I have a friend on Facebook who, in the wake of the shocking results late last night, posted about how he was surprised by the fact that there are so many people in America who hate women (including, as he wrote, so many women). I know emotions are raw right now, but come on. Besides being patently ridiculous, it also misses some key points.
The biggest is that, quite simply, Donald Trump’s victory had nothing to do with gender, or race or anything else that could be rolled up into identity politics. 2016 ended up being a referendum on Washington, D.C., period. From the primary campaign, where Trump outlasted 16 other opponents far more tied to Washington than him, and where Hillary Clinton faced a much greater challenge than expected from an outsider Bernie Sanders run. And in the general election, we saw the disdain people have for Washington grow larger than anyone thought possible.
This was not an uneducated, white man voting pattern either. If so, how does that account for the fact that a higher percentage of Latinos voted for Trump than Romney in 2012. A higher percentage of African Americans. A higher percentage of young people. A higher percentage of educated women, and almost as high a percentage of women in general. (On the flipside, will Democrats have a hard look internally after this election, considering Hillary Clinton had a lower percentage of each of these groups than President Obama did in 2012?)
There are several reasons why this was a broad, sweeping over-performance by Trump, across demographics.
As I wrote here back in March, Trump was the wrecking ball going to Washington. He was the kill switch. He was the ultimate and greatest protest vote in history. People on both sides of the aisle were fed up, and Trump was competing against the quintessential Washington insider (married to another Washington insider).
No matter what happens with Donald Trump over the next four years, Washington will forever be different. It will not be business as usual. He may be great, he may be terrible, but he will be different. And that’s what voters across the country craved, even at the expense of stability.
There was also the arrogance and disdain of many on the left. They were complacent and dismissive. Trump flipped Obama voters around the country. He got more Democrats than Clinton got Republicans. Those aren’t the “deplorables” or racists. She didn’t step foot in Wisconsin during the general election. Clinton and her campaign took many around the country for granted, and it showed in the results.
There was something else too – what I called the “secret ingredient.” People don’t look for policy or even a rational reason for voting when they select a president. They want someone relatable, with hobbies and flaws. President Obama played basketball, he liked golf, he had trouble kicking his cigarette habit. These are humanizing. President Bill Clinton had the “secret ingredient.” President George W. Bush did as well. Trump too. But Hillary Clinton – what were her hobbies? What were her relatable flaws? This matters.
How will Trump be as a president? Who knows. We’ve entered murky, uncharted waters.
But for a large portion of the 50+ million Americans who cast their vote for Donald Trump yesterday, they did so to send Washington a message. Wrapping that message in gender or race or any other biases misses the point.