November 10, 2016.
Donald Trump’s victory Tuesday night shocked much of the nation and the world. Not just that he won the presidency, but that he did so by winning states that polling consistently said would not go his way. Trump’s muscular, anti-establishment appeal translated to votes, whereas Hillary Clinton failed to produce the turnout among core Democrat constituencies that President Obama had done twice before.
Some may not want to read much into a polarizing election campaign that results in a near 50-50 popular vote, but we think that’s wrong. The Trump win is a blockbuster, and says a lot about America.
For one, it says that most Americans are tired of political dynasties and the drama they bring. Jeb Bush’s tepid run for the presidential nomination was the first indicator. A campaign wrapped around “Jeb” (not just another Bush) fell flat. The long history of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s flirtation with all things sordid was more than many Democrats could stomach. Bernie Sanders was not the best messenger, but his rejection of the Clintonesque way of doing things hit a raw nerve.
In Clinton and Trump collectively, we witnessed the nomination of the most unpopular candidates for national office in the history of America. Very unpopular versus more unpopular, or vice versa.
But Trump offered change, and leadership. Clinton did not.
From the beginning, this was a change election for America, and that mattered more to a lot of voters than did Trump’s inexperience and sometimes vulgar, bombastic rhetoric. Trump is a change agent, and breathes confidence.
The election returns also made clear that the geography of America is increasingly red, and that the urban pockets are very blue. Democrats relied on pumping massive vote margins out of greater Detroit to win Michigan. They appear to have failed. They failed too with greater Philadelphia, and lost Pennsylvania. The same in southeast Florida, where Clinton’s margin from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties was 697,000, but she still lost the state by 120,000 votes.
Vote targeting is nothing new, but it continues to shape national campaign strategies in ways that exacerbate the polarization of the electorate.
In 1984, Ronald Reagan’s campaign ran a clever television ad against Walter Mondale that has come to be known as “Morning in America.” It included a calm, uplifting narrative about the American economy and national pride. And it conveyed Reagan’s leadership style.
That’s what the nation needs now from President-elect Trump. The calm, reassuring Donald Trump we saw on election night. A strong leader who can be a healer and an inspiration to even those Americans who did not vote for him.
We wish him much success. And we wish for morning in America again, soon.