Update, 11:10 p.m., Nov. 9: This was updated to reflect the updated story in print.
Donald Trump secured the title of 45th president of the United States close to 3 a.m. on Nov. 9 after winning more electoral votes than his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump earned 279 electoral votes, and Clinton earned 228. Clinton reportedly called Trump to concede the election around 2:30 a.m.
“I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans,” Trump said in his victory speech. “I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can unify our great country.”
Vice President-elect Mike Pence took the stage around 2:45 a.m. to thank supporters for their continual encouragement.
Trump’s path to victory strengthened after winning a razor-tight race for the swing state of Florida and a one-point difference between him and his competitor, former Secretary of State Clinton, that vacillated for hours on Election Night. The race made an unexpected U-turn around 10 p.m.
Trump clinched the presidency after starting off as a wildcard candidate and gaining unprecedented traction, mainly from working-class white Americans and evangelicals.
The 2016 presidential race was steeped in controversy from the time Trump declared his run for office, when he made a comment about Mexican immigrants, saying “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
But gradually, everything about Trump – his pompous demeanor, quickness to anger, harsh comments and dismissal of facts – became commonplace. Voters wanted to hear what he would say next, and they were rarely left disappointed. Trump knew how to feed off of the energy of his audiences. He filled stadiums regularly with thousands of voters. Writers were never without material. And Trump’s main following grew in vigor. “Make America Great Again,” the campaign’s slogan, became more than a saying. Pickup trucks in backcountry towns politicians never cared to visit were emblazoned with Trump 2016 bumper stickers and American flags. The core of zealous supporters emerged from the corners of the country to support their “brutally honest” candidate.
The former Democrat became the face of a new breed of Republican. Soon enough, the traditionally recognized Republican party was virtually unrecognizable. Many Republicans left the party, conflicted in their beliefs.
Trump-ism inspired a national trend of anti-incumbency and those voters sick of the way the nation had been run for decades rallied behind the unconventional flame-haired, loudmouthed New Yorker who was something like a savior from Obama’s America. These passions flared at rallies, where violence erupted multiple times, mostly between people of color and diehard Trump supporters in attendance. When confronted about these scuffles, Trump would blame it on the anger American people have harbored after years of unsatisfying leadership.
However, over time, Trump went from a vote in a moment of passion to a logically defensible candidate for some Republicans, who respected his policies on immigration – secure the borders, “Build A Wall” and make Mexico pay for it in order to keep jobs for legal residents and eliminate financial drain. Supporters also agree with his ideas for healthcare reform – repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare” – and his plans to stimulate job growth and trade, namely, to stop outsourcing jobs to nations like India, China and Mexico.
Another stronghold for Trump voters was the hope of replacing the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was known for his conservative rulings, with another Republican-friendly justice. Voters were also attracted to Trump because they were so politically opposed to “crooked Hillary.”
Clinton’s sharing of sensitive materials on her private email server drew harsh words from Republicans, who accused her of not only breaking the law, but also alleged she was negligent of calls for heightened security in Benghazi, leaving the embassy vulnerable to the attacks that ensued and resulted in multiple deaths. Trump even outright said his opponent should be “locked up.” In debates, Trump said he would select a “special prosecutor” to handle the case.
When, at the end of the second presidential debate, Clinton and Trump were asked to say something nice about each other, Clinton complimented Trump’s children, who are professionals.
His shortcomings in social spheres were validated, at times, by what many considered his greatest work: Donald Jr., 38, Eric, 32, Ivanka, 35, Tiffany, 23, and Barron Trump, 10. Donald, Eric and Ivanka are all successful businesspeople well-known for their poise. Tiffany recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Barron is the only child of Trump and his third wife, Melania. At each night of the Republican National Convention, each of Trump’s children delivered eloquent and moving defenses of their father’s character.
Melania, a Slovene American and former model, went mostly undetected by voters until she made her debut at the Republican National Convention on July 18. But what caught the attention of viewers, aside from her high-end white cocktail dress, was the similarity of her words to those spoken by First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Trump was accused of plagiarizing parts of her speech from Obama’s when the transcripts were compared side-by-side and revealed identical wording.
Since the incident, Melania has returned to her place in the front row at Trump events, largely avoiding interaction with the media, expect to make a speech saying her goal as first lady would be to address cyberbulling in America.
At the 2016 Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner, Trump owned up to this mistake, making a joke about the identical lines of her speech.
Melania also had a moment where all eyes were on her – during the tornado of sexual assault accusations against her husband. Accounts of Trump forcing himself upon women when he was newly married to Melania, groping women and walking into dressing rooms unannounced brought everyone to ask: What does Melania have to say?
But the new first lady had nothing to say. She stood by her husband.
The Trump campaign denied all allegations. Nearly half a dozen women came forward and alleged Trump assaulted them. But none of these claims would change the minds of those voters who could never vote for an untrustworthy candidate, one who represented a version of Washington they were eager to demolish.
The allure of a Trump presidency, if it can be called that, was in its promise of a “change” election. After eight years of democratic policies that negatively affected much of the Republican electorate, Republican voters are looking to uproot policies they believe are working against them. Among the list of demands Republican voters have voiced: immigration reform, border security, healthcare reform, tax cuts, veteran care reform, national security, action against “radical islamic terrorism” and conservative justices nominated to the Supreme Court.
Trump’s international business legacy and fresh perspective on the political gridlock in Washington D.C. lead his supporters to have an optimistic view for the future of a country they see in decline. Trump calls his campaign a “movement” to “Make America Great Again” and put “America First.”