Donald Trump wins, America elects an unthinkable president
In a result with colossal global consequences, Republican businessman and former reality television star Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States, defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton and completing an astonishing rise from political laughingstock to leader of the free world.
NEW YORK—President Donald Trump. Believe it.
Trump pulled off the unthinkable once again on Tuesday, this time with colossal global consequences. The Republican businessman and former reality television star was elected president of the United States, completing an astonishing rise from political laughingstock to leader of the free world.
Trump’s victory, perhaps the most staggering election outcome in the modern history of major countries, was a repudiation of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who was favoured in polls throughout the campaign but was widely considered dishonest and inauthentic. And it was the biggest triumph yet for the populist nationalism that has shaken countries from Britain to Venezuela.
Trump’s win may produce a period of international political, military and economic upheaval. Even before the race was called, the Dow futures market fell by 750 points, a sharper descent than immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. Canada’s immigration website crashed.
Clinton and President Barack Obama had called for a comprehensive rejection of Trumpism — his disparagement of women and minority groups, his disdain for democratic norms, his rage. Instead, a majority of white voters, and enough others, rejected their message of inclusion and incremental improvement in favour of Trump’s promise of radical transformation.
They granted immense power to an erratic, never-elected and habitually untruthful candidate whose behaviour and policy positions have alarmed much of the world — and who will face no organized opposition in Congress. Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives and appeared likely to keep the Senate.
Trump will have a free hand to dismantle Obama’s achievements, many of which are executive orders and administrative actions can be undone with the stroke of a pen. He will get to reject the Paris climate agreement. He will get to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice. He can initiate a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
And he will have unchallengeable authority over the nuclear codes of the mightiest country in world history.
Trump ran on a promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington and restore a bygone era of American greatness. He has vowed to take a sledgehammer to Obama’s legacy — repealing his Obamacare health-care overhaul, scrapping his environmental restrictions aimed at fighting climate change, deporting all illegal immigrants instead of attempting to assimilate them.
The result seemed certain to exacerbate the racial and political polarization that has riven the country during the Obama era. In a sign of just how divided the country remains, Clinton had a chance to win the popular vote while losing decisively in the electoral college.
Clinton was hoping to win the presidency on the strength of the so-called “Obama coalition”: African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims and Asians; young people; and college-educated white people. She urged voters to choose “big-hearted” hope over division and fear.
Trump’s disparagement of Hispanics, and his vow to send out all 11 million illegal immigrants, appeared to produce the turnout surge Clinton was hoping for. But they were swamped by Trump’s dominance in overwhelmingly white rural and exurban areas, the people in the red “Make America Great Again” hats Trump had long insisted were being overlooked.
Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes had appeared daunting all year, and the final batch of polls gave Clinton an average lead of about four percentage points. Analysts spoke of a “blue wall” in the northeast.
But Trump simply won everywhere important, and then some.
He won Florida, where Clinton had been thought to have a slight advantage. He won Ohio, where he had been thought to have a slight advantage. He won in North Carolina, where polls had shown a dead heat. He won Pennsylvania, the former Democratic stronghold he had targeted.
He even managed to win Wisconsin, where no Republican had won since 1984.
“Absolutely buoyant,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told Yahoo News midway through the night. “We can smell the win.”
“Never been as wrong on anything in my life,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, who had predicted an easy Clinton win, wrote on Twitter.
Mathematical models, crunching polling data, had given the former secretary of state, senator and first lady anywhere between a 70-per-cent and 99-per-cent chance of winning. By 9:30 p.m., the New York Times forecast was down to 50-50. By 10 p.m., the forecast gave Trump a 63-per-cent chance.
Clinton held her “victory” party at a New York City convention centre with a glass ceiling, a metaphor for the gender barrier she had hoped to break. But the mood in the mood turned glum fast, and Clinton issued a Twitter post that suggested a dark night ahead.
“This team has so much to be proud of. Whatever happens tonight, thank you for everything,” she wrote.
She refused to offer an immediate concession. Her campaign chair, John Podesta, appeared around 2 a.m. to say they would make no further comments until votes were counted in several states that remain “too close to call.”
“We are so proud of you,” he told the thinned crowd. “And we are so proud of her. She has done an amazing job, and she is not done yet.”
Trump thrilled millions of white voters with his outrage-courting refusal to be “politically correct,” his vow to restore a bygone era of American glory, and scorched-earth attacks on elites, Muslims and immigration. He managed to stay in the running despite an incessant stream of scandals, gaffes and insults that would have sunk any traditional politician.
He did so while cosying up to the white supremacist “alt-right,” while practising an open Islamophobia that includes a proposal to ban all Muslims entering the country, while working to delegitimize government institutions, and while spewing insults and vows of retribution against anyone who crossed him — skeptical Republicans, journalists, celebrities. Experts on authoritarianism warned that he sounded at times like Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
And he earned the world’s most important office while running far fewer ads than Clinton and without the benefit of Clinton’s first-rate get-out-the-vote operation. His showing calls into question the long-held assumptions of the big-money political consulting industry.
Clinton asked voters to choose “love and kindness” over “all of this hate-filled rhetoric, all of these insults and scapegoating, and finger-pointing and insulting.” She ran as the candidate of diversity, prudence and civic harmony, begging moderate Republicans to temporarily put aside party to save the country.
Florida was a microcosm of the country as a whole. Clinton dominated in diverse cities and did fine in suburbs; Trump dominated in whiter, farther-flung towns.
“Her margins in the urban areas are basically records. His margins in exurban areas are basically records. It is a pretty crazy map here,” Steve Schale, Florida director for Obama’s 2008 campaign, wrote on Twitter.
Voting lines were long around the country, an indication of intense voter interest in a surreal race that centred on emotional questions of personal and national identity.
Exit polls had voters reporting they were sad, anxious, angry, and unhappy with the state of the country.
Even Trump’s rise to the Republican nomination was stunning: he defeated 16 other candidates, almost all of them with extensive political experience. His seat-of-the-pants speechifying and ragtag bunch of inexperienced advisers were poised to defeat a disciplined, polished candidate backed by an expensive party machine.
In its final weeks, the campaign veered from surprise to surprise: the leak of a 2005 tape in which Trump appeared to say he had groped women without their consent, an FBI announcement of a new investigation into Clinton’s emails, a subsequent announcement that the investigation was over.
Trump did not sound during the day like a confident candidate. In an unprecedented series of interviews during the voting, he said the system was “rigged” and that “you hear so many horrible stories” about voting fraud.
His campaign filed a lawsuit, quickly dismissed by an incredulous judge, that questioned the legality of some of the early votes of people in a predominantly Hispanic district. Later in the afternoon, he claimed CNN was reporting problems with voting machines “across (the) entire country” — though it was one Utah county.
“I want to see what happens,” he told an Ohio radio station.
Trump was booed and heckled by New Yorkers as he went to cast his ballot in Manhattan. In a sign of just how polarizing he remained to the end, reports suggested he was shunned by the last Republican president, George W. Bush, who left his presidential choice blank.