The Seeds of Trump's Triumph

The Seeds of Trump's Triumph

Supporters gather for Donald Trump prior to a campaign rally on April 6, 2016, in Bethpage, New York.

SourceAndrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Why you should care

Because there were hints Donald Trump might pull out a stunning upset, and these were a few of them.

It was August of last year, and here’s how one of our earliest pieces on the next president of the United States began: “It can be tempting to dismiss Donald Trump, the self-aggrandizing, wild-haired political neophyte, as a buffoon. But,” as our senior writer Sean Braswell continued, “thinking of Trump’s presidential campaign as a mere sideshow is like calling Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey just a circus, rather than recognizing it — and Trump — for what they really are: well-oiled, billion-dollar corporate machines that happen to deal in overhyped, grandiose feats of audacity and skill.”

Indeed, as unlikely as it seemed that he would expose his massive ego and brand to potential rejection by putting his name on the ballot rather than just buildings, Trump was also building a movement — not just a mere moment. When we were at our most skeptical, we saw how Trump could build a mass gathering, much like that of a pastor at a church revival, as witnessed by OZY’s political reporter Nick Fouriezos. While others said Trump had irreparably fractured the Republican Party, we wondered aloud if perhaps he was simply crafting it in his own image and preparing for forthcoming attacks on Hillary’s “strength,” which proved to be prescient. By this past summer, the real Trump candidacy had begun, and it’s clear looking back that, like many covering the election, we had started taking Trump seriously — but not seriously enough.

Again and again, Trump proved so many of us wrong.

As the Clinton-Trump heavyweight bout appeared to be materializing, it was apparent that a general election could get very ugly, and Trump would go on the offensive, hitting Clinton with ad hominem attacks as he did his primary opponents, but also on issues like trade so that he could appeal to the Rust Belt voters he won on Tuesday. Even seeing that coming, and after meeting some Obama-turned-Trump voters, it still seemed that the lack of a ground game and a steady supply of donors would limit his reach. Yes, he stumbled — with seemingly massive missteps along the way — and we laid out a plan for a possible Trump comeback months ago. Yet, again and again, Trump proved so many of us wrong. We predicted the race was “over” following the second debate and Access Hollywood hot mic tape release. And we prematurely crowned a new heir to Trumpism when, it turned out, Trump himself was just getting started.

Just as the character Bob Roberts — a self-made millionaire turned Senate candidate in this 1992 mockumentary — successfully adopts the persona of a rebel folk musician in the film, the billionaire elitist, and now president-elect, played the role of frustrated populist beautifully. And it worked.

OZY2016

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