After a hard-fought presidential race ranked as one of the most bitter in recent memory, controversial billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the darling of the Alt-Right movement, evangelicals and a wide swath of mostly white voters disaffected with the economy, has been elected the 45th president of the United States.
Trump’s rise shook the establishment of the Republican Party to its core, as he took the highest office in the land despite not just a lack of support late in the race by fellow members of the GOP, but outright condemnation from many on the political right.
Trump won despite the fact that at the beginning of the race, pundits didn’t take him seriously; despite the fact that Trump has no previous political experience; and despite the fact that Trump’s campaign was built on a framework of statements that offended minorities, liberals, and even Republicans, attacked Muslims, and included numerous claims that were debunked by fact checkers at major U.S. news outlets. His support remained steady among his followers despite a late revelation of a piece of tape showing him making graphic, sexist comments where he bragged about touching women inappropriately — “locker room talk,” he said — and the flurry of women who came forward to say he had sexually assaulted them — “lies,” he said.
And in a dramatic shift in popular opinion once unthinkable, Trump won the U.S. electorate despite an unhidden fondness for Russian President Vladimir Putin, even in the face of widely believed U.S. intelligence reports that, among other things, Putin’s government has been behind hacker activity aimed at interfering in the American presidential election.
Trump’s popularity in swing states pointed to fractures in his party, and the faultlines that divide America, the nation he has repeatedly vowed to make “great” again. As Trump’s early lead widened, it became clear that Clinton, a career politician, whose slogan was “Better together” had not moved enough of the electorate to win in her bid to become the first woman president of the U.S.
Clinton, the former secretary of state under outgoing President Barack Obama, former New York senator who was serving in that post on 9/11, and the former first lady during her husband Bill’s term as POTUS, failed to overcome last minute surges in the polls by Trump.
To claim the presidency, Clinton, widely regarded as one of the least popular candidates in recent history — as was Trump — would have had to sway voters barraged by attacks on her record in office, including her term as secretary of state during a disastrous assault on the American consulate in Benghazi, which led to American deaths, and congressional hearings.
She also would have had to weather a storm of controversy arising from her use of a private email server to handle official business as secretary of state, which led to a publicly announced investigation by the FBI, a rebuke but no charges, and then, just as the election entered its last days, an announcement by FBI Director James Comey that the bureau was again investigating newly-discovered emails.
Comey’s announcement of the new email probe, which flew in the face of long-standing Department of Justice policy of avoiding action that could affect an election, brought him scorn from politicians on both the left and the right, and ultimately led again to no criminal charges being recommended against Clinton.
Clinton’s supporters rallied around the candidate in the closing days of the election, while Trump and his supporters trumpeted the newest email revelations as more evidence pointing to “crooked Hillary” being unfit to serve.
As the night wore on, the path to victory for Clinton, once certain among almost all political prognosticators, became narrower and narrower until it became clear that her campaign would go no further.
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