Trump won the Presidential Election to be inaugurated as the 45th President of the U.S. a surprise to not only many Americans but also many folks worldwide. This column has been following this election closely from the primary to conventions to debates and finally to the election. As hundreds of post-election analyses are surfacing in the media, this column makes a comprehensive review of the Trump movement, phenomenon and victory in three parts: (I) Why Trump represented a movement and a phenomenon? (II) Why and How Trump won the Election? And (III) How and What Does the Trump Victory Mean to the U.S. and the World? There was a lot to learn from this election.
Trump has become the President-elect to be the 45th President of the U.S. and to take office on 1/20/2017. This column has published a number of articles about the 2016 presidential race, the candidates, their campaigns, party conventions and 'A Citizen's Open Letter to the Next President of the U.S.' in anticipation of the outcome of the election. Making prediction on Presidential election is fun but not as useful as post-election analysis on the election process, the winning campaign, the voting and non-voting public and especially the possibility of improving our future Presidential elections. As hundreds of post-election analyses are surfacing in the media, I beg my readers' pardon for using a boastful title to catch your attention. I will try my best to live up to your expectation.
In this space-limited column, it is a challenge to do justice to the title on why, how and what. Therefore, I must condense my comments to bullet form to convey maximum information and let readers mull them in their own mind under the following three headings on why, how and what.
I. Why Trump represented a movement and a phenomenon?
1. Trump is smart, paid his tuitions in politics his way, donated to both parties, supported many campaigns and then ran for elections himself and learned plenty of the American political system. Trump carefully studied the people and determined to represent them; hence his campaign for Presidency was a movement and the silent majority became his loyal followers and created a phenomenon.
2. Real Trump: Despite of his flaws and what the media’s selective reporting, Trump was a handsome youth excelled well, a bold, shrewd and successful businessman, a best-seller writer and publisher, and a popular TV showman. Trump has a beautiful family with well groomed children. He is a doer (accomplished tough NY city projects). His political ambition developed after he amassed a fortune, unlike career politicians using solely political ambition to make a fortune. The real Trump is a loving, kind and generous individual and a frank, outspoken and fearless person.
3. Trump recognized a few right things, anger and fear, stress and despair and disappointment in government in the people and listened to them on their frustrations; he improved his campaign as time progressed whereas Clinton ignored grass-root signals, kept up with the same message in synch with biased mainstream media and never improved her campaign tactics. She paid more attention to the rich and powerful than to the grassroots.
4. Trump’s messages were continuous and consistent with personal follow-up in twits (a huge number of followers), even though not in eloquence.
5. Voting for Trump is voting against war. This notion emerged during and after the debates where Clinton appeared to defend the war and will have more military actions whereas Trump uttered tough stand on foreign issues without committing specific action. For example, The U.S. will continue to be in Asia for a long time and we will defeat ISIS.
6. Yes, Trump created a movement, but it is not a revolution but a restoration to true American conservative capitalism, American first, which resonated with the common Americans, the slogan, Make America Great Again sounds more honest than Clinton’s Together We Will Be Strong.
7. Clinton put fuels to Trump's movement and other Republican candidates failed to see the sign of silent anger especially the white middle class - feeling poor and neglected. The more the media and Clinton be littled Trump, the more they fueled the angry flame. Trump became the lone target and he reacted with his anger and earned a martyr image.
8. Even the usually subdued Chinese Americans got excited by the movement. Usually the young generation Chinese Americans identify with Democrats; their action will overwhelm their parents' votes. But this time more Chinese Americans broke silence and spoke. They identified with the Trump phenomenon. In the 2016 election, more Chinese Americans left the Democratic Party line they usually identified with.
9. California Democrats sponsored SCAS education bill (2013) limiting college entrance to be proportional to population in the state definitely benefitting White, Latino and Black over Asian Americans. The Race Data Disaggregation Bill (2016 CA Democrat introduced) further angered Chinese, Japanese and Korean Americans who were suspicious about the bill’s motive.
10. Obama accepted 5 million illegal immigrants (interpreted, although incorrectly, as to get votes for Democrats) whereas Trump took a firm anti-illegal immigration stand and at the same time an anti-color bias position.
11. Trump received too many unfavorable media reporting in contrast to media being mute on anything negative about Clinton (plenty in her 30 years of political career). An amusing phenomenon in this election: New York Times made biased reporting and apologized after the election.
