TORONTO, Ont. Nov. 15, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Donald Trump’s victory in last week’s U.S. presidential election has been called one of the greatest political upsets of all time.
It’s hard to argue with that claim.
Think about it. A high-profile, billionaire businessman with no political experience, who started off with one per cent in popular support during the GOP presidential primaries, beat 17 other Republicans for the nomination in a vicious campaign. He then defeated the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, wife of former president Bill Clinton, who had previously served as a New York senator and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, in an equally vicious campaign.
Trump’s meeting with Obama was even more profound from a historical perspective.
These two men had fought like cats and dogs during the controversial “birther” debate (the massive conspiracy-oriented campaign questioning whether the sitting president was born in the U.S.) and beyond. Yet, there they were, meeting in the Oval Office with a painting of George Washington above them, and busts of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. on either side. It was a longer-than-expected meeting, and there were complimentary words from both men.
Some observers have argued that the civility between Obama and Trump was just for the cameras – much like the civility expressed by the Clintons, former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Even if that’s true, there’s another component: a begrudging respect for a candidate who ran an astonishing political campaign.
Trump took the traditional political playbook and torched it. He did not gain the support of some long-time Republicans, but brought in millions of non-traditional party supporters. He used political language and rhetoric that often seemed to build on the twin principles of fear and intolerance. He offended many women, said that he would build a wall with Mexico and make them pay for it, called for a total ban of Muslims entering the U.S., and claimed he would rip apart trade agreements like NAFTA.
That’s only one side to this story, however.
Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” made many people feel good about a country that seemed to languish during the Obama years. He spoke to the “forgotten men and women” who felt disenfranchised, lost their jobs and hope. His call to clean up Washington and “drain the swamp” resonated with people who were fed up with politics as usual. His belief that the system is “rigged” is, sadly, the way many Americans feel about the political process, parties and their leaders.
While there’s been plenty of focus on Trump’s significant support among white Americans, other demographics are more revealing. Edison Research for the National Election Pool, a consortium of ABC News, Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News, noted that Trump received 90 per cent of Republicans, 48 per cent of Independents, 41 per cent of moderates, 42 per cent of women, 29 per cent of Hispanics, 29 per cent of Asians, 24 per cent of Jews and 52 per cent of Catholics, among others.
Trump’s political message tapped into Americans from all walks of life – including some of the groups he criticized on the campaign trail. And, while I’ve long argued Trump isn’t a conservative or a Republican, it appears voters liked the fact that this populist seemed to understand them, and wanted to help improve their lives.
In other words, Trump told the political elite, both left and right, to take a proverbial hike – and many Americans opted to join him on this journey.
You don’t have to like Trump to recognize the brilliant strategic and marketing techniques used during his presidential campaign. He’s permanently changed the way that politicians, of any political stripe, need to listen, empathize and communicate with potential voters. And, if they don’t follow this lead, they’ll be toast.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Michael is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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