Early in February, I introduced a new series to my blog called “Ask the USA”. In that introduction, I explained the purpose of this series, what inspired this series, and why I feel qualified to answer these questions (to the best of my ability, of course).
With that being said, the first question I’ve been receiving from foreigners all over the internet is:
‘How did Trump Win the Presidency?’
Since Trump has been running for office, he has been a topic all around the world. The news media hasn’t died down yet about him. This question was bound to come up sooner or later.
If you’re an American conservative, the answer is simple; if you’re an American liberal, this question may even baffle you.
However, I’m pretty independent. I try to remain objective and see both sides of this coin.
Here’s the deal.
Much of the media has painted the picture that the majority of America hated Donald Trump, America’s newest president. Many newspapers would reveal the polls back in October and November showing Hillary Clinton in the lead with the popular vote. And there are many Americans that do dislike Trump, including the news media.
But let me inform you about American politics: during a political campaign, especially very close to election, it is normal to see “political propaganda”, propaganda that’s usually meant to discredit one candidate in favor of another. Hillary’s team was very effective in painting a negative picture of Trump by pulling out his dirt. She didn’t have to try. It was no secret that Trump “distrusted” most news sources, so of course most of them would help Hillary. Trump dug his own name in the ground with his careless statements. Trump gave the media many reasons to discredit him and he left a bad history of carelessness that allowed the media to take advantage of it.
So Trump ended up looking like the villain. After observing the things he’s said, most foreigners can’t understand how he could have any fans. Don’t get it twisted. Trump has insulted and offended many people across the board, and it was once considered a joke to even consider him the president of the USA.
But let’s also remember that what we see in the media isn’t always going to reflect the opinions of all the people in the nation. Despite his rhetoric, there are many people who actually agree with his ideas. Most people are just quiet about it.
I don’t think most of us took him seriously like we should have. People felt there was no way this guy could be a president. He’s not diplomatic, he’s not well-spoken, he’s a rich guy who cares nothing about the “little man”. He was underestimated. This allowed him to make an impact on politics and maneuver things in his favor. There are many ways he managed to take the presidency from his last opponent, Hillary, despite what was fed to the media.
For the past decade, despite the positive reception Obama and his family have received, the average American did not reap many benefits from Obama’s presidency. He seemed more like a celebrity than a president; a positive figure rather than a man of action. He was famous for being the “first president of color”. He was diplomatic with many nations, giving the USA a good name to even our enemies.
However, he didn’t do anything impactful for his own nation (as far as we could see). He didn’t make any strong changes to the economy, he didn’t make many efforts to improve our overall security, and he seemed to sleep on many other matters that many Americans felt required urgency. Of course, none of us can pretend to know what it takes to do the job of president. Even the current president Trump is starting to see the challenges that come with it.
Still, Trump has things very few other candidates before him had.
Trump, the Business Man, Not the Politician
Trump may be blunt, rude, ignorant, and bigoted. But guess what? In a country that has honored and upheld the “freedom of speech” portion of the Bill of Rights (the rights in the USA that make up the first ten amendments to the constitution, the nation or state’s fundamental set of laws), in a country that has come to distrust government, Trump seemed to be the Honest John some Americans were looking for. He didn’t sugarcoat or take back his opinions. In fact, he is the first president to be truly active on social media, connecting with a wide range of people. With social media becoming a major form of communication, Trump is better able to get his ideas across on many different platforms.
When did America become so leery of their government, enough to trust a man who has spoken badly of so many people, people he’s supposed to help and protect? I would say since the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, people have been looking for an honest man in office. Watergate refers to the incident where someone broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which was at the Watergate office complex. Richard Nixon, who was actually voted into office, tried to cover it up. An investigation exposed this and it lead to Nixon’s impeachment. Since then, most Americans have questioned their leaders, how their leaders are getting into office, and it even lead to people being more critical of the Republican party (the party Nixon was a part of).
But scandal from the Democratic president Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and little action during the Obama administration, has lead to a complete turnaround for the Republican party.
Trump has been super different from the “lying” politicians we’ve had before. Everyone doesn’t like what he has to say, but he says it anyway. I guess people figure if he was this honest about people as a candidate, what does he have to lie about as president?
Trump also became the hero or spokesperson for the “white, middle class, aged man” who has come under fire thanks to the “politically correct”. The politically correct far left have taken over media, politics in the last decade, and daily life. People have been slinging the word “privileged” around, which often refers to the white, middle class men in the USA, the people most assume never had to face prejudice and oppression, and the people who are assumed to actually have been and continue to be the oppressors. Our country has had a history of severe oppression, despite our “free” laws. This has been the reason many people are speaking out. I will go into more detail about America’s race and gender relations in future articles…
But people have been speaking out so fiercely in the last decade, white, middle class men have been fed up with being blamed for everything. They were tired for having to be apologetic to every sensitivity. Trump seemed to be the answer.
Before people began to really take Trump seriously, he was mostly funny, a celebrity, and a rich business man. His personality was definitely strong. But as propaganda began to reveal his derogatory statements, the media and the far left fought hard to keep him out of the white house.
