Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Sunday 28th May 2017 | Manchester, UK

Top Trumps – The US Presidential Election 2016

The United States of America had always been a destination I wanted to travel to from a young age. Perhaps it was the appeal of metropolis-esque cities such as New York or Los Angeles I had seen on TV programmes, the beautiful scenery of national parks across the huge American landscape or possibly the vast history on offer in cities like Washington D.C. This summer however, I got my chance through work at a summer camp in upstate New York.

One of the first things to strike me after arriving in the US in June 2016 was the amount of coverage and publicity given to the then-almost Republican candidate in the upcoming Presidential election, Donald Trump. Both his breakthrough to the mainstream of U.S. politics and his eventual election to the White House were revolutionary and proved wrong many people who had laughed off his campaign months before.

Social media and news outlets, who gave him endless publicity in the build up to November’s election, pounced upon his seemingly discriminatory attitude to minority populations and often-controversial remarks. Kids at the camp where I was working were keen to bring up the subject of Trump following large exposure to his campaign and staff. Both Americans and Europeans struggled to debate issues other than his nomination, even following the recent British EU referendum results in late June.

It was this exposure and hype that proved to be the backbone of Trump’s campaign. Through this he was able to push through his slogans time and time again – his promises to ‘Make America Great Again’.  In contrast to his opponent, Hilary Clinton with her seemingly less passionate and more policy-focused approach, Trump’s strengths lay in being able to identify and connect with his white male target audience. He made them believe in him and eventually inspired them to go out and vote for him.

Trump’s campaign from the beginning of the party primaries was, of course, no smooth journey. The New-York businessman began fights with Fox News and their popular journalist Megyn Kelly. He delivered only a half-hearted apology to the surfacing of the horrifically vulgar video clip of his boasting about his sexual advances on women back in 2005. Policies and proposals concerning immigration and the threat of terrorism meant he alienated himself from ethnic and religious groups such as Hispanics, African-Americans and Muslims. His off-the-cuff performances in presidential debates saw him take further hits in the polls.

However, none of this seemed to matter. The Trump train just kept on coming back for more, with Clinton seemingly unable to make a killer blow. While critics often ridiculed his political approach, Trump stuck to his game plan. He focused on states that were seen as out of reach. Swing states including Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania were targeted; all of which he won in the Electoral College, proving crucial in the final election vote.

Early 2016 proved successful for the former ‘The Apprentice’ host. By March, Trump had managed to rise above the trailing pack of Republican nominee hopefuls, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. His promise to overthrow the current political establishment led to great eventual success with voters in America’s Midwest. Before the Democratic and Republican conventions, where parties nominate their respective election candidates, the media was already rife with the idea that November would see Trump face off against Clinton, who was facing her own primary battle against Bernie Sanders.

This, of course, proved to be the case in the fight for the White House. Four months of extensive campaigning, three presidential debates, and a barrage of insults and accusations from both sides later, Donald Trump’s long-winded campaign looked to be finally failing after one of the most bitter and ugly elections to date.

Polls suggested a four-point lead for Clinton in the days leading up to the election. However, a promising start in the gradual election results for Clinton turned into a huge problem for the Democratic Party as Trump followed up a decisive victory in key battleground Florida with wins in Ohio and North Carolina. After more critical states fell to Republicans, the result was confirmed in Trump’s favour at around 3:00AM (EST) on Wednesday 9th November, bringing an end to the campaign that had defied all expectations from the very beginning.

My time in the U.S., involving two months working at the camp and around four weeks travelling, ended in mid-September. The media attention in the U.S. had unsurprisingly gone hysterical following Clinton’s health concerns at a 9/11 memorial event. Minimal coverage was given to other news stories on networks Fox News and CNN. Despite the slight narrowing of the polls in Trump’s favour, Clinton remained the front-runner, the figure who could finally stop the scandalous Trump. No one envisaged what would happen from then onwards.

However now America faces an unclear future under the guidance of the most controversial President in U.S. political history.

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