Election 2016

Why Donald Trump Won

People who don't understand how anyone could vote for Donald Trump are part of the reason Trump won.


Todd Krainin

I wrote this, or the jist of it, back on June 14. The Orlando shooting happened two days earlier (it seems so long ago), and the tenor of the arguments in the political arena in its aftermath, over immigration, guns, race, and religion were frightening. The odious, smug comments by many on the left made me believe for the first time that it was Trump's election to lose, not to win. Since then, he did a lot to try to lose, while many of his opponents did their best to keep him in the race with their own unhinged reactions.

All these people were helping him. There was so much hate. I tweeted a couple of people, pointing out their toxicity was only helping Trump. That trend continued through November. In September, she put half of Trump voters in a "basket of deplorables." Clinton chose to focus largely on Trump's personal character flaws and controversial statements, without ever substantively engaging or even recognizing the concerns Trump voters said they had.

The news that some Facebook employees tried to get Donald Trump posts banned as "hate speech" was emblematic of the problem with a lot of the left's response to Trump. Zuckerberg rejected the calls. "There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault," Zuckerberg wrote in a post. "It may be because they believe strongly in smaller government, a different tax policy, health care system, religious issues, gun rights or any other issue where he disagrees with Hillary."

Throughout, Clinton supporters ignored her professional flaws—questionable relationships of the Clinton Foundation, a disregard for transparency and the rules in setting up her own email server, as well as a total inability to acknowledge any real faults in her history of foreign policy positions. Instead, they tried to gaslight opponents of Clinton as sexists. Even now, the narrative that "America is more sexist than racist" is taking hold on the left (the notion itself could easily be called racist, at the very least its an distasteful exercise in oppression ranking). Trump won in part because of voters in places like Michigan and Wisconsin who voted twice for Obama. It won't stop some on the left from calling those Trump voters racist, either.

It turns out people don't like being talked down to, and don't like being lied to. They can smell a bullshit argument from someone else even if they subscribe to their own set. So a deeply flawed candidate like Trump was able to win, despite his own best efforts, because of the popularity of the anti-establishment sentiment.

Back in June after Orlando, the left appeared to be fundamentally lying about the situation on the ground. Republicans were to blame for the Orlando shooting, The New York Times argued. The NRA was complicit in terrorism, if not terrorists themselves. The propositions are on their face ridiculous. People can see that. There are many arguments against Trump's brand of nativism. Many of them were made here at Reason. Blaming white supremacy and America's history of imperialism on what was at the time most likely a mass murder perpetrated by a young first generation American Muslim raised in an immigrant, anti-gay household doesn't help. There are arguments to keep borders open. There are arguments against Donald Trump's proposed bans. There are arguments for amnesty. The left largely was not making them.

By refusing to provide any kind of argument, instead misrepresenting the facts and deploying ill-fitting narratives in an attempt to blame shift, they created the space for Trump and actually made it easier for his message to get across. That was a pattern that continued through November, keeping Trump in the race. They're lying, Trump argued the Monday after the Orlando shooting. And he wasn't wrong, even if he was lying too.

Now the left will again blame everyone but themselves. After all they didn't vote for Trump. Paul Krugman went on a Twitter tirade about focus on the email controversy "killing the planet." There are countless examples on social media of the blame going everywhere but at the problems with their own candidate. Democracy itself is at stake, because their candidate didn't win. That's not how democratic societies work. Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate, with a bloody history on the foreign policy front and the unmistakable stench of corruption surrounding her long career. Clinton campaign emails reveal they favored Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson, as "pied piper" candidates it would be easier to defeat. Clinton's people knew they would do best in November if they could make the race about the other candidate's perceived flaws or unfitness. Fortunately, perhaps, for democracy, it didn't work. If the Trump presidency animates Democrats and whatever Republicans in Congress remain anti-Trump in 2017 to reassert the power of Congress as a co-equal branch of government and not a rubber stamp and whipping boy for the executive branch, that could move the U.S. political system back toward a republican form where government power is limited, rather than concentrated in the power of the presidency.