Speed Reads

the day after

Trying to understand what just happened? Read this oral history of the 2016 election.

What just happened?

It's a question Americans across the political spectrum are asking each other Wednesday morning as Donald Trump emerges the unquestionable winner of the 2016 presidential election. But how did things turn out this way? The Washington Post has compiled quotes from Trump and Hillary Clinton aides and operatives to present a complete oral history of the election, beginning in the early days of May, when Trump's team was already eyeing a general election against the former secretary of state.

"The narrative was already baked in. That was the beauty of her. In most campaigns, you're trying to define a candidate. [Clinton] was defined as someone that people don't like and don't trust, and all we had to do was reinforce the existing narrative," Republican National Committee chief strategist Sean Spicer explained.

There was early anxiety in Clinton's team, too, about Trump's popularity: "I definitely remember we had a lot of angst around, like, how do we handle Trump? Like, how do you get your arms around this situation? The media runs wild with him. They just set the camera in front of him live and let it roll for as long as he speaks," campaign manager Robby Mook said.

Clinton's team was never fully confident that they could beat Trump, and hiccups like her fainting spell at the 9/11 Memorial shook that confidence even more. "Democrats completely and utterly panicked ... They all say, 'Well, what about Brexit?' 'What if the models are off?' It was really unbelievable, actually, because I was out doing a lot of fundraising and things and it was like therapy sessions," Democratic strategist David Plouffe said.

But whether Clinton's team was aware of how deeply in trouble they were or not, the rest of that story is now history. Learn more about how exactly it became that way at The Washington Post.