If you were fooled by the polls, the press, and the pundits who painted his path to victory as a long-shot, you’re not alone. Few saw this coming. But in a photo finish capping the craziest election night in modern history, Donald Trump led his basket of deplorables to the White House.
The question is, will that stunning upset erase an election cycle that’s been called everything from a failure for both major political parties and a “race to the bottom between the greater and lesser evil” to a choice between “two uniquely corrupt candidates” and a “giant d--che” versus a “turd sandwich?”
If you see Trump’s stunning upset as a hollow victory of one unlikeable and untrustworthy candidate over another, you’re missing the big picture. The mobilization of America’s silent majority to defeat Hillary Clinton and defend both houses of Congress was nothing short of a resounding wakeup call for the bureaucrats in Washington.
By electing the first true political outsider in American history, the people demonstrated their frustration with the federal government’s leadership dysfunction, fiscal incompetence, political gridlock, anti-business rhetoric and political correctness. Make no mistake, this election was a direct repudiation of big government and the policies of the Obama administration.
For those of us who have long wondered if a business leader wouldn’t be better suited to the task of turning around this nation than a politician, we’re about to find out. Come January 20th, we will begin to learn if a real estate mogul and reality TV star can make America great again. One thing’s for sure. It will not be business as usual inside the beltway.
When he first announced his candidacy, Trump said, “Our country is in serious trouble. We are not respected by anyone. We are a laughing stock all over the world. Everybody is beating us. Our enemies are getting stronger and we are getting weaker. Politicians are all talk and no action. They will never be able to fix our country … and I cannot sit back and watch this incompetence any longer.”
Since that day, the Donald has run the most unconventional presidential campaign in modern history.
He tapped into a growing fear that had been festering among far too many Americans for far too long: that our nation was being run into the ground by a permanent political class more interested in keeping their jobs and covering their behinds than doing what’s right for their constituents.
As of today, those career politicians are all on notice. There’s a new boss in town and he doesn’t speak bureaucrat.
While business is booming in D.C. and Silicon Valley, Trump tapped into the American heartland, where decades of outsourcing and offshoring have shipped millions of manufacturing jobs overseas and left many blue-collar families treading water in a sea of debt and despair.
Just as important, Trump popped the cork on a bottled-up backlash against political correctness. Folks are sick and tired of having to filter everything they say and do for fear of being labeled a racist, a misogynist, homophobic or xenophobic. Many see the massive PC trend as a real threat to “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
If making America “safe and prosperous again” was the logical reason behind the Trump phenomenon, the emotional reason, and perhaps the real heart of the movement, was to make America a place where we can speak our minds and live our lives without fear of prosecution again.
And maybe, just maybe, we can tell all those thin-skinned whiners who find every little thing offensive to go find themselves a faraway safe space so the rest of us don’t have to deal with their silly nonsense.
Perhaps the most unlikely outcome of the past 16 months is the transformation of the Republican Party from conservative to populist. Before Trump came along, the GOP had no center, no cohesive vision and no strategy for how it was going to overcome an ongoing demographic shift that strongly favored the left.
The party had run lousy campaigns behind mediocre candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney, had done virtually nothing with victories in the House and Senate during Barack Obama’s second term, and was facing the very real threat of yet another defeat at the hands of the Clinton family.
Trump somehow managed to sweep the White House and both houses of Congress, dragging the party along kicking and screaming the whole way. Many GOP leaders – notably the Bush family, Mitt Romney and HP chairman Meg Whitman – either withheld their support or actively campaigned against him.
While many cynical commentators saw this election cycle as an abject failure of the political process, I don’t. Someday, we will all look back and realize that it worked exactly the way our democracy is supposed to work, surprising as that may seem at the moment.