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How Trump won the Presidency

How Trump won the Presidency

Friday 28 October, 2016
In case of Trump victory, break glass. There are four reasons the Donald is not done – don’t say we didn’t tell you so. Although the overwhelming majority of those in the political and media worlds are by now quite convinced that Donald Trump has no chance to enter the White House on January 20th 2017, I […]
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In case of Trump victory, break glass. There are four reasons the Donald is not done – don’t say we didn’t tell you so.

Although the overwhelming majority of those in the political and media worlds are by now quite convinced that Donald Trump has no chance to enter the White House on January 20th 2017, I thought I’d offer a “preemptive post-facto retrospective”. It’s clear that if Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States, two things occur. First, the free world will lose its collective mind. Second, establishment elites will flail about for an explanation of how such a cataclysmic, unfathomable, and impossible transgression was permitted to pass.

In the interests of playing devil’s advocate – being by nature a contrarian and having a somewhat skeptical, if not downright jaundiced view of the corporate-media-complex – here are some plausible reasons of how Trump won the 2016 election.

The argument is arranged in four parts, presented in no particular order.

1. Historically low voter turnout
2. The GOP down-ballot strategy
3. People’s tendency to vote affirmatively
4. The privacy of the voting booth

Quick side bar: this article attempts to explain the how of Trump’s electoral victory, not the why he won, nor the why the Brexit-esque surprise. Those are different conversations framed by concepts like echo-chambers, confirmation-bias and corporate media narrative sculpting.


1. Historically low voter turnout

It is quite possible that 2016 will have historically low voter turnout. When a campaign is as ugly, spiteful, toxic and vociferous as this one, many sane people are simply turned off. There is some psychological and philosophical consistency to this proposition. The same reasons that people generally don’t intervene in a couples’ public confrontation, or help those being assaulted, account for people not involving themselves in dark and slanderous elections. The average person assumes the ostrich mentality. Preferring to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass, they leave the voting to the highly motivated.

Aside from the tenor of the campaign itself, what’s happened with the Sanders-wing of the Democratic Party and recent domestic events involving the Black Lives Matter protests in Milwaukee, St Lois and Detroit will influence voter turnout in early November. Despite consistent claims that Sanders supporters are neatly unified behind the Democratic nominee, the torrent of information flowing from WikiLeaks (the release of John Podesta’s private emails in addition to the disclosure of Hillary’s paid speeches), suggests an alternate paradigm. In a nutshell, any Sanders supporter with an Internet connection is now aware that the primary process was stacked against Bernie Sanders: that the DNC, media and Clinton campaign colluded to deny him an equitable shot at the nomination. In addition, Sanders supporters are now aware that virtually every charge Bernie levelled against Clinton viz corporate influence, special interests, favors to the top end of town, and cozying up to the 1%, were in principle: accurate. After the WikiLeaks revelations it would take a special kind of mental gymnastics to believe that Clinton will do anything meaningful about campaign finance reform, or income inequality. This will likely depress millennial turnout this cycle. Another demographic Clinton needs to turn out are the African-Americans that were so supportive of Obama in 2008 and 2012. While they have historically been a reliable place for Democrats to harvest votes, this year may yield different results. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, combined with the reality that the Democrats have nothing that approaches BLM’s political agenda on their platform, could make it harder to get blacks to pony-up the vote this year.


2. The GOP down-ballot strategy

The chaos in the Republican Party might redound to Trump’s benefit. The ascendency of Donald Trump has been an inter-party struggle of epic proportions. Of the GOP Senators whose names will be on the ballot the same day as Trump, many have distanced themselves from the malignant candidate and are attempting to run “independent” Senate campaigns. Indeed some are now openly making the argument that “since Trump will likely lose the election, you must vote for a Republican in the Senate as only way to safeguard a Democratic clean-sweep”. This has meant that the Republican Party is not spending its war-chest on the candidate at the top of the ticket. Rather the GOP is pouring its resources into these senate races. The Democrats aren’t doing the same. Their money and ads are focused on the presidential election. The net result could be more Republicans at the polls on election day. And, in the privacy of that voting booth (discussed later), they might in the end pull the level for the big guy.


3. People’s tendency to vote affirmatively

The Clinton campaign has expended every ounce of its significant energy demonstrating that Donald Trump is an utterly unpalatable and unacceptable presidential candidate. The strategic downside is that political capital is a zero-sum game. When you’re talking about one thing you’re not talking about something else. The opportunity cost of disqualifying Trump is significant. Hillary Clinton has not made a compelling affirmative case for her own candidacy. In fact the vast majority of voters are less sure of what she stands for than they are convinced of what she stands against. Again, one of the distinctions of the American political system is voluntary voting. You need to give people a reason to come out to vote for you. It’s quite possible that “stopping Trump” is not enough to get people off the couch and to their polling place. Conversely, although Trump has fewer voters (as a proportion of the total electorate) the voters he has love him. Trump supporters will walk over broken glass to pull the lever. The same cannot be said for Clinton’s supporters. At best, voting for Clinton is considered a moral good; at worst it’s the lesser of two evils.


4. The privacy of the voting booth

This final element of why Trump won the election is the extremely personal nature of a private voting booth. Many people are denouncing Donald Trump because it’s the socially desirable, and politically expedient, thing to do. It’s possible that many Republicans, when in the privacy of the voting booth – completely protected from recrimination or judgment – will hold their nose, suppress the nausea, and put an X in the box next to Trump. At the end of the day, Republicans (and many Independents) have to decide between words and deeds – between opposing sets of their own values. A voter will decide if what one person says – the nature of their character – is more important than the quantifiable actions of the other. Trump is a vulgar man who holds racist and misogynistic views. Clinton is most certainly corrupt (or at the very least corruptible), and has demonstrated an appalling lack of judgment that shows manifest unfitness for the role of Commander in Chief (private email server, Benghazi, Libya).

Voters will have to ask themselves: “In light of a failed economy, divided society and a rapidly changing and uncertain world, do I want the person promising law and order, a booming economy and a return to a golden age, or do I want the one who promises more of the same: Obama 2.0?”

2016 has always been a change election. It’s quite possible that in the privacy of the election booth, some voters will have an epiphany: everything that was slung to and fro in the campaign melts away and they realise this election is between status quo and change.


Many people on the morning of November 9, 2016 could have the rudest of awakenings – that Donald Trump has been elected president. Sackcloth and ash are the order of the day. Castigations and accusations abound while the media goes into complete meltdown. So it doesn’t come as such an incomprehensible event, consider what influence the prospect of historically low voter turnout, two appalling candidates, and the context of a “change election” might have on the final tally.



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