We’ve just come through a long and divisive Presidential campaign. From the beginning, I’ve seen this election as a fork in the road for this country. For the last eight years, it has been clear to me that neither party is interested in taking us back to the tried and true policies which have led to the United States’ domination over the rest of the world both economically and morally as the defender of freedom and an example to the rest of the world. If you’ve read any of my other articles, you know I identify as a Reagan Republican and a Conservative first. I have been searching for more than 30 years for a candidate who would excite me again. I usually vote party line and from time to time I see those in the party who seem to want to change things but are quickly squashed and never heard from again.
I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed during this Presidential campaign. All the usual suspects were lining up to be our nominee, none very appetizing. Don’t get me wrong, any of them would be acceptable, but none very exciting. They weren’t going to change the game, so to speak. Then Donald Trump announced his candidacy. In his announcement speech, he talked about how Mexico was dumping their unwanted criminals over the border in the US and we had to find a way to stop it. Immediately, his comments were taken completely out of context and charges of racism were flying around. I was mesmerized. I hadn’t heard anyone from my party speak so plainly and speak to the issues that were important to me in this way since Reagan.
Over the years, my wife and I had always hoped we’d see the day when a successful businessman would run for President and try to run the country like a business. Of course, government isn’t a business and there are many pitfalls to this approach, but with the right man (or woman) at the helm, it can be done. We’ve had a few close calls. Ross Perot tried but we didn’t like him, he was wrong on too many issues. We liked Steve Forbes a lot and my wife voted for him in the primary and wrote him in during the general election. Then there’s George W. Bush, who not only had private business experience but had been a governor. Unfortunately, his presidency was so politicized by 9/11, and he was never able to apply private sector business policies to the public sector, though he tried. Mitt Romney never made it past the general election either.
But in Trump, I found a man who not only shared my vision of how government could work, but also the force of personality to dominate the many enemies of my point of view. If you’re going to take on the entire political and media establishment, you had better be able to tackle them head on. No waffling, no apologizing. When the backlash started about his Mexican comments, I watched closely to see if he apologized or stood his ground. Low and behold, he stood his ground and stood for what I believe is the right point of view! I was giddy! I could hear and feel people all over the country breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Soon after, I started noticing various segments of the population getting on board the Trump bandwagon. On SNL, a character named “Drunk Uncle” started extolling the virtues of Trump. It was played for laughs, you know crazy drunk uncle is so loony he likes Donald Trump, but we saw it another way. Drunk Uncle is an everyman. He’s a very middle America character. They correctly identified that there was a broad base of support for his policies among working class people. Then, while gassing up my car, I noticed a pickup truck pull in with a gun rack in the back window, and a shotgun, and a Trump sticker on the bumper. I turned to the wife and said, “If he’s got the redneck vote, he’s going to win!” This was within the first few months of his candidacy. I was amazed that a billionaire businessman had found a way to appeal to the working class in a way no one had for many years.
I found a lot of comparisons to Reagan in the Trump campaign and candidacy. Reagan was a party outsider. Despite two successful terms as a California governor, he was still not a Washington insider. When he ran, the party and the media considered him a washed up actor who had worked with a monkey. A laughable option among the more serious, experienced candidates. Same thing with Trump, when he announced, there were audible laughs.
During the primaries, we were told that there was no way he would be able to win the nomination. There were too many experienced candidates with sizable bankrolls and better connections who could outspend Mr. Trump. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t have a message that resonated with those like me who for years had felt alienated by their own party. Then he started winning state after state. Despite this, we kept hearing how there was no path to the nomination before the convention. He can’t possibly get enough votes to secure the nomination. He was mocked for the way he labeled his competition: “Low-energy Jeb,” “Crooked Hillary,” and “Lyin’ Ted.” Those labels stuck because they had the ring of truth. It’s what everyone was thinking without saying it. When his competitors tried to fire back at him, they wilted. One by one, they dropped out of the race, most refusing to give Trump their delegates. Some holding their delegates till the convention in the hopes of holding up the vote. We kept hearing about a brokered convention. Ted Cruz has a better ground game and will tie up the process. In the end, Donald Trump received more primary votes than any Republican candidate in history, securing the nomination well before the convention and winning on the first ballot!
On to the general, where once again, the doubters on both sides of the aisle had nothing good to say about Mr. Trump. It was clear that Hillary was not interested in making this a campaign about issues. Her negatives were so high, the only chance she had of winning was to make her opponent more distasteful than her. So began the narrative that Donald Trump was using “dog whistle” rhetoric to send secret messages to the “alt-right” of the population. This gave us the “basket of deplorables” speech which she became famous for. These were her own coded words to send the message to her supporters that it was OK to do whatever you wanted to stop Trump, even attacking his supporters and disrupting his rallies, because he and we are “deplorable!”
As the campaign went on, we started getting leaked emails from Wikileaks, showing the collusion between the Democrat party and the mainstream media. The Clinton campaign was getting some questions to the debates before the debates. There were strategy meetings and socials to determine what kind of reporting she would get. Also, we saw evidence of tampering with Trump’s rallies and organizing protests. In the end, all of this was futile.
On the night of the election, no one was calling this a close race. My wife was sure that even if Mr. Trump was able to somehow squeak out a narrow victory, the Clintons would tie it up in court and never let him win. I told her not to worry. I reminded her that they had predicted doom and gloom during the entire campaign. We turned them back at every turn. There was going to be shock and awe. Among my friends, I think I was the only one who had the faith that Mr. Trump would win. I knew how I felt seeing this campaign go on and I believed that there were many millions more like me around the country who felt the same way. I’d seen all the naysayers have all their negative predictions ripped to shreds. I saw that as evidence of my faith during the primaries and despite virtually every poll and prognosticator picking Hillary to win, I was sure she would not.
As the night wore on, we were mesmerized by the coverage. Lisa pointed out an early exit poll that seemed to indicate how the night might play out. One of the networks asked the question, if you dislike both candidates and are voting anyway, which candidate will you vote for. The answer was Trump 42% to Clinton 24%. Almost 2 to 1. We found this very telling. Soon, we saw state after state going for Trump. By 9 o’clock, Trump was in the lead. It was at 9:04p (yes I noted the time) when I heard Chris Wallace on Fox News say, “I think I have to start wrapping my head around the idea of a Donald Trump Presidency.” From then on, there was no looking back. By 10pm, Trump had built up a 36 point lead. Then the big ones started coming in: Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida! By midnight, they were no longer talking about the path to 270 for Trump. Now they were talking about a path for Hillary! Conventional wisdom was that she would need to run the table.
Then Wisconsin goes to Trump and it is all but over. At 1:30am the wife and I decided it’s time to go to bed. We slept on the sofa with the TV on and the DVR recording. We didn’t want to miss this historic moment. At 3:30am, the wife starts nudging me and screaming, “It’s over, we won!!” We backed up the recording and watched the moment they called Pennsylvania for Trump. Within minutes, Mr. Trump was making his way to the podium and delivering a tremendous victory speech. At the final tally, Trump received 306 electoral votes to 232 for Clinton, a landslide by any measure.
The next morning, I received a text from a friend of mine who said, “Gotta give you credit, you never wavered or doubted.” In the end, it was Donald Trump who overcame all the obstacles, including overcoming every mainstream media outlet and even those within his own party, while spending half the money of the Clinton campaign. He found a way to connect with Americans all over the country by campaigning hard and listening to their concerns. I’m excited about the coming Trump presidency and so far, happy with his cabinet choices.
These are my memories of the 2016 campaign, or as I like to call it, The Revolution! And make no mistake, The Revolution will be tweeted!