Why no-one should be surprised Donald Trump won the election

Heather Saul
Wednesday 09 November 2016 08:50 GMT
Picture: (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Donald Trump, a man with no prior experience in a political office, a man who once boasted about grabbing women “by the p***y”, a man who stirred racial tensions across America and delivered comments about immigration that caused uproar, a man who at one point vowed to enforce a ban on all Muslims entering America, a man who has deliberately eschewed unity for division in every sense is now the man who will lead America as the 45th President of the United States.

For anyone sat flabbergasted at the former Republican nominee's success this morning, one question must be asked.

Is his victory really that surprising?

This result is the product of one overwhelming factor: Mr Trump is different to every other person who has run for President.

President-elect Donald Trump pumps his fist during an election night rally in New York, New York, US 

 President-elect Donald Trump pumps his fist during an election night rally in New York, New York, US 

He spoke the same language as those who supported him

Mr Trump spoke to his supporter base in a discourse they understood. His simple language was mocked by the media and the political elite for exposing a worrying gap in his knowledge of foreign policy, but it resonated with members of the public so alienated by the jargon employed by politicians.

He communicated directly with the press, more than anyone else

Mr Trump would openly criticise any newspaper to challenge or expose his behaviour, branding reporters who cast a critical gaze over his activities “crazy” and “dummies” and threatening to revoke their credentials. Yet he would still communicate with most outlets and would even continue to allow some in close quarters. The 70-year-old would always stop to speak to the press, whether it be on the street or at a public appearance, a stance that served him well in this election. He used every opportunity for exposure to sell himself as a Messiah-like saviour figure. His response to being asked by journalists why he had unexpectedly arrived at a women's golf tournament in Scotland? “Because the world asked me to be here.”

His ubiquity made him an accessible figure to an electorate further swayed by the way he cleverly seized upon the negative media coverage of his campaign. He portrayed himself as a victim and a martyr, as someone who was willing to suffer such deeply personal attacks to fulfil his calling and help the American people. “If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn’t put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20 per cent,” he tweeted after one report in The New York Times. His message was clear: it's their fault, not mine, but I'll plough on ahead in my fight for you. "Fight" was a verb repeatedly used in his tweets about the media.

“I am not only fighting Crooked Hillary,” he tweeted on another occasion, “I am fighting the dishonest and corrupt media and her government protection process. People get it!“

He capitalised on anger instead of trying to diffuse it

Mr Trump gauged the anger swelling among sections of America early on and jumped on it, unleashing an aggression unseen in the elections of recent decades. Rallies became characterised by the fights that would break out. Journalists reporting from the scene would be shouted at and booed by protesters as Mr Trump pushed the narrative of the biased press unfairly targeting him.

“I’d like to punch him in the face,” he told a crowd as a demonstrator was taken out. In fact, he had a number of demonstrators dragged out of rallies by security. He was accused of inciting violence against Hillary Clinton under the pretence of defending Second Amendment rights by calling on her security detail to disarm so we “can see what happens”. He also threatened to jail his Democratic opponent while in office, a move many suggested had dictatorial undertones.

In stark contrast to Barack Obama’s electric, rallying “fired up? ready to go?" chants that defined his first campaign for the White House, Mr Trump's rallies were filled with angry chants of “Paul Ryan sucks!”, “CNN sucks!”, “drain the swamp!” “she’s a demon!", “lock her up!” and “build that wall!”. Anger became galvanising; it attracted more and more support from those who felt forgotten in America.

He was the candidate who never backed down, who never apologised

Conviction became one of his ultimate strengths in this election. While every other candidate before him, and virtually every high-profile person for that matter, would bow to the anger caused by even the most minor misstep or controversy with grovelling apologies, Mr Trump refused to back down in the face of some of the most serious allegations against him. The women who accused him of sexual assault or harassment? He would sue every single one of them. The anger caused by the ‘slur' he used to suggest John McCain was only considered a war hero because he was taken prisoner in Vietnam? He had “no plans at all” to apologise. The fury sparked by comments he made about the family of an American Muslim soldier killed in service? Exacerbated by his mocking suggestion the soldier’s mother did not speak because she was not allowed.

With Mr Trump, voters felt they had a candidate who meant what he said regardless of how others felt about his views, a quality lacking among even the most esteemed and beloved politicians. As Madonna grimly admitted two days before the election: “All politicians lie. All of them. Even our most beloved.” But people believed Mr Trump would tell the truth.

He was the candidate who went off-script

A part of his appeal was his perceived authenticity. He became known for wilfully veering off script, often to the panic of his aides and delight of his audience, and the speeches where his staff did manage to rein him and keep him to the teleprompter fell flat, failing to rouse his supporters like his hour-long, off the cuff missives would.

Donald Trump does impression of Hillary Clinton faint

The delivery of his rhetoric was key. Repetition became his biggest tactic for reinforcing his message of change and making sure that when people walked away from his rallies, the words he repeated would be the words burned into their memory. His use of profanities also bolstered that sense of authenticity even in the face of the glaring hypocrisy he demonstrated by criticising Jay Z for swearing during his Cleveland set.

He had little high-profile support - and said he didn’t want it anyway

Despite being a billionaire who has always pushed his ostensible fortune to the forefront of coverage at every available opportunity, Mr Trump successfully distanced himself from the elite. The high-profile celebrities who came out in droves for Ms Clinton helped him do this. The disillusioned working class had no interest in the political leanings of some of the most wealthy musicians, actors and politicians who lived lives so far removed from their own. Documentarian Michael Moore, one of his most vocal opponents, summarised his appeal best when he explained why Mr Trump would defy every pollster and win this election in the ultimate, “f**k you” protest vote: “It’s why every beaten-down, nameless, forgotten working stiff who used to be part of what was called the middle class loves Trump. He was the Malatov cocktail that they have been waiting for. The human hand grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them.

“They’ve lost their jobs, the banks foreclosed, next came the divorce and now the wife and kids are gone, the car’s been repoed. They haven't had a vacation in years, they’re stuck with the sh***y bronze plan where you can’t even get a f***ing Percocet. They’ve essentially lost everything they have except one thing […]: the right to vote. They might be penniless, they might be homeless, they might be f**ked over and f**ked up - it doesn't matter because it’s equalised on that day.

“On 8 November, the dispossessed will walk into the voting booth […] and put a big f**king X in the box next to the name of the man who has threatened to upend and overturn the very system that ruined their lives. Donald J. Trump.

“Trump’s election is going to be the biggest 'f**k you' in human history.”

He was already famous for being a reality TV star in a contest that increasingly felt like a reality TV show

Mr Trump had already established himself as an often controversial but crucially three-dimensional personality instead of a faceless, one-dimensional politician. He was famous among people who were politically apathetic, he had cameos in some of the most popular TV programmes, even alongside Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City. He was twice divorced, he had lived out his marriages and their demise in public. He was a regular alongside Howard Stern on his radio show, beginning his decades-long tradition of “locker room” talk that came back to haunt him when those “grab em by the p***y” comments were unearthed.

He had a well-established Twitter following and used it to speak directly to his followers

His various Twitter errors, including some unfortunate re-tweets, only reinforced the feeling that he was steering his own page and it was his own voice behind those posts, not a team carefully constructing bland, safe tweets void of personality.

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