Donald Trump's shock victory in the 2016 US presidential election

The election of Donald J Trump to the office of President of the United States of America has sent shockwaves across a polarised American electorate, and has made much of the free world feel deeply uneasy. What can we expect of the future?

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the campaign trails for the 2016 Presidential election
On 8 November, the American public seemed very close to making history. Eight years and two election cycles after it elected its first African-American president in Barack Obama, the US was poised to elect its first woman president. Hillary Clinton was almost universally believed to be the most qualified candidate of either sex in the history of US presidential elections.And yet, despite the fact that most voters believed Trump had little or no respect for women, minorities, people with disabilities or, indeed, US democratic institutions, he will be the 45th president of the United States of America.

How did this happen?

Key among the reasons for the Trump victory were:
  • Disaffected voters and the demise of the American middle-class. This is especially true in the rust-belt states of the midwest, where unemployment is high and job prospects low, and was compounded by the fact that politicians in Washington have been seen as disinterested in solving these problems. Like the British vote to leave the European Union, his supporters believed that a vote for Donald Trump was a vote against the establishment that had abandoned them, their cities and livelihoods. 
  • Support for Trump and vilification of Hillary Clinton by the right-wing media. Yet when analysed Hillary Clinton has been proven to be fundamentally honest and her debate statements were most consistently factual.
  • Sexism – a deeply rooted unease at women in leadership roles in certain portions of the electorate. 
  • Hillary Clinton's continued unpopularity with certain segments of the American public and her status as a political insider.
Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich captured the mood when he observed, “This says something about the disaffected, about the angry element of the electorate.”He continued, “To me, it seems like a lashing out, like they wanted to teach the establishment a lesson. It says something significant about how many people are angry at the status quo.”

Who voted for Trump?

The breakdown of those who voted for Trump is:
  • 53% of men
  • 42% of women
  • 58% of white voters
  • 8% of black voters
  • 29% of Hispanic voters
Although both candidates, their staff and armies of volunteers canvassed hard throughout the country, at least five swing states helped gift Trump this election:
  • Florida
  • Ohio
  • Wisconsin
  • Pennsylvania 
  • Iowa
Even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, she did not take the Electoral College which is a necessity for winning any presidential election in the US. (This has happened five times out of 57 presidential elections in US history, most recently in 2000 between Al Gore and George W Bush.)It's interesting to note that the 18–25 demographic voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton so the predicted Bernie Sanders' effect – the worry that disaffected millennial progressives would vote for “anyone but Hillary” – did not happen.

The effect of the social media "filter bubble"

Why didn't anyone see this coming? Almost without exception, the professional pollsters got it spectacularly wrong. The media got it wrong. The public got it wrong. No one predicted what's been dubbed the Trumpocalypse.This happened, in part, because some voters were reluctant to admit they supported Trump, preferring instead to identify themselves as "undecided".In addition, it's likely to have happened because we increasingly live in what's been called a “filter bubble”, a reality in which – because of Google and Facebook's algorithms – we only see information that matches our perspectives and “likes”.The phrase “filter bubble” was coined by Eli Pariser, author of the 2011 bestseller The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. Pariser states, “Your filter bubble is this unique, personal universe of information created just for you by this array of personalizing filters. It’s invisible and it’s becoming more and more difficult to escape.” In 2011, Google used 57 signals to tailor your search results – today it's over 200 signals. (These include search history, location, language and computers we use.)Pariser continued, “Ultimately, democracy works only if we citizens are capable of thinking beyond our narrow self-interest. But to do so, we need a shared view of the world we cohabit. The filter bubble pushes us in the opposite direction.”Over 40 per cent of Americans get their news from Facebook (matching global statistics). A 2015 study published in Nature concluded that the Facebook algorithm makes it less likely that people are exposed to content that doesn't match their existing predispositions. If people are not exposed to other perceptions and opinions, it's no wonder that people did not see the signs of a Trump victory.
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The international reaction

In his victory speech, Trump said, “I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone, with everyone – all people and all other nations.”World leaders and the international press had a measured reaction to the news of Trump's victory.
  • Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany: “Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views. I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.”
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a Kremlin-issued statement: Putin expressed “hope for joint work to restore Russian–American relations from their state of crisis, and also to address pressing international issues and search for effective responses to challenges concerning global security.”
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan: “Hand in hand with Trump, we will try to work together.”
  • French President François Hollande: “The people of America have spoken. I have congratulated Mr. Trump, as it is usual in this situation. I thought of Clinton, with whom I worked during the Obama administration. This result leads to uncertainty.” Reiterating that France remains an ally to the United States, he continued, “I also urge vigilance because of statements made by Donald Trump.”
  • Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada: “Canada has no closer friend, partner and ally than the United States. The relationship between our two countries serves as a model for the world.”
  • Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general: “In the aftermath of a hard-fought and often-divisive campaign, it is worth recalling and reaffirming that the unity in diversity of the United States is one of the country's greatest strengths. I encourage all Americans to stay true to that spirit.”
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May: “I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on being elected the next President of the United States, following a hard-fought campaign. Britain and the United States have an enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy and enterprise.” She closed with, “We are, and will remain, strong and close partners on trade, security and defence.”
While Donald Trump spoke with the leaders of nine other countries (Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Israel, Turkey, India, Japan, Australia and South Korea) within 24 hours of his victory, before contact with the British Prime Minister, he did speak with Theresa May in a telephone call on 10 November. A statement from Downing Street emphasised, “President-elect Trump set out his close and personal connections with, and warmth for, the UK.”

Trump's Contract with America

Within 24 hours of winning the election, Donald Trump had chosen a top climate change skeptic to his transition team, for work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), clearly signally a break from the policies of the past eight years. This will potentially reverse many of the Obama administration's accomplishments during their time in office to establish regulations governing everything from clean air and water to greenhouse gas emissions and automobile fuel efficiency.This echoes the message sent in his 100-day plan, which he called “Donald Trump's Contract With The American Voter”.Other items at the top of his to-do list include:
  • Cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.
  • Begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on his list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.
  • Cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities.
  • Begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won't take them back.
  • Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.

What's next for America and the world?

Hillary Clinton made an almost Presidential speech of concession, urging her supporters to have an open mind about Trump and to maintain the American values of freedom, respect and tolerance. She also sent a message of hope to her discouraged women supporters, “I know we have still not shattered that highest, hardest glass ceiling. But I know that someone will.”Donald Trump's acceptance speech signalled a different Trump from the one American voters experienced on the campaign trail and during the presidential debates. He said, “It's time for America to bind the wounds of division. It is time for us to come together as one united people.”Only time will tell whether – in a country as fractured as America at this moment – Trump will be the “leader for all Americans” he now says he wants to be. The increasingly globally mobile world will watch.

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