12. America does not have a uniform value system despite of the American elite waving the flag of political correctness. There are classes and different views clearly shown by the Presidential campaign started two years ago. Trump’s defying political correctness hit a chord. For example, Berkeley campus phenomenon and Harvard student’s observation: no one can say anything opposing Clinton or supporting Trump, it would not be politically correct – this fueled the anger of the silent majority.
13. Politically correct attitude and arrogance exposed hypocrisy to people. For example, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, a gay, made a speech supporting Trump and got excommunicated by Clinton supporters denying him a gay.
14. Old Democrats despised Clinton’s past deeds and hawkish world view. Democrats became party of war opposite to the Kennedys' beliefs. For example, Adam Walinsky, former Assistant of the Kennedys, came out to denounce Clinton and support Trump: Trump dared to say the truth and not being afraid of generals or the activists.
15. Democratic Party is no longer a party of working class; it did nothing about wages, stood by free trade harming the blue collars, and focused on fund raising from the rich and powerful and painting a false economic picture. For example, former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich’s article: the public see the link of power and wealth and declining wages undermining democracy.
16. Online media ‘trumped’(term in bridge game) traditional media. Despite of a fairly well orchestrated mass media behind Clinton, the Trump team outperformed in online media and twitter communication to voters and small donors, keeping them informed all the way to the finishing line. Also see below how Cambridge Analytica helped Trump to win.
17. Trust in Government and current administration dropped. (2007 UN study, over 40 years, developed democratic governments, trust in government continuously dropped, even Sweden and Norway is dropping since the 90's) Shown by US Gallop polls, since 70's trust drops in 12 out of 17 institutions, banks, congress, president, schools, media and church, this distrust and fear for the worse are the basic undercurrent that tilted the election towards the political outsider Trump.
18. Trump phenomenon is the reaction of middle class Americans to attacks on their values by the intellectual and academic communities. Trump had the hunch how big the anger was there and he led and ride with the movement.
II. Why and How Trump won the Election?
1. Even though Trump was not using all the politically correct vocabulary, he resonated with the angry silent majority. He spoke what they did not dare to speak under the political correctness shroud. Then in the course of debates and rallies, Trump spoke and listened and was able to amplify the resonating emotions and built a loyal group of followers which grew day by day while Trump team kept them informed and maintained contacts along the way.
2. Media ignored the true public and focused on a fake public favoring the activists’ agenda. (Even polls were conducted on ‘fake’ public) Trump took a gamble to fight Clinton and the media at the same time and linked them together with the word ‘crooked’. The word stuck!
3. Clinton and media over played the woman card, not only annoyed the male but even some of the women who did not wish to be viewed as victims who needed protection or affirmative action. Clinton’s own image as a tough fighter having no glass ceiling whatsoever just did not lend any credit to the woman movement – most women want glass ceilings in their workplace removed but the White House did not really have a glass ceiling. Her nomination was the proof.
4. Clinton also over played the LGBT issue and unavoidably tied it to the abortion issue, thus ‘having no baby and killing baby’ created a difficult position further divided the women voters and most critically lost the conservative religious groups. The continuous attack on Trump regarding his past behavior towards women backfired when Clinton and Trump were put on the same ethic scale.
5. Rumors can help but also can backfire. Organic and mainstream media generated plenty of rumors but rumors need time to brew or to get clarified. One example of an inconsequential rumor is a quote attributed to former U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno: “Donald Trump will never be the U.S. President in my lifetime”. She died on 11/7/2016. So the rumor had no time to produce any effect on Trump’s victory. Plenty of rumors and truth were derived from Wiki Leak on Clinton’s deleted emails; they definitely had enough time to do damage to Clinton.
6. Primary to Trump is like Miss USA pageant and talent show, his experience is no match by Jeb, Ted, Mario, etc. The exchanges of personal attacks did not hurt Trump. For example, Picture of Mrs. Cruz vs Mrs. Trump was a clever way to respond to the ‘semi-nude’ professional model pose of Mrs. Trump used in campaign ad by his opponent.
7. Trump has selected Mike Pence (born June 7, 1959 Christian, Conservative Congressman from Indiana) as his running mate who has the right temperament and ideology to support Trump. Pence had done a great job in the campaign winning supporters. Tim Kaine, the Democrat VP nominee flip-flopped on the abortion issue which did not help Clinton’s campaign.
