By Kaci Schneidawind
Although Americans thought history was to be made with the election of the first female president, history was made in a different way with Donald Trump defying the odds to claim victory. His election astounded Americans, as even the media predicted Hillary Clinton.
But, in the early hours of Nov. 9, Republican nominee Donald Trump gained the minimum 270 electoral votes needed to become the next President of the United States.
His victory signaled the end of a long, contested campaign with Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, while Clinton announced hers a few months earlier in April of the same year. In total, the campaign lasted about a year and a half.
The longevity of American presidential campaigns is not uncommon. Bethany history professor Dr. Ryan MacPherson explained that this is the case because each of the major parties presents multiple candidates.
“[The candidates] spend most of their energy competing against members of their own party,” MacPherson said. “The primaries and caucuses usually begin the first week of February of the [election] year. That time period is when it really gets serious and lasts a few months until about April or so when you start to get a clear indication of who will be endorsed by each party.”
In this particular election, the electoral college played a large role in determining the outcome. In this system, each state receives a number of electoral votes based on their population, and whichever candidate wins the most votes in each state, receives all of its electoral votes.
Clinton won the popular vote, meaning that the majority of voters actually cast their ballot for Clinton. That’s really all it meant, though, because it’s the amount of electoral votes which elects the president. In this case, Trump received a total of 290 electoral votes–20 more than what he needed to win–while Clinton trailed with 228.
“It seems unfair at first, but if you were to make it fair, you would find out that the 12 largest states would have to get even more power than they have right now,” MacPherson said. “It turns out that 12 out of the 50 states have enough electoral votes to overpower the 38 states and the District of Columbia, which maybe sounds very unfair at first. However, it turns out that those 12 states have 58 percent of the population but only 52 percent of the electoral votes, so they’re actually being underrepresented.”
MacPherson added that the Electoral College actually favors smaller states for this reason.
“In the World Series, you have to win the most games. In an individual game, the amount of runs matter to who wins the game,” MacPherson said. “You have to win the most votes in Minnesota to win Minnesota’s game. You have to win the most votes in Texas to win Texas’ game.”
After that, it’s really a question of who wins the most games, MacPherson said. “There’s a weighted average among states with larger populations, such as Texas and California which has to be taken into consideration,” he said.
Trump took an early lead, racking up more and more electoral votes until it became clear Clinton would not be able to catch up. This came as one of the biggest political upsets in history, as nearly every poll conducted up until Election Day favored Clinton winning by a large margin.
MacPherson explained that this may have resulted from people not following through with what they had said they were going to do. “It turns out that both candidates were highly unpopular,” he said. “It turned out that people weren’t so much voting for someone but voting against someone, which is part of the complexity.”
He added that a “surprising” number of Democrats abandoned Clinton. “It would have been interesting if the polls had not compared her not to Donald Trump, but to local Democrats. In other states, it could have been the case that voters were more pleased with their local Democrats than with her.”
Clinton did win Minnesota, but by a narrow margin, which also comes as a surprise due to the state consistently voting blue in presidential elections–even in the 1984 election in which it was the only state to vote democratically.
Asked as to what may have contributed to Clinton’s loss, MacPherson pointed out that Democrats who supported current president Barack Obama do not support Clinton. “There’s kind of a divide in the Democratic party,” MacPherson said.
He added that while Clinton gained much of the millennial votes, most millennials were disaffected by her. “That’s something that the Democratic party is trying to figure out, it took them by surprise,” MacPherson said.
He dismissed the notion that Clinton’s gender may have contributed to her loss. “I don’t think it’s because she’s a woman. I think many Americans were excited that we just had our first black president, so the prospect of having the first woman president would have helped her. The [e-mail] scandal hurt her, even though the FBI vindicated her the weekend before the election,” MacPherson said. “Many of the American people are tired of the suspicion, so I do think there was a lack of trust.”
On the campaign trail, Trump made lofty promises of a wall along the Mexican border along with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes.
“Politicians often promise more than they deliver,” MacPherson said. “I’m not sure we’re going to see the full extent of what he has offered. I do think he’s genuinely sincere in wanting to move those directions. The question will be what kind of consensus can he build in Congress, because the president can only do so much through executive orders. Beyond that, he needs the approval of the majority of Congress, and Republicans have the majority in both the House and the Senate.”
He added that Congress and the new president may not agree on everything due to Trump being and outsider to politics.
Trump is best known as the chair of the Trump Organization, which oversees many real estate and business entities. By trumping his opponent in this election, he will become the head of a much larger business – the United States of America – for the next four years.