly in tune with the hot issues going on in America. The Democrats kept on trashing him for promoting this dark vision of America, but the reality is Trump was in tune with what was happening, and proposing to address the problems. I still think he was offering dead-wrong solutions, building walls and all that, but at least he was proposing something.
As for Hillary Clinton, all the baggage associated with her 33,000 deleted emails and all the other failures and controversies that she and the Democrats had been associated with over the past eight years finally caught up with her. What finished her off was when James Comey reopened the FBI investigation into her emails, and that simply reminded voters about all the reasons why they hated the Clintons.
But I think what really ticked people off was her campaign’s overall disrespect for the electorate. It really was one of the most arrogant, above-the-fray campaigns I have ever seen anywhere. When Hillary went on stage to label Trump voters as “deplorables,” it really was an insult to the voters. You can’t do that in an election — you can’t slam the supporters of the other candidate. It’s as if you’re ignoring their legitimate concerns. I think that statement made people even more mad, particularly these suffering blue-collar workers who felt their concerns weren’t being taken seriously, and it made them even more determined to get rid of the Democrats.
That was probably the biggest gaffe of the campaign — bigger than all of Trump’s gaffes, and that says a lot.
And Hillary was totally out-hustled on the stump, holding fewer rallies and blowing off entire states like Wisconsin because her campaign assumed that state was in the bag. Meanwhile, Trump had gone to Milwaukee and made his big speech there imploring African-Americans to abandon the do-nothing Democrats. (“What have you got to lose?”) As I said, the Trump campaign was everywhere.
For me, the surprise of the election was what happened in Wisconsin. I simply couldn’t believe Wisconsin had gone for Trump. I was watching the Fox News coverage online on election night and when they called Wisconsin for Trump, I was going “OMG, Trump is going to win.”
And then they called Pennsylvania for Trump, where Trump was trailing almost all night, and I couldn’t believe that, either. This was the political equivalent of the Cubs winning the World Series.
The flip of the whole rust belt from blue to red — Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania — was the deciding factor of the election, just as director Michael Moore had predicted when he wrote about it over the summer. The same voters who put President Barack Obama back into office because of his bailout of the auto industry were the same ones who were mad as hell this time about NAFTA and TPP and their jobs being shipped overseas.
No doubt about it — the voters of the rustbelt are the kingmakers of American politics. They elected Ronald Reagan (the famed “Reagan Democrats”), they put in Bill Clinton and then Obama, and now they’ve put in Trump. And I’m surprised, because Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have notorious reputations for letting down Republican presidential candidates on election night. They couldn’t even carry Wisconsin with Paul Ryan on the Romney ticket in 2012. The last GOP candidate to carry Wisconsin was, in fact, Reagan. The last one to carry Pennsylvania was Bush, in 1988.
Every election since then, the GOP would think they would have a chance to win these states, and every time, they’d lose. Until last Tuesday. Holy cow.
You could tell that all the Clinton supporters at the Javits Center in New York were shellshocked on election night by what transpired. It seemed like they really took it hard, everyone was crying.
It’s bad enough to lose an election even when you expect it, but it’s far worse when you think you’re about to make history (first female President) and when almost all the polls had your side winning the election. Instead, you are sitting there in the hall watching the big screen and witnessing shock defeats in absolute locks like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Michigan, three states you thought for sure were going to put you in the White House. No wonder the Clinton supporters were crying or throwing up.
We should have seen this upset coming, though. Everyone saw the big crowds and excitement Trump was getting in these states, everyone saw the outrage being expressed in the primary results of both parties, no less, and yet right to the end of the campaign no one wanted to believe it.
Well, believe it. The craziness we have come to expect in American politics over the last year, ever since that famous Trump escalator ride to announce his candidacy, gets to continue on for four long years.
And then we’ll have another election. You know what we’re in for in 2020: the same clown show we got in 2016. Trump II: The Sequel. God help us all.
So, that is about all I have to say about the US election. Now, it’s time to decompress and look forward to the next big election campaign of significance.
That’s right, folks: the French presidency! “France 2017.” But honestly, the French will have an impossible task topping what we just witnessed from the USA.