8. The biased mainstream media was somewhat if not largely responsible for creating the Trump Phenomenon and victory. Trump took advantage of online media and did an end run on the traditional media. This will have very significant impact on how and what kind of media will be used in our future elections.
9. Trump’s daughter Ivanka made a powerful and moving speech at the Republican Convention which was viewed by millions of American voters. So did the rest of the Trump family, they earned an up-right impression from the American public.
10. Email-gate and WikiLeaks haunted Clinton throughout her race. On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for 30,322 emails and email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton's private email server while she was Secretary of State. Out of a total of 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the U.S. State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The final PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016. The founder of WikiLeak, Australian, Julian Assange (who came to global prominence in 2010 when WikiLeaks published a series of leaks, allegedly provided by Chelsea Manning, an army soldier court-marshaled for disclosing military documents. These leaks included the Collateral Murder video (April 2010). Assange had been targeted by the FBI but he escaped to Ecuador under political asylum and continued exposing Clinton’s deleted email incriminating her throughout the campaign to the last day prior to election.
11. FBI Director James Comey who investigated Clinton’s email issue, gave her a pass then reopened the investigation eleven days before the election and then gave her a second pass on Sunday barely two days before the election day. The Trump team seized the opportunity in every campaign rally. Clinton blamed the FBI Director for losing her campaign momentum in the last stretch but the fact that she never apologized nor admitted any guilt on the email-gate might have influenced lots of voters to vote for Trump.
12. Trump is a great Twitter and the Trump campaign out performed Clinton's in email, Facebook and Twitter. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz donated $20M to Democratic groups to stop Trump but Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder and CEO, defended Peter Thiel, his board member, for supporting Trump. Zuckerberg and Facebook should have seen the data change on the social media regarding Trump phenomenon and possible a sign of victory. Now Peter Thiel is on the Trump transition team which will definitely not hurt Facebook at all.
13. During Bill Clinton’s era the union membership is about 22% and now only 12% of the labor force, thus losing bargaining power against corporations. Democrats buried their heads in the sand and did nothing for workers. They were the majority of angry Trump supporters.
14. Trump's good personal stories (charity and generosity, for example, he helped a distressed widow/Mom to avoid bank's foreclosure on her home) outweighed his bad manners or big mouth. Another example, 2006 Ms USA Tara Conner credits Trump for helping her to kick the drug addiction which quashed the story that he called 1996 Ms Universe Alicia Machado Ms Piggy for whatever reason.
15. George Soros was identified as a promoter of color revolutions and a shark in the currency and stock market and he had a close tie with the Clinton's. Soros’ money and color revolution tainted Clinton’s image. Post election, some people even questioned why the Clintons wore purple at her concession speech, purple revolution?
16. Chinese Americans, especially mature age elites, for the first time mobilized in support of Trump on immigration and traditional values and they shouted: we vote for policies not personalities. For example, the group Chinese Americans for Trump was started by California resident David Tian Wang (not yet a citizen but a campaigner for Trump). He had members in 30 states, and many had raised funds to send those airplane banners through their skies. The fly-banner effort started with a ‘Chinese-Americans for Trump’ member in Arizona, who is also a pilot.
17. The popular vote is very close differing only by about 1% and the total vote is much less than 2012 election, but Trump won the electoral vote by 306:232. Trump team had far more accurate assessment and put the effort in the right states in the final week.
18. Excellent work by Cambridge Analytica, which studied the voters and modeled disenfranchised new Republicans versus the old Republicans (Paul Ryan, Mitch Mcconnell and the party operatives…). Trump stood for the new Republicans, caring more about law and order, immigration, wages, jobs and deep contempt for the reigning political establishment (in both parties) rather than status quo for the party establishment.
III. How and What Does the Trump Victory Mean to the U.S. and the World?
1. Trump victory may seem to be a disappointment even failure to the Republic and Democratic parties, but in deeper and more rationalized analysis, Trump victory let the voting public vented their frustration and lessened their distrust of the party politics and party mechanism from nomination to primary to final election. Too many party elites were too righteous and shamelessly played sainthood in making judgments on personal flaws rather than listened to issues that were resonating with the voters. Hopefully the Republicans will appreciate Trump victory and correct their attitudes and forge behind him to make America great again. Hopefully, the Democrats will calm down and accept Trump victory with humility rather than anger or hatred through protests and mass demonstration. It is time for reflection not protest.
