So, What Happened?

Trenton Fye ’19 – Inside Politics Participant

As Donald Trump stood at the podium in his New York City Headquarters the morning after the election to deliver his victory speech, he became a symbol of rebellion against the political establishment in America. For some, this was a breath of fresh air and a time to get America back on track without Washington elites getting in the way. To others, seeing a man delivering the victory speech, whose crass, rude, anti-government sentiments carried him through the primaries and the debates, was a nightmare. However, most people can agree on one thing: Trump’s victory was a shocking surprise. He defied all polls that had Clinton winning the race by a wide margin. From the mind of a political scientist, Trump simply did not have the resources or support to win the race, yet somehow, it was Trump giving the victory speech and Hillary Clinton calling to concede. How did this happen?

From early in the presidential campaign, polls had Trump down by a substantial margin against Clinton. Even as the difference in Trump and Clinton’s polling numbers decreased in the final days leading up to the election, most polling outlets and political theorists, such as Nate Silver from still had Clinton winning the race by a wide margin. How were they all wrong?

Trump and his campaign had emphasized the idea that there was a “silent majority” of people who supported Trump, but did not want to share their support publicly. In an interview in August on a British TV station, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s Campaign Manager, stated that the polls were wrong “because it’s become socially desirable, if you’re a college educated person in the United States of America, to say that you’re against Donald Trump.” For this reason people would not tell pollsters that they supported him. This theory was widely contested, but it seems that Conway and Trump’s team were completely correct. The polls were all off and it was due to a “silent majority” of Americans that pollsters and political theorists did not know existed.

Another reason Trump’s victory was so unexpected was his lack of ground game throughout his campaign. In an exit poll, voters were twice as likely to be contacted by the Clinton campaign than they were to be contacted by the Trump campaign. Hillary Clinton had a large force working for her campaign to knock on doors and call voters to gain support. Trump, on the other hand, did not have this force. Having a ground game as a presidential candidate has always been an essential part of winning the election, yet Trump did not seem to need it. Trump had something that knocking on doors could not quite match. He had the ability to put enthusiasm and energy into his rallies and bring that sense of enthusiasm to his social media. Trump amassed massive crowds at his rallies or at least made them seem massive. Trump stated to a smaller crowd in Toledo in October, “no matter where we go, we have these massive crowds.” He may have exaggerated the crowd sizes at times, but very often, the crowds were as he would say “huge”. As an entertainer, Trump knows how to keep the crowds excited too. He would use specific phrases such as “build the wall” and encourage chants of “lock her up” from his audiences to keep their energy up during his rallies. He would also constantly keep a fire burning in his supporters by tweeting about Clinton’s emails and other flaws in her career prior to running for president. Trump’s rough mannerisms and ability to energize crowds was more than enough to get people to the polls to vote for him and in the end was one of the deciding factors in his historic victory.

Now, with the election over, the American people must understand that not accepting the results or violently rioting about the results is not the correct path to becoming a more united nation. To the same extent, those who are happy about Trump’s victory should not attack those who are saddened by the results, as that will also further divide us. Whether you agree with Trump or not, it is important that we all respect the democratic process and that we support President-elect Trump in his transition and throughout his term as the 45th president of this nation. His success as president is our success as a country. I think that is something that everyone should fight for.


The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.