November 8th saw the election of the 45th President of the United States, Republican Donald Trump, in a surprise victory which the polls predicted would swing favorably for the Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton in a hard-fought battle. Trump was first past the post with 279 electoral college votes to Clinton’s 228 with voting percentages of 44% and 48% respectively. Operating in a similar way to British elections, candidates can become elected even if they receive a smaller percentage of the overall votes if particular electorates call first. The election had similarities to the 2000 selection which saw George W. Bush elected after a tightly run campaign by both parties, only finally settled after a 36-day recount of Florida’s votes.
Going into the 2016 election, there were key states that both Clinton and Trump fought hard to capture. The major swing states were Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and the polls predicted that either candidate could win these areas as the difficulty to predict Hispanic votership made it tricky to pin down a definitive winner. After the election, it was Trump that gained these states despite his very public criticisms of Mexican immigrants as part of his campaign. He was very vocal in his concern that immigrants were coming into the country, often without the relevant papers and seemed to apportion a significant amount of blame on those south of the border. He claimed he would build a wall between the US and Mexico and get Mexico to pay for it, as well as deporting those whose papers weren’t in order. He even went as far as to accuse Mexican immigrants of being ‘rapists and criminals.’ Even this was not enough to temper the Hispanic voting strategies, with Florida voting him in despite 23% of the state’s population listed as Hispanic in origin.
But this wasn’t the only controversy to hit his campaign. In the months in which he electioneered, he managed to cause an argument with a judge, got into a heated debate with Miss Universe, a Fox News anchor and at the end of July, offended the Muslim family of a fallen soldier after he asserted he would like to ban Muslims from the US. He later went on to mock the serviceman’s mother at his rallies, saying that she stood silent because she wasn’t allowed to speak.
Somehow, he clung on to his campaign, even when he was accused of sexism and attempted sexual assault after a video of him was released on 7th October where he boasted on camera of using his celebrity status to just walk up to a woman and start kissing and groping her. His lewd terminology left a bitter taste in the mouth of voters, but he denied any impropriety saying it was all talk. Several women have come forward since claiming to be victims of Trump. Less than three weeks later CNN put out their polls with Trump’s popularity figures almost unmoved from before the scandal hit. A seemingly Teflon Trump had survived such a huge accusation.
Clinton wasn’t without her own scandals either. In a vote, which saw the American public choose who they perceived the lesser of two evils, Clinton was accused of impropriety with Trump going as far as to call her corrupt. It was revealed that during her time as Barack Obama’s secretary of state she operated her own private server from her upstate New York home for business purposes, something which breaks government rules which request that all departmental emails must run through a government server. The FBI became involved and decided that Clinton had done nothing wrong. Unfortunately for her, the timing of this scandal meant that her 12-point lead that she had gained by the 28th October was all but evaporated, leaving her just 1 point around the time of the FBI concluding their investigation on the 6th November.
Other emails in her administration were also leaked on the whistleblowing website Wikileaks which showed some embarrassing conversations for Clinton between her staff members. John Podesta, the campaign chairman, believes that the Russian government were behind the leak and had announced this to the Trump team in advance. One such email was by Podesta himself and colleague Neera Tanden where he criticized Clinton’s decisions made before the campaign and her instincts. Neera asserts that no-one knows better than her that Clinton’s instincts are terrible.
Wikileaks also posted emails which brought Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton’s reputation into disrepute after alleging that he was offered personal payments and money for his business, Clinton Global Initiative, from large companies via an external consulting firm. This prompted an angry Trump to tweet a link to an article discussing the email with the mantra #DrainTheSwamp. Trump, on the other hand, came under criticism for his own financial exploits after refusing to release his tax returns amid calls that he hasn’t paid income tax for over 18 years.
The result of the election saw the Republicans maintain the majority in the Senate, resulting in far-reaching consequences across the globe. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives were also contested, which the Republicans continue to hold and have done so since the 2010 mid-terms. The British prime minister Theresa May was quick to congratulate the president-elect, presumably keen to avoid the market changes the UK experienced post-Brexit. She needn’t have worried. Despite stock exchanges dropping in the wake of Clinton’s defeat, Trump’s humble first address to the US public sought to quell the fears felt by the world’s population. The outgoing President Barack Obama also called for widespread support of the incoming president despite angry, violent protests occurring in individual states of the US, backed by Europe who were quick to congratulate the new president and restore normality as soon as possible. Whatever the future holds for the world in the wake of Trump’s success, it is for now working as a whole to keep what the British would call ‘Stiff upper lip.’