It obviously didn’t work.
Trump is just too good of a salesman. Maybe it came from being a businessman for all of these years. Maybe he paid his way into the seat. Regardless, he was very clever throughout it all.
Speaking of businessman, because he was already a very rich man, he didn’t really need the charity of anyone to boost his campaign. Maybe that’s one of the reasons he had no reason to be so nice. He could pay off anyone he wanted, he could pay to run his own ads, and his name alone was promotion. He has had a book published, he’s spoken on several shows about the things he believes in, and he’s been a familiar figure in the entertainment world (and entertainment in the USA is a major industry). Really, there was nothing stopping him from being successful in this.
Hillary, on the other hand, was Clinton’s wife, and most people were done with the Clinton administration in the 1990s. Clinton seemed to be the same oily politician we’ve been seeing for years, the ones who lie and say nice things just to get the vote, just to let us all down by doing nothing remotely different. The only difference is she was trying to make history by being the first female president. But we learned that “different” doesn’t always make it better. Obama was a president that made history, but it didn’t make him a great president. He wasn’t bad, just not good enough. I think after Obama, we learned to pay closer attention to the campaigns. And frankly, Hillary’s campaign was weak.
Bernie Sanders, one of the original candidates during the early race, probably had a stronger chance with his campaign, but he doesn’t have a big name like Clinton or Trump. Most of the votes went to familiar names.
A Strong Campaign
That’s another thing. Trump had a really strong campaign. No, his ideas weren’t popular across the board. This is possibly why he didn’t quite take home the popular vote (though some argue he did, but if he had, it was definitely by a landslide). But he actually had ideas of his own. He wasn’t just mimicking politicians before him, like his opponent. He had real beliefs that he stood for, real solutions to these issues (even if they proved more difficult to implement than he planned), and the will to get there and make those changes.
In one interview, he said if he lost, all of this would’ve been a “waste of time”. You could say that he had a bad attitude about running for president, or you can say that shows how bad he really wanted it. But it’s this will to win that has gotten him to the top every time.
He played into the sympathies of people. He reached out to those who felt victimized by terrorism. Since 9/11, many families of the victims’ of major attacks in the USA haven’t felt safe. They didn’t feel that true justice was served, not with the Bush or Obama administration. Media did have a hand in sensitizing these events, causing a “scare”. But the victims’ families, friends, and associates obviously didn’t need the media to feel angry, grief, or fear. And Trump offered strong solutions to this problem. It was a sure-fire way to gain the vote from those who would’ve otherwise voted for Hillary.
On the other hand, despite a need for stronger national security from terrorism, many of these people didn’t want their gun rights taken from them. I think I explained how loyal most Americans are to their Bill of Rights, correct? After the recent mass shootings in the USA, many in the far left wing of politics offered a solution: stricter gun laws. This was a threat to gun owners. Those same people who wanted to better screen immigrants did not want to better screen guns. Most were fearing a ban. Trump seems like a free-spirited man. He doesn’t seem likely to ban guns. Hillary, on the other hand, openly promoted stricter gun control, which wasn’t really popular among moderate liberals or conservatives. Trump hasn’t really addressed the gun culture in America…
However, he has offered to send martial law in Chicago and other cities to rid it of gangs, guns, drugs, and violence in general. Possibly, this is his solution to America’s “violent” culture?
Last, Trump offered to bring and keep jobs in America, something many politicians have been promising but haven’t yet pulled through. Since the recession in the early 21st century, people have been concerned about the shortage of lucrative jobs. Trump seemed like the man to fix the problem. He is a businessman, after all. He seemed to many Americans to be the most qualified to handle the economy.
Despite Trump’s unpopular ideas, and his spontaneous actions, he actually has beliefs and stands by them. Though most people dislike the way he goes about his plans, he actually does go about them. And if there’s nothing left to respect about him, people can respect the fact that he has taken action the moment he was ushered in.
Clinton, on the other hand, has changed and rearranged her ideas, ping-ponging when it came to gay marriage, national security, and many other issues. This made her seem weaker and more motivated by the public pulse. She seemed to side with whoever would give her the vote, and she didn’t seem trustworthy. Most people knew what they were in for with Trump. With Hillary, it was difficult to know. She changed her mind too often, and that left some Americans insecure.
There are many other ideas Trump gave, many other ways his campaign was strong, but those were the most popular ideas. Though most people were skeptical about how these ideas would be tackled, many people were ready to take risks and give new, more direct, more assertive suggestions a try. The passive-aggressive manner of tackling issues haven’t worked in years. People wanted someone who could make America “strong” and “sure”. Trump seemed to represent a stronger and bolder American identity.
Some democratic supporters that voted for Bernie Sanders didn’t vote for Hillary, and that left a divide on the democratic side. This brought strength to Trump’s campaign.
The final thing I want the world to know about American politics is the system.
I already kind of touched on the Bill of Rights and the Constitution (I will go further into it in the future).
But our voting system can be a little confusing.
Americans pride themselves on their right to vote. It’s one of the most important forms of “freedom of speech”. But our election isn’t completely influenced by our individual votes.
