The Shock of a Donald Trump Win – And What It Means

The voters have spoken. What are they trying to say?

How did this happen?

A Trump presidency — words I never dared to write that minute by minute on Tuesday became a reality — feels like a rejection of the values that so many of us hold dear.

The voters have spoken. What are they trying to say?

I don’t believe that voters were voting for racism, bigotry, sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia — though their candidate showed himself to be a symbol of all those things.

The vote for Trump feels like a vote against something, not a vote for something. A rejection of Hillary Clinton, certainly. A rejection of a female candidate for president, possibly. A rejection of the traditional political party machines.

A rejection of the status quo.

Republican voters already rejected their own party when they nominated Trump last summer. The party has since splintered and spluttered and struggled to find its center, to defend an indefensible candidate who insulted them as often as he pretended to align with their platform.

But this election turned on states where the new economy has not arrived, where the manufacturing economy collapsed over the past three decades. Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania — Trump proved to be stronger in those states than any pollster predicted.

The heartland, “Rust Belt” states lodged a protest vote about being left behind. But even Wisconsin and Minnesota, two states that are economically healthy by comparison, tipped his way.

So: the polls were wrong. Big data totally failed.

Lots of things seem to have mattered. African-Americans didn’t turn out their vote as they did for Barack Obama. Latinos voted for Clinton, but in smaller numbers than was needed. The educated women who were expected to repudiate Trump (I don’t know any women who would vote for him) did so in smaller margins than had been anticipated, just 6 percent.

Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski did a victory lap on CNN. The vote, he said, communicated the following: “We are tired of Washington, D.C., we are tired of broken promises, people forgetting about us — we want wholesale change.”

Trump said in declaring victory: “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

Still, I found it hard to believe that faced with the gravity of deciding who runs the most powerful country on earth, even disaffected voters would play a game of chicken.

Why did I (we) not expect this? Because the pundits said it wasn’t happening. Because even so many Republicans couldn’t bear having him as their representative. Because he’s vulgar, and because the man is transparently, self-evidently tempermentally unfit to hold the presidency.

But now he’s the president-elect.