Nobody was talking about Wisconsin.
There were murmurs about Michigan. There were questions about voter turnout in rural areas of Pennsylvania compared to the cities.
Keep in mind, these debates weren’t reflected in the polls; pollsters were almost unanimously calling the election for Hillary Clinton the morning of 8 November. All talk of upsets was reserved for more academic circles, speculating from a philosophical stance more than anything about who was coming out to vote in this election year.
But nobody was talking about the potential for upset in Wisconsin.
The betting markets had already turned dramatically in Donald Trump’s favour before the Badger State was announced. But as I watched the networks make the call, it became certain that Trump wasn’t only going to be the next President of the United States, but that US politics would never be the same either.
We’re not short of opinion pieces on the exit poll figures, the “who, where and why” of Trump’s support, and how the pollsters got it so badly wrong. Though some outliers on the left continue to make harsh accusations of racism and sexism against those who voted Republican, there is a broad consensus that the election result was driven by “class division”, not “identity politics”.
Looking at the voters who showed up, Trump’s messaging resonated most strongly with the “forgotten”, the struggling, and the under-appreciated people of New England, the south, and the rust belt states.
As I mentioned in my last column, there are silver linings to Trump’s explosive win. Even if you don’t like the outcome, it’s hard to argue that democracy isn’t alive and well in America. Despite the media, the politicians, and Wall Street all rooting heavily against Trump, nothing stood in the way of the American people having their say on election day.
Furthermore, having held onto the House and Senate, and now having taken the White House, Republicans have a rare opportunity to implement some long-overdue reforms in the areas of tax and education, which would benefit many of the working class people who supported Trump – and would also serve to benefit other low-income voter blocs that didn’t. Washington DC has received a serious wake-up call too, and, quite rightly, no politician, chief of staff, lobbyist or aide can feel cosy in their seats any longer.
But it’s not just DC that got its wake-up call. All of us – Trump supporters and dissenters alike – have something to learn over the next few years. The Democrats must acknowledge where their party went so badly wrong, and that the blame they place on others – such as FBI director James Comey – might be better pointed in the direction of Clinton herself, who had one too many skeletons in her closet.
The Republican Congress is going to have to protect America’s system of checks and balances; it must learn how to work with a President Trump, while doing its institutional duty of providing a cap on his power and influence.
Trump’s dissenters will have to buck up. Vicious attacks on Trump supporters don’t count as policy alternatives. And lamenting the result doesn’t do much in the way of addressing the real concerns of middle America that drove long-time Democrats into the arms of the competing party.
And lastly, Trump supporters are about to learn whether the faith and trust they have put in the hands of the underdog was deserved. It turns out his slogan didn’t just sell hats – it won an election too. Trump must now make good on his promise to make America great again for the fed-up men and women who have given him a once-in-a-republic shot.