In fact, the popular vote (the votes cast by the people) only makes up 1/3 of the overall “vote”. The other votes are based on Congress (our body of people who govern the land) and the Electoral College. Of the three, the Electoral College tends to have the most influence.
The Electoral College was designed to be a buffer between the people and Congress. They are supposed to be unbiased people who hardly meet with one another enough to influence each other. The Electoral College also gives power to the smaller states.
America is divided by 50 states. Each state has its own governors, laws, representatives in Congress. If the popular vote had that much power over the vote, the smaller states’ views wouldn’t really matter. Bigger states, like California, obviously have a larger population. Their votes would make the biggest difference in the popular vote method (unless the people were divided). In this case, most of our laws would be influenced by California, California’s laws, and California’s culture. This wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the United States, especially to the smaller states whose opinions would matter the least. The popular vote is influenced by the population.
History Central explains that “the founding fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. They feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power.”
Hamilton and the other founders believed that the electors would be able to insure that only a qualified person becomes President. They believed that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as check on an electorate that might be duped. Hamilton and the other founders did not trust the population to make the right choice. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others.
The electoral college is also part of compromises made at the convention to satisfy the small states. Under the system of the Electoral College each state had the same number of electoral votes as they have representative in Congress, thus no state could have less then 3. The result of this system is that in this election the state of Wyoming cast about 210,000 votes, and thus each elector represented 70,000 votes, while in California approximately 9,700,000 votes were cast for 54 votes, thus representing 179,000 votes per electorate. Obviously this creates an unfair advantage to voters in the small states whose votes actually count more then those people living in medium and large states.
One aspect of the electoral system that is not mandated in the constitution is the fact that the winner takes all the votes in the state. Therefore it makes no difference if you win a state by 50.1% or by 80% of the vote you receive the same number of electoral votes. This can be a recipe for one individual to win some states by large pluralities and lose others by small number of votes, and thus this is an easy scenario for one candidate winning the popular vote while another winning the electoral vote. This winner take all methods used in picking electors has been decided by the states themselves. This trend took place over the course of the 19th century.
While there are clear problems with the Electoral College and there are some advantages to it, changing it is very unlikely. It would take a constitutional amendment ratified by 3/4 of states to change the system. It is hard to imagine the smaller states agreeing. One way of modifying the system s to eliminate the winner take all part of it. The method that the states vote for the electoral college is not mandated by the constitution but is decided by the states. Two states do not use the winner take all system, Maine and Nebraska. It would be difficult but not impossible to get other states to change their systems, unfortunately the party that has the advantage in the state is unlikely to agree to a unilateral change.
Trump has openly spoken against the Electoral College until it ruled in his favor. Despite him reaping the benefits of it, it has become pretty clear that the system isn’t perfect.
Even though Hillary may have gotten the popular vote, she couldn’t win over the “buffer” votes. Those votes added to the overall vote. So, for example, if Hillary was winning the popular vote because most of California and the rest of the west coast voted for her, a smaller state with the majority of Trump supporters wouldn’t stand a chance unless the Electoral College stepped in to supply them enough votes. These votes put all states, despite the population, on equal footing.
After the votes of the Electoral College, Trump won the vote. But this means he had to have been pretty popular to begin with as well in order for him to gain a complete win.
Should this system change? 3/4 of the states have to agree with the change and the amendment has to be ratified. Would Americans be so willing to change that?
I think at this point, times have changed since the days of our founding fathers. Because of all of these changes, it has become difficult for Americans to know which amendments should be analyzed, which amendments actually need amendments, and which should be left alone. Some people feel our constitution is outdated. Some people feel that the constitution was built to stand the test of time.
Throughout the decade, throughout the election race, and Trump’s new presidency, people have been paying close attention to the Bill of Rights, such as freedom of religion, freedom of the press (1st Amendment), the right to bear arms (2nd Amendment), and even questioning whether cruel or unusual punishments should be inflicted, especially regarding those who commit horrible felonies (8th Amendment). People have also been observing the constitution in general, our laws.
With the temporary immigration ban set up according to religion, it has brought up serious questions regarding our 1st Amendment. Is the ban against that Amendment? Or is this just one of the loopholes?
Trump has attacked the news press time and again. Many Trump supporters feel there needs to be restrictions regarding what comes out of media. This calls the 1st Amendment to question as well.
Since people have been victims of mass shootings in the last couple of years, the right to bear arms has come under fire.
And since we have some of those mass shooters and terrorists in custody, avoiding cruel punishments for these crimes is definitely coming under scrutiny (since it could conflict with the 8th Amendment).
People are also really skeptical about the Electoral College.
In our country, the minimum amount of years they can stay in office is four years per term. A president can get up to only two terms. We don’t know what kind of president Trump will be within the next four years (or up to eight years should he be reelected). We only know how his campaign went. So far, we see that he is assertive, but very rash. Hopefully, though, something good comes out of his presidency for everyone in unexpected ways.
If not, there’s always impeachment.
Leave me a comment and let me know if this answered any questions for you! Americans, if you have more to add, please feel free to add!
I hope it was answered as simply and as down-to-earth as possible.