Trump normalizes electoral influence
Suddenly the curve crashed, brutal and unrestrained. For months, the Democrat Hillary Clinton had been described as the surefire winner of the US election. The highly regarded “New York Times” curve estimated this probability at 85 percent.
Donald Trump, ex-reality TV star and heavily wealthy building contractor, bobbed at 15 percent for the Republicans. That was the public perception at the beginning of this historic night from November 8th to 9th, 2016. Then the 85 percent curve plummeted. Shortly thereafter, Trump was elected: Free of any political experience should he become the 45th President of the United States.
The story of this election day is one of the errors, the wrong assumptions and the make a wish. There are also massive attempts to influence elections from a foreign country and the question of what role the FBI actually played in the outcome of the election.
With very, very few exceptions, no one had seen Trump's victory coming. When the entrepreneur floated down the golden escalator of his Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 and announced his candidacy, there was little more than ridicule. Jokes about the hairy helmet of the political layman were legion, about his orange-sprayed complexion, his shark smile, the grimaces. Then he began to break all the rules with unimaginable brutality, and soon the jokes grew quieter.
From the outset and through to the election, Trump dominated all major polls. His move through the primaries was a single walk-through. Most prominent Republicans, who waited in vain for the nagging man to normalize, he ruthlessly cleared away. Crowned at the party conference in Cleveland, he went with the best values on the home straight for election day. It was still not taken seriously.
At the end of a historic election night, 304 voters stood for Trump and only 227 for Clinton. The fact that it received a good two percent more votes than its opponent is not only evidence of an ancient electoral system, but also evidence of the deep disunity in the USA. And Trump, who can do little worse than losing, annoys this defeat to this day.
The world watched in astonishment and disbelief as Trump rushed and bragged, lied, raged and bent reality on his way to the Oval Office like no candidate before him. He tore down pretty much every political taboo, crossed every line. Whenever you thought that he would not survive politically now, completely impossible, he only got stronger. He boasted sexist, racist, nationalist, mocked Jews, disabled people, migrants - nothing could harm him.
With naked populism, Trump had hit a nerve in the people, actually even a whole bundle. Mercilessly and skillfully, he used fears of globalization and its real problems. How much and how successful was overlooked for months because many competitors and many more reporters were listening in the wrong places. And because many thought that the liberality and the colorfulness of the years under Barack Obama were engraved in the DNA of the USA. You were wrong.
Trump also won this election because he ran against the establishment, with all the vehemence, as a demagogue. Many Americans hate Washington as a columnar symbol of systemic immobility, and they hate the long-standing politics of tiny steps. The supposedly extremely successful anti-politician came up to clean up and "dry up the swamp". He raved about how much the USA had been the better of the past - and convinced enough people in the right states. His image of the USA as a kind of early southern state, only with better weapons, caught it.
Still, this election might have turned out very differently had Hillary Clinton not been the wrongest candidate at the wrong time. No departure, no freshness, no prospect of a new beginning. An election campaign off the drawing board, many millions heavy, an army of helpers. And yet a candidate from yesterday.
On the night of November 9th, Clinton's firewall of blue democratic states didn't hold up. It lost the Rust Belt of old industrialized states, Michigan, even Wisconsin. The Democrats will have a long time to come to terms with the extent to which this firmly held Clinton candidacy and the ousting of the left, Bernie Sanders, have damaged them: structurally, financially, personally and in terms of content.
The prospect of the first woman at the helm of the exhausted superpower was just not enough. Few figures in the US polarize as much as Clinton. Trump's team channeled the hate without mercy, and the candidate made mistakes. The fact that the then FBI boss James Comey told MPs shortly before the election that further e-mails were being investigated in the affair of the ex-foreign minister should have helped decide the election, decisive votes wandered away.
Whoever voted Trump was always more part of a movement than his Republican party. That he revealed autocratic impulses, enthused nationalists and far-right, that didn't bother them either. Trump was elected by a great many white workers, even if his supporters were more diverse and still are today.
In that historic 2016, Trump also sat a candidate in the command post of social media for the first time. He fired off his Twitter volleys with relish, master and role model for a world full of trolls. Content-related, factual debates, civility and a competition for ideas - that was suddenly everything in the 20th century.
Whether and how Trump's team cooperated with Russia in influencing the election is still being intensively investigated to this day. The attempt to influence the election via Facebook is documented: in the two years from June 2015 to August 2017, ads were placed from Russia that reached 126 million users in the USA. Shortly before the election anniversary, Facebook contrite admittedly a “painful lesson” in front of the US Congress, that perhaps came a little late.
This election was a major event, and not just for the United States. It has profoundly changed the country and international relations, even if it only continued some of the lines it had planned. Trump is the most famous person in the world today, and no one can say for sure where this will all end. (dpa)
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