2. Many issues Trump raised in his campaign would require policy changes and fiscal budget revamping. Pentagon’s budget was one of the items voters were concerned. Trump wanted America’s allies to pay more to the U.S. for station and presence helping their defense. The Pentagon may be faced with a reduction of budget or shifting more funds to R&D and military infrastructure investments if the allies do not substantially increase their contributions. Trump must learn quickly about the different agendas foreign states promote. Example, Why is Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo so eagerly flying to New York to meet with Trump. What is his agenda? To get Trump’s support for Abe’s revision effort of Japan’s pacifist constitution (even willing to pay more to the U.S. for defense) or permission to develop nuclear weapon or testing Mr. Trump’s plan about TPP? Hopefully Trump as a smart and great negotiator would decipher Abe’s eagerness (Abe is in no way in Trump’s league) and consider America’s interest first not just for the near future but for the long haul. History is the best lesson for international affairs. Trump’s statement: “The U.S. will continue to be in Asia for a long time” can be interpreted in very different ways by China, Japan, Korea and ASEAN. We will just have to watch what it really means.
3. Internationally, Trump's victory surprised many traditional media and public elites but this surprise will probably generate some positive effects. For one, this election, more so than the Brexit outcome, underlined the sacred claim in democracy that people are given opportunity to express their wish under a given democratic system. The American electoral system protects state(regional) interest and binds the federation. The majority of electoral votes represent a fair choice and they uphold justice rather than the growing belief that popular votes can be manipulated by money hands and elites. Trump, spending much less money than the Clinton machine by a wide margin about 1:2 ratio, and yet won the election and gave democracy the needed adrenaline. One should also recognize that the Internet and social media offer the public a fairer tool to communicate and express oneself than the traditional media which is now proven to be more vulnerable to be bought and controlled. This election will have lasting impact not only on American future elections but also elections worldwide; thus it may be remembered as his legacy even though he has not begun his US 45th Presidency.
4. China has always been an issue in the U.S. Presidential election. Both Clinton and Trump had bashed and blamed China for US domestic and world problems. The majority of the American voting public may not be very well informed and versed on the complex love-hate US-China relations, but the following four issues, South China Sea, trade war, currency war, U.S. Pivot to Asia Pacific policy (including North Korea and Japan’s militaristic ambitions and TPP) had reached sufficient public awareness level thanks to US and Chinese media. As proven by this election, the US mainstream media should not be relied on as the only controlling voice on issues. The internet organic media offered alternatives for justice. China has understood it and Trump has been a savvy Internet user and beneficiary of it. Trump will have to sift through the mainstream and organic media for public opinion in dealing with the four US-China issues currently on the table.
5. Trump’s victory came as a surprise and Trump’s transition team and future cabinet appointments are in the spot light. Appointing Mike Pence to be the Chairman of the transition team is a smart move and appointing Reince Priebus is a practical one (despite media’s disapproval that he had no government experience) simply because Trump needs a rolodex to run his administration interacting with the Congress. Reince is that useful rolodex on all Republican legislators and some democrats too before it is updated and replaced by a Trump’s own White House Rolodex. The media is not shy in making comments on hiring. One advice in hiring may be helpful is that don't load up with Ivy League resumes but pay attention to rural state university graduates who are likely less liberal, more conservative and understanding better the rural America problems. Regarding the Supreme Court Justice, Trump should pick a conservative, energetic, knowledgeable and youthful Justice to carry out the original intent of the constitution.
6. Will this country be further divided? It is hard to say how the U.S. will change to from a 50:50 divided situation in terms of conservative versus liberal or left versus right. Post Trump victory, we may see the country tilting more conservative but left versus right may have to be redefined from the legacy definition. Is making America great or strong a ‘right’ or ‘left’ statement? The post-election protests although significant in numbers but they are on different issues. I guess most likely the demonstrations will pass with no one paying much attention to them.
7. Will Trump make tax cuts? Yes, he will have to fulfill some of his campaign promises. Trump had a specific tax reduction plan, simplify seven tax rates to three, business, estate, dividend and capital gain tax reductions. Trump must work with Congress to get tax reduction bills passed. Reince Priebus has his work cut out for him.
