For some Americans, businessman Donald Trump's victory on Tuesday is a triumphant moment in American history, as the election propelled the first political outsider to the White House in modern times after decades of career politicians. Others consider his win over Hillary Clinton a nightmare for social justice and potentially disastrous to the economy.
How Trump held off Republicans in the primaries, as well as Clinton in the general election, will be a topic that will be discussed for quite some time. But there are a multitude of reasons why Trump was able to pull off a shocking upset.
Trump As A Celebrity Provocateur
He has spent decades accumulating name recognition as a wealthy New York real estate mogul, appearing on the cover of many magazines as the symbol of wealth. Later, he would get his own TV show on NBC and then start a campaign for President Barack Obama to disclose his birth certificate. After Obama released it, he immediately jumped to how Obama got into Harvard and asked for school records. In the Republican primaries, he was the most vocal and visible, taking center stage, dominating the 24-hour news cycle by feuding with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and ripping his primary opponents. Jeb Bush, at one time considered the GOP front-runner, famously told Trump at the debate, "Donald, you're not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency." Bush was wrong.
NBC cut ties with Trump after 14 seasons once he announced his presidential run, calling Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers in his opening salvo. But his time on the reality show helped Trump achieve a strong following with his catchphrase "You're fired" and with some Americans likely gravitating to him Tuesday because they liked his show.
When a new controversy would come up, Trump would double down on it in a way that made his base appreciate his "no-apologies approach" to campaigning. He also effectively deflected any controversy by stirring up other controversies. When polls showed he was losing, he suggested the voting system is "rigged" and would only accept the election results if he won. One of his conspiracy theories was that the father of Sen. Ted Cruz was in a photograph with Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Another was that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by China.
Black Lives Matter
Taking a page from Richard Nixon, "law and order" became a running theme for Trump amid a string of police shootings against unarmed African-Americans. His strong support from whites may have stemmed from their appreciation of his stance, as the BLM movement was receiving heightened attention.
Eight Years Of One Administration
Presidential trends point to when one party is in control, the other takes over after eight years. Democrats had the White House from 1993-2001, followed by Republicans 2001-2009 and then Democrats from 2009-2017.
With more than 11 million unauthorized immigrants, calls for tighter U.S. borders have mounted. Trump used rhetoric similar to that of Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who ran for President in 2008. Trump's talk of building a wall and having Mexico pay for it made him sound like the toughest Republican on immigration and built enthusiasm among those who identify with the Tea Party movement.
Hard Stance On Radical Islam
In March, Trump said he thinks "Islam hates us," without drawing any distinction between the faith and radical Islamic terrorism. Similar broad comments about Muslims likely resonated with voters who feel the approach to fighting terrorism has been too soft.
The Confidence Effect
"Winning" was Trump's main slogan, along with "Make America Great Again." Many voters gravitate to a candidate who speaks with bold general comments. Perhaps taking a page from actor Charlie Sheen, Trump said, "We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning."
Clinton probably would have achieved more by discussing herself and not acknowledging Trump. She and her surrogates kept saying Trump's name, giving him stature.
Trump buried his Republican opponents by using names such as "Lying Ted" for Cruz, "Little Marco" for Sen. Marco Rubio and then "Crooked Hillary" for Clinton. For those who don't follow politics closely, those names may have done enough to disparage his political foes.
Tapping Into Voter Frustration As An Outsider
Trump maintained his image of not looking and talking like a politician. This strategy paid off as there has been growing animosity for typical political rhetoric.
Big Tax Cuts
While he was pressed to explain how he would offset tax cuts, many Americans likely were pleased when they heard they would pay less in taxes. Trump boasted his tax cuts were bigger than those proposed by other Republicans.
Friendly Media Treatment
Trump received billions in free advertising, and rarely received much of a challenge in a high-profile interview with NBC's "Today" host Matt Lauer. Jimmy Fallon, host of "The Tonight Show," was criticized for a particularly light-hearted interview after tougher questions from former late-night talk show host David Letterman.
Keep It Simple, Stupid
Trump seemed to stick to simple facts on the campaign trail to avoid confusing the electorate. He spoke at a third-grade level, which appeals to the bulk of less-educated voters. Like his website, Trump didn't take many positions during speeches. He often simply pushed the fact that the U.S. "doesn't win anymore."
Low Voter Turnout
While Trump won the election, both he and Clinton failed to get as many votes as the last four nominees in the 2008 and 2012 election, as of this writing. Trump seemed to benefit from the lowest turnout since 2004.
White Men Supporting A White Man
Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke rushed to support Trump, and so did millions of other white men after eight years of a black man as president. Roughly 58 percent of white male voters supported Trump, with 72 percent of those votes coming from men without college educations.
Women Not Supporting A Woman
Clinton did not receive quite the level of support that some might have expected from women. Forty-three percent of white women voted for Trump.
No Tax Records
In a break from election protocol, Trump managed to avoid releasing his taxes to the public, which may have revealed unflattering information about his net worth, how much he pays in taxes and how much he gives to charity.
Clinton Overconfidence In Pennsylvania, Midwest
Trump was able to attract voters in the Midwest outside Illinois. He was able to win votes from rural areas of Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Clinton appeared to focus more on Florida and North Carolina, possibly taking for granted the Midwest and Pennsylvania after those states mainly voted for Democrats in recent elections.
Third-Parties, "Bernie Or Bust" Weakening Clinton
Left-wing enthusiasm for Clinton was weakened by Bernie Sanders supporters, who may not have been fully on board with Clinton. Often the party with the more energized base prevails in the general election, and Clinton's camp may have been at least slightly deflated by the "Bernie or Bust" movement. Meanwhile, most polls suggest Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson siphoned more votes from Clinton than Trump
Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, offered a familiar refrain from the party platform. "We have every reason to be terrified of Donald Trump in the White House. But I don't think we should fool ourselves into thinking that we should sleep well at night with Hillary Clinton in the White House either. They're both dangerous and unacceptable in different ways."
Wikileaks, FBI Investigation
The phrases "Clinton Emails" and "Clinton Wikileaks" trended online throughout the campaign. FBI Director James Comey told Congress less than two weeks before the election that he would reopen the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. It strengthened the perception that Americans felt Trump was more trustworthy than Clinton even though fact-checkers clocked dozens more whoppers falling out of Trump's mouth than Clinton's. Trump made sure to bring up these topics as often as possible and it likely did damage.