Trump’s political revolution
In one of the most stunning upsets in American political history, Republican nominee Donald Trump this week squeaked past Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton to be elected the 45th U.S. president. The billionaire businessman, who was written off by almost every pundit going into Election Day, secured at least 290 Electoral College votes—20 more than required to win— despite narrowly losing the popular vote to Clinton, 47.7 to 47.5 percent, according to incomplete vote totals. The Republican nominee had been widely expected to lose, with aggregate polls showing him trailing Clinton by 3 points on Election Day. He is the oldest-ever president-elect, and the first never to have held elected political office or served in the military. In a conciliatory victory speech, Trump praised his opponent for “her service to our country,” promised to give every American “the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential,” and pledged to unify the nation. “We will seek common ground,” he said, “not hostility.” Clinton told a crowd of somber and crying supporters that the loss was “painful,” and urged them to keep fighting for their progressive principles. But she said the country owed the next president “an open mind and a chance to lead.”
Trump’s victory came as the result of a powerful surge of support from white and rural voters. He narrowly won the key battleground states of Florida and North Carolina, before sweeping to victory with surprisingly easy wins in the Rust Belt states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. He won white voters 58 to 37 percent. Among the other swing states, Clinton won only Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia. Trump’s victory triggered shock waves around the world (see Best Columns: International) and sparked volatility in the financial markets (see Business). Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been accused of meddling in the election (see Talking Points), sent Trump a congratulatory telegram.
What the editorials said
Trump’s momentous victory “marks a thunderous repudiation of the status quo,” said the Financial Times. Not just of the “remote and often robotic” Hillary Clinton but of President Obama, the liberal agenda, and the political establishment. Democrats may try to blame their repudiation on the late announcement by FBI Director James Comey that the agency was again examining Clinton’s emails. But this populist rebellion against globalization, immigration, and free trade has been brewing since the global financial crisis exposed the “profound fault lines in American society”—inequality has risen, and median incomes among less educated Americans have “stagnated or fallen.”
What does a Trump presidency hold? No one knows, said The New York Times. He has yet to prove he has “the capacity to focus on any issue,” or indeed the temperament to govern a diverse nation of 320 million people or “control the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.” But here’s what we do know: Our next president is a man who threatens to prosecute his political opponents and curtail the freedom of the press; who “lies without compunction” and gleefully insults women, Muslims, and Hispanic immigrants; and who has promised to “tear up” vital deals on climate change and Iran’s now-mothballed nuclear program. And he has done all this with the loud support of “racists, white supremacists, and anti-Semites.”
“Voters understood the choice,” said The Wall Street Journal. Clearly, enough of them were “so dissatisfied” with the Washington establishment and economic stagnation “that they were willing to take a risk on Trump’s unusual political profile and volatile temperament.” Trump’s victory is astonishing, especially given Clinton’s huge advantages in fundraising and get-out-the-vote operations—and in a democracy, the “voter sentiment” that propelled him into office is one the whole country must respect.
What the columnists said
It’s hard to overstate just how badly Democrats screwed this up, said Jim Newell in Slate.com. They “worked giddily” to nominate Clinton, a “total misfit” for the anti-establishment mood of 2016, and insisted she could “escape her baggage.” Then they assured us that the firewall of blue Rust Belt states couldn’t be breached, that their ground game was unbeatable. They were wrong on every count, and the Democratic Party now lies in shambles.
Trump won because he “gave voice to voters who have been ignored by GOP leaders for decades,” said Charles Hurt in The Washington Times. He and his supporters have torn away the façade of political correctness, and transformed the party’s positions on immigration, trade, and national security. “Welcome, Democrats, to the revolution.”
The revolution was fueled by overt racism, said Jamelle Bouie in Slate.com, and Trump won because he represented “a restoration of white authority.” With his sneering attacks on immigrants, Muslims, and Black Lives Matter protesters, and his winks to white nationalists, he united the white vote: working-class and college-educated, young and old, rich and poor. After eight years of a black president, white Americans wanted their country back. “This is now Trump’s America,” said Andrew Sullivan in NYMag.com. He has full control of Congress, and the chance to shift the Supreme Court “to the far right for more than a generation to come.”
Trump’s election is “the most momentous shift in American political and cultural life in our time,” said John Podhoretz in the New York Post. He’s tapped into a deep well of resentment, and his authoritarian instincts, his amorality, and impulsive decision making are disturbing. But make no mistake: This is “the opening chapter in a new age of American history.”
Trump’s transition team “has spent the past several months quietly building a short list” for his Cabinet, said Nancy Cook in Politico.com. His main surrogates are all being considered for top jobs: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for Secretary of State; Sen. Jeff Sessions as Secretary of Defense; and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for Attorney General. Other names “receiving buzz” include Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the head of the transition team.