Was Donald Trump Destined to Win the Election?
For months, we listened as the polls, the media, and the general public opinion all vocally favored Hillary Clinton to win this year’s presidential election. The transition was already starting to happen, and even the most confident Trump supporters couldn’t help but start preparing for a loss. Yet, Trump ended up with 306 pledged electoral college votes to Clinton’s 232. It wasn’t the biggest landslide in election history, but it was an unprecedented margin of victory for a candidate that was almost written off.
But was this a fluke? Was it the strange alignment of random variables that allowed this to happen, or was Donald Trump destined to win from the beginning?
The What-If Scenarios
Since being confronted with the election’s surprising results, liberals and media figures have been scrambling to pinpoint a root cause for the upset, as if it was some single trigger that caused a reversal of momentum. These people have been playing out various what-if scenarios to uncover what, if anything, could have gone differently.
For example, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid recently suggested that the FBI Director James Comey’s actions during the election were responsible for both the presidential and congressional election outcomes. Comey ignored intelligence of Russian interference, and arguably mishandled the investigation of the Clinton email scandal. Had he not taken these actions, Clinton would have had a stronger lead.
One of the biggest reasons why Donald Trump won was his specific targeting of older, working-class white males, a strong but neglected demographic. Had Clinton made more of an effort to target and relate to these people, some commentators hold, he might not have had as strong of an edge.
But these what-if stories don’t stand even as hypothetical scenarios; the truth is, almost nothing could have stopped the Trump victory.
With enough information, anything can be predicted. Even death, an event thought to be surprising and unpredictable, can be statistically pinpointed to some degree with the right information. And sure enough, some sources accurately predicted that Trump was going to win the election, after examining those statistical factors. For example, the strongly left-wing Michael Moore predicted Trump’s victory fairly accurately before the election results were even announced.
So what factors were responsible for Donald Trump becoming unstoppable?
- White male response. After eight years of a black president and the prospect of a woman president, white males felt robbed of power and fought back to try and retain it. Not all white male voters voted for this reason, but the effect was large enough to have a substantial bearing on turnout and decisions of swing voters.
- Voter apathy. Many Democrats who favored Bernie Sanders were too depressed or too outraged to get out and vote. Other Democrats voted for third-party candidates due to their dislike of Clinton. Even Clinton supporters stayed home instead of voting due to their perceived margin of victory. Too few voters showed up to give the Democrats a chance.
- Clinton’s reputation. Once Hillary Clinton was chosen, the Democrats’ fate was sealed. Over 56 percent of voters had an unfavorable impression of Clinton, and no amount of desperate campaigning was going to make a difference.
- Celebrity. Let’s face it: Donald Trump had a huge advantage for being a volatile celebrity figure. With years of visibility as a business mogul and TV show host, there’s an undeniable amount of novelty and charisma attached to him, as if he’s a cartoon character. These qualities aren’t his most presidential, but they’re enough to guarantee a massive number of votes.
- Catharsis. The working class has been neglected for many years; there is no middle class anymore, especially not for blue collar workers. Working class families are angry to the point of outrage at the government, and in walks a political candidate who seems to be the exact opposite of the political machine we’re used to. Trump’s anger and lack of convention was cathartic and a breath of fresh air for these voters, and nothing was going to change that.
These factors, and the fact that the media and polls were unable to pick up on them before the end of the election, tell us much about our current political system and cultural zeitgeist. Our journalists and reporters aren’t doing a good enough job of getting the full story. Our echo chambers are blinding us to worlds outside our own bubbles. We’re underestimating the effects that celebrity can have, and we’re making too many broad assumptions about the feelings of the general public. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, this election holds valuable lessons for us. Let’s work harder and pay more attention to the world around us -- and not just the worlds we’re used to or the worlds we want to see.