The present text explores various pivotal factors during the 2016 presidential campaign that ultimately led to the election of Donald J. Trump. The paper discusses factors such as communication techniques, anti-establishment sentiments, the rust belt, voter turnout, the authenticity of the election process, scandals, candidate’s health, and the influence of preceding president’s policies. Though many elements were uncontrollable by then candidate Trump, each cooperated simultaneously to reach an otherwise unanticipated result.
Donald Trump’s status as a well-known celebrity in the limelight made him no stranger to captivating an audience. In an interview with Time Magazine, Trump stated “It’s not the polls, it’s the ratings.” His hold-no-punches rhetoric interested Americans everywhere, regardless if they liked him or not. Whether Trump was insulting a decorated war hero John McCain, picking a fight with popular Fox news reporter Megyn Kelly, or taking jabs at Rosie O’Donnell, his support only grew stronger over time. His ability to communicate with his audience along with his charisma and confidence created a man made of Teflon. Attacks came and rolled off without drawing any fatal blood. Rather than frame himself as a polished politician, Trump’s embodiment of the unconventional candidate gave him leeway where others did not, all the while exemplifying him as authentic.
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One of the most pivotal instruments for Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign was social media. More specifically, his twitter. His infamous twitter account was started in 2009 for publicity reasons. Fans of the Celebrity Apprentice and Miss Universe were eager for updates and insides to the shows they loved. Trump’s twitter soon became one of his greatest tools for his presidential campaign. His style of blunt, reckless, and carefree tweeting captivated audiences, regardless of the context. He was able to garner media attention at the whim of a tweet, whether they liked it or not. He was able to speak directly to his supporters by bypassing the middle man: the mainstream media. Regardless of how crude or controversial his tweets were, his ability to directly communicate through social media saturated media headlines and maintained his relevancy.
Trump’s ability to energize his audience transformed otherwise humdrum political rally’s into entertainment television. During the course of the 2016 campaign, Trump held a whopping 323 rallies throughout 40 states. His “huge” crowds garnered media attention, furthering excitement and momentum within his base. Each rally seemed to grow larger than the last, as Trump was forced to give the same rally twice in different occasions to thousands who couldn’t fit inside. Overspill became so common that overflow space was implemented outside, featuring food trucks, Trump memorabilia, and wide screen televisions to watch the candidate speak. Trump’s rallies gave the candidate the opportunity to fight against negative press, while simultaneously changing media headlines at the utterance of his voice.
America loves an underdog, and that’s exactly what Trump’s presence brought to the political arena. Donald Trump’s campaign was driven on anti-establishment rhetoric. Although he was shunned immediately from much of his party’s establishment and dismissed as a joke by the media, his message of economic grievance and need for change resonated with forgotten small-town voters and ultimately played a large part in his election success. Trump’s emphasis on Washington’s corruption and the cronyism of the political elites made him into the ultimate outsider amongst a field of 16 Republican nominee contenders. His recklessness, crude style, and virginity to politics further contrasted himself from polished politicians in a time when the public was yearning for change. Trump’s slogan “drain the swamp” and the corruption within it quickly placed him at the top of the pack.
Donald Trump won the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton most notably because of his ability to win three rust belt states: Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Taking Iowa for example, Barrack Obama successfully won 53 of the states 99 counties, while Clinton only won 6. Trump’s populist message resonated with these industrial-rich states, promising jobs to the declining working-class. Trump relentlessly attacked Clinton on her support of NAFTA and the TPP, programs that have effectively dismantled the industrial states in the Upper Midwest. The industrial Midwest was looking for a voice to channel their anger and resentment. Their jobs had been shipped overseas, their factories were now empty carcasses, and their cities were shadows of their former selves. Trump promised lower corporate taxes and a return of jobs to the desolate shadow of a former middle class. Threats such as a 35% tariff on Ford’s goods if they went through with their plan to move their headquarters to Mexico energized a declining industry.
Trump’s victories within Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin not only marked a win for himself, but a major failure within the Clinton campaign. Though Hillary Clinton’s campaign had an ad budget of $200 million, she barely focused any energy or money within the three states. According to Bloomberg, the Clinton Campaign’s first ad in Wisconsin launched as late as October 28th and waited until November 1st to begin advertising in Michigan. Although it is impossible to tell whether or not greater focus on these areas by the Clinton campaign would have altered the result, it remains a grave blunder.
The validity of the 2016 Democratic nominee race was questioned regularly throughout the campaign with rising levels of frustration. Whether it was leaked emails of DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile providing CNN forum questions to Clinton, superdelegates voting against the public majority, or apparent bias of the Democrat party in favor of the Clinton campaign, the voter base splintered rapidly during the nomination process. Bad news for the Hillary camp continued as the Democratic National Convention began. Sanders supporters booed the nominee to be, causing an uproar both inside and out of the arena. DNC Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was booed off stage after reports surfaced of WikiLeaks emails exposed DNC staffers as devising strategies to weaken Bernie Sanders campaign.
The turmoil resulted in the resignation of Wasserman Schultz from her position, and the news gifted Trump more fuel for his “rigged system” narrative. Mounting evidence of the conspiracy emboldened Sanders supporters, many of which attended Clinton rallies with banners labeled “Bernie or Bust” or “Feel the Bern.” The breaking news along with a history of party officials fretting with the Sanders campaign over debate schedules, access to the party’s voter database, and a joint fundraising campaign between Clinton and the DNC resulted in a depressed voter base.
