WASHINGTON – During one of his last campaign events, Donald Trump looked out at the crowd and said, with confidence, “It will be an amazing day, it will be called ‘Brexit plus plus plus.’ You know what I mean?”
We now know.
Trump defied all expectations on Tuesday, sending shudders around the world by claiming the keys to the Oval Office. It was the crowning moment of a political career built on proving the so-called experts — pollsters, campaign advisers, and pundits — wrong again and again.
And as the results were tallied, it became clear that Trump was redrawing the electoral map in the same way that he said he was going to. He won over white working class voters who have felt abandoned.
Ohio. Wisconsin. Florida.
Accusations of groping women? Didn’t matter. Deporting immigrants en masse? Not a problem. Repeated claims that he was unfit, ill-tempered, and too erratic? Didn’t change enough minds.
He played it loose with the truth in a way that, in the past, would have been fatal for other politicians. But voters around the country demonstrated on Tuesday that they were so frustrated, so fed up — so mad as hell — that they were willing to roll the dice on the unknown rather than stick with the status quo.
“The country,” Tom Brokaw said on NBC, “is more agitated than we realized.”
Only 37 percent of voters said in exit polls that Trump is qualified to be president, while a mere 34 percent said he had the right personality and temperament for the office. But the overwhelming thirst for change seemed to take precedence. Some 70 percent of Trump voters said the most important attribute in choosing him was he “can bring needed change.”
It was a monumental loss for Hillary Clinton, but it was also an earth-shattering win for Donald Trump. Clinton dramatically underperformed President Obama in 2012, while Trump far out-performed Mitt Romney.
Rural voters turned out in greater numbers. Over and over in exit polls, voters reported they wanted change. But he also won in Florida, a far more diverse state that Hillary Clinton banked on taking by driving up Hispanic turnout.
Trump supporters gathered at a Boston-area F1 track on election night
Pollsters were woefully wrong, and perhaps unable to capture voters who didn’t vote before — or who were afraid to admit they were voting for Trump until they got into the voting booth. Political analysts late on Tuesday night were flabbergasted. “I literally have no idea what to think right now,” said one.
The New York Times’ Upshot had a projection that had Clinton with an 85 percent chance to win — the same probability that an NFL kicker has at missing a routine 37-yard field goal.
Yet Clinton missed. Despite spending twice as much money. Despite running far more ads. Despite a much bigger campaign staff. Despite a popular sitting president of the United States campaigning relentlessly on her behalf.
Those who couldn’t wait for Trump to exit stage left now have to imagine him sitting down in the Oval Office, giving a State of the Union address, and hosting state dinners. Anyone who turned the channel when Trump came on the news because they didn’t want their children to hear now have to talk with them about Trump or stop watching the news for the next four years.
If you can’t stomach a man who built his campaign on chants of “Build a wall!” and “Lock her up!” — or a man who has a Middle East policy that goes little beyond “Knock the hell out of ISIS” — that man is now your president.
He has rocked the Republican Party, but he now will have House and Senate majorities to try and carry out his priorities.
That means Obama’s health care law could be dismantled, and Supreme Court nominees will be filled by Trump. He almost certainly will attempt to carry out his far-fetched plan to build a wall along the southern border, on the Mexican government’s dime. He wants to deport any immigrant in the United States illegally, which could mean tearing families apart and sending some home.
Any Syrian refugees who had been planning to have safe harbor could be turned away. Muslims could face a temporary ban from entering a country with a motto of e pluribus unum, out of many one.
He could also attempt to follow through on his bold — potentially illegal — suggestion during a debate to instruct his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Clinton’s e-mail “situation.”
When Clinton said it was a good thing he wasn’t in charge, he vowed, “Because you’d be in jail.”
Trump defies predictions and polls in unexpected win
Later this month, Trump — the president-elect — is slated to testify in a lawsuit from former students who say they were scammed by his Trump University real estate seminars. The case is being overseen by US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom Trump said should recuse himself because he is “of Mexican heritage” (the federal judge was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants).
Trump never went on the traditional foreign trip that most presidential candidates do. Instead, he went to Scotland and opened a new golf course. While he was there, Britain took a stunning vote to leave the European Union. In answering questions during the leadup to the referendum, Trump did not seem familiar with it. But as soon as it happened, he embraced it.
“I think it’s a great thing that happened,” Trump told reporters after getting out of a helicopter. “People are angry, all over the world. People, they’re angry.”
He also drew parallels to his own campaign.
“They’re angry over borders. They’re angry over people coming into the country and taking over. Nobody even knows who they are,” Trump said. “They’re angry about many, many things. They took back control of their country. It’s a great thing.”
Nearly five months later, the United States would do something similar.