Magazine article The Spectator

Trump's Triumph

Magazine article The Spectator

Trump's Triumph

Article excerpt

Through the sheer force of his obnoxious personality, the Donald won the race

Washington DC

Donald J. Trump's long, triumphant march to the White House didn't start on 16 June 2015, when he announced his candidacy at the Trump Tower in Manhattan. It began four years ago, on 19 November 2012. On that day, days after President Barack Obama had defeated Mitt Romney, Trump filed a trademark application for the slogan 'Make America Great Again'. It was, like all things Trump, a bit of a rip-off. Ronald Reagan's successful presidential campaign of 1980 had coined the phrase. But Make America Great Again was even more potent in 2015-16. After the crash, those four words spoke powerfully to the anguished spirit of America: to the nation's nostalgia for the Reagan era, and to its insatiable longing to fix itself.

Whenever the Trump campaign floundered, the candidate and his spokesmen could fall back on that hypnotic incantation: Make America Great Again. Just like 'Yes we can', Barack Obama's campaign hymn of 2008, Trump's Maga mantra worked. Three weeks ago, commentators were chortling at reports that Team Trump spent more on its Make America Great Again baseball caps than on professional polling. How amateur! How tacky!

Well, who's laughing now? Those silly red hats proved to be a PR masterstroke. While the snobs were sneering, Donald Trump was creating a movement that would take over America.

Trump may not be as good a businessman as he thinks he is. We've all read about his bankruptcies and myriad commercial failures. It must now be acknowledged, however, that he is the greatest political entrepreneur of our time. Long before anyone else, he spotted a huge gap in the disgruntlement market. While Republicans were licking their wounds at Romney's loss, Trump was already plotting to take advantage of the anger eating America. And only he realised that, by consistently doing the opposite of what experts told him to do, he could propel himself to the Republican nomination and on to victory against Hillary Clinton.

Fraser Nelson, Freddy Gray and Christopher Caldwell on Trump's triumph

By not caring about his own popularity -- and insulting as many people as he could -- he made himself popular. Through the sheer force of his obnoxious personality, he has pulled off the most extraordinary election victory in US history. Dislike him or hate him, Trump has upended American politics and shaken the liberal world order to its core. The pollsters were wrong. The betting markets were wrong. The media was wrong. The Democrats were wrong and so were the Republicans. Only the Donald was right.

The data experts, in particular, should hang their heads in shame. The polling dramatically underestimated the Trump effect. They told us that 'Clinton's firewall' -- the six swing states in which she had held a consistent poll lead throughout the year -- would keep her safe. Trump isn't Brexit, the pundits said, dismissing the idea of a transatlantic populist revolution as naive -- but Brexit he proved to be. In both cases, the plebs used the ballot to tell the liberal elite to get stuffed.

The president-elect is meant to sound gracious and offer succour to those who opposed him when making a victory speech. Donald Trump tried to do that. He thanked Hillary Clinton and promised to heal America. 'I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans,' he said. 'We will deal fairly with everyone. All people and all other nations.'

It sounded strangely flat, though. It's hard to shake the suspicion: does Trump really want to be president? Or was his campaign just an epic ego trip? He is so unlike any other president that it's hard for anyone to believe that he is for real. After all, a former campaign communications director claimed that the Trump camp originally intended to finish second in the primaries, possibly as a noisy protest, possibly to create publicity for the next season of his TV show The Apprentice . …

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