Hillary Clinton’s reputation was effectively crumbling before securing her party’s nomination. Since the election, both Donna Brazile and Elizabeth Warren have admitted the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination was “rigged.” Although the DNC was meant to remain neutral in the race, it entered a joint fundraising pledge with the Clinton campaign. Hillary would pay the committee’s debt under the condition that her campaign would manage all day-to-day operations as of August 2015. Brazile went on to describe Clinton’s control as a “cancer” to the party. Hillary’s campaign controlled the DNC before the voters had the opportunity to vote. Brazile speaking out validated many concerns regarding the party’s inherent bias towards Clinton. Not only did this compromise the party’s integrity, but the result left a wound within the democrat party that would remain well into election day.
Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server surrounded much of the 2016 presidential campaign. On March 2, 2015, The New York Times published information stating former secretary of state possibly broke record keeping laws. Clinton held the emails in a private server in her New York home. Her emails were subsequently subpoenaed. Hillary Clinton released her “work-related” emails to the state department, simultaneously deleting and bleaching those related to her personal life. The Judicial Watch sued the state department, demanding all emails be retrieved from Clinton from her time as secretary of state. News soon broke that new emails between Clinton and longtime adviser Blumenthal were found by House Republicans, emails that had not been turned in previously. Many criticized Clinton as possibly using her private email server to receive financial information that may have influenced her foreign policy decisions. Although Clinton insisted she never sent nor received classified information on her private email server, emails continued to be uncovered that consisted of classified information.
Hillary Clinton was poised confidently in the last week of October as she rose to a six-point lead above Trump. The Clinton campaign announced plans to go on the offense in Arizona, a longtime Republican stronghold. Although there was no genuine attempt to steal the red state, the move meant to symbolize momentum for the Democratic candidate. Just as Clinton geared for the offensive, the political climate flipped. The FBI announced they were reopening the criminal investigation against Hillary after finding more emails pertaining to the matter. Hillary Clinton would now be on the defense for the remainder of the twelve days before the election. Trump capitalized on the issue, stating “She’ll be under investigation for years. She’ll be with trials. Our country, we have to get back to work”. He emphasized the incompetence of leadership under Hillary Clinton, looming under endless investigations and scandals.
Hillary Clinton’s health became of greater concern following her collapse following the 9/11 memorial on September 11th, 2016. Cameras caught Clinton collapsing to the ground as she attempted to enter her motorcade. This immediately caught media attention as the public began questioning the state of her health, turning an otherwise right-wing conspiracy theory regarding her fitness into a relevant issue. Hillary was subsequently diagnosed with pneumonia and dehydration. Donald Trump responded to the fall, stating Hillary “doesn’t have the strength or the stamina” to be president.
Trump’s national spokeswoman Katrina Pierson continued with the attack, accusing Clinton of poor health. In an interview with MSNBC, Pierson alleged Clinton suffered from Dysphasia, a neurological condition that inhibits the ability to communicate and respond to speech. She alleged Clinton suffered from severe brain damage, citing her mannerisms, previous injuries, and elongated time off the campaign trail as proof. The question of whether or not Clinton was healthy enough to handle the pressures of the presidency remained.
Dr. Drew Pinsky of HLN reignited the argument over Hillary Clinton’s health after reading her released medical evaluation. Pinsky explained he felt alarmed regarding her blood clot found in her skull (transverse sinus thrombosis), an issue that formed after Clinton hit her head in 2012. He pointed out Clinton had been wearing “prism glasses” following her fall, explaining that it was the result of brain damage. He criticized her healthcare medications, stating she was on “bizarre” medications. Pinsky faced criticism following his comments and his show was cancelled days after he spoke out. Although many dismissed his claims as well as former speaker Newt Gingrich, the argument of whether Hillary was healthy enough to serve as president had already ignited into a genuine issue.
The controversy regarding Clinton’s health affected voters greatly. Following her fall at the 9/11 memorial and media coverage, more than 40% of registered voters believed that Clinton is either in “below average” or “very poor” health according to a survey of 1,501 people taken between September 12 and 13. That number rose from 26% just the month before the incident. The issue of health became a bona fide issue quickly in the campaign, with 1 in 4 respondents saying Hillary Clinton’s health would have an impact on their vote. This was another issue in a mounting case against a vote for Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump not only benefitted from running against one of the most flawed candidates in American history, but from the legacy of those before him. Americans were yearning for change after years of minor growth and disappointment. 2016 general election exit polls revealed 62% of voters believed the United States was on the “wrong track”, compared to 33% who believe it was going in the right direction. One of the greatest reasons Trump achieved success in the presidential election was a result of one of the most contentious issues: healthcare.
Many Americans expressed contempt for Obamacare after premiums and deductibles skyrocketed out of control just weeks before the election. In the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, rates for people within the private insurance market soared to an average 55 percent. Other states such as Wisconsin and Michigan saw rates expand to 16 and 7 percent respectively. Midrange plans rose approximately 22 percent nationwide. Trump promised to “repeal and replace Obamacare”, and those suffering saw hope in the candidate. According to RealClearPolitics, Americans disapproved of Obamacare at a 49.4 to 40.4 margin. Of the 47% of Americans that believed Obamacare “went too far”, 82% voted for Donald Trump. Trump promised to replace Obamacare with “something terrific”. Although it was not clear what the replacement was, the promise was ultimately a gamble the public was willing to take.
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