8. The following has changed from speculation to prediction, that is, Trump will deal with illegal immigrants issue (building wall and deport illegal immigrant criminals), refuse to accept Muslim refugees (cut funding), repeal Obama Care (at least part of it), start infrastructure building (the stock market already rallied around that and healthcare), reduce taxes (the issue is which tax category to start with), and create jobs (industry elites will come around to Trump’s table soon).
9. Media already speculated that the U.S. relation with Russia will improve. (not because of that Trump had a tie with Russia and Russia helped Trump to win as claimed by the media (that’s all baloney). The reason is more likely that Putin will make an effort to improve relationship with the U.S. and the U.S. will welcome it for the purpose of working against IS, solving Syria problem, reducing military spending etc. The improvement of US-Russia relation may not come at the expense of US-China relation as time and condition have changed from the Cold War era.
10. Regarding China, lessen military pressure and confrontation, but continue economic pressure on China is likely Trump’s policy. There were numerous scenarios expressed by analysts, adding tariffs to reduce debt, even renege on debt, and ditch Taiwan (Paul Kane) to get something in return from China; but Trump needs time to digest these complex issues. My prediction is that nothing drastic will take place in his first year or two. Not like Clinton, Trump probably did not and is not thinking about a second term right now. Interestingly, in Xi’s phone call to Trump, Xi has mentioned four times the word, cooperation, which must have made an impression on Trump. If cooperation is less painful than confrontation, what would Trump choose? Trump's first 100 days challenge will most likely be focusing on the domestic issues.
11. Based on Trump’s world view and political philosophy, I venture to say that the new President of the U.S. may make a quick impact on the United Nations by letting the UN gaining power and be more effective in managing global affairs especially in the area of regional peace and stability, education, science and infrastructure building.
12. Will violence protest become a norm after presidential election and other elections? Over 200 incidences of hate or harassment occurred in a few days right after the election. However, no concrete proposals on revising or fixing the election process have surfaced. I would like to voice a suggestion here. A rigid electoral counting method (Winner take all of congressional districts per state plus 2 per number of senate seat) is intended to protect small states with less population but hurts the minority population in large states (here minority means population in rural area but still can be larger than populations in small states) in large state, always losing to the majority population (city population) in every election. A simple amendment could be made to count the electoral votes of large states with population greater than the medium state population (~6.2 million) according to the voting split rather than by winner-take-all. For example, if New York had a split vote of 9 million to 7 million on two candidates then its electoral votes should be a split of 9:7 ratio rounding to whole numbers. This could be achieved easier by a federal mandate.
13. Did Trump strengthen or weakened the GOP? Trump woke up and strengthened GOP with his victory giving GOP control of both chambers. New Republicans want to crush the crony capitalism, need evenhanded support, and desire a transparent and accountable system where they can share rewards. Trump, not a career politician and party bureaucrat, is in a good position to really strengthen GOP in a fundamental way, but on the other hand, he may not want to do that if the old machine is too rusted requiring too much energy to repair. Trump did more in the campaign than Reagan did in his, hopefully the GOP party will rally around him to seek party reform for party’s future. With new Republicans encouragement, Trump will be more motivated to fix the party for the long haul. This is another domain where Reince Preibus may make a mark.
14. Based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric some may say that the US Allies in Asia may have to defend themselves on security, especially the wealthy countries like Japan and South Korea, Japan and the Philippines already increased their military spending. However, a serious arms race in Asia is not necessarily to the best interest of the U.S. even though we may want to sell our surplus weapons. Trump’s asking US Asian Allies to pay more for defense should not be interpreted as the U.S. would be pulling out of Asia. Similarly so for Europe.
15. Trump's negative view on trade issue with China and his positive remark he loves Chinese people presented an intriguing question: How or should he increase economic pressure on China? (Trump encouraged her beautiful grand-daughter Arabella to learn Chinese; a video of her went viral in China) Trump’s position on TPP actually will help China and consideration of joining AIIB as a good idea may just lead to a cooperative relationship with China as Xi appealed to Trump.
16. Coincidentally, Trump just won his ‘Trump’ trademark lawsuit defending his trademark application in China right after he won the Presidential election. Chinese court reversed its ruling previously ruled against Trump favoring a Chinese claim. Perhaps we will see much more Trump buildings and objects in China very soon.
17. Will the Clintons face charges and go to jail? Jason Chaffetz, House Oversight and Government Reform committee may hold the key rather than the new FBI Director or Trump himself. Trump is likely to step back to make a decent gesture to forget about the email-gate.
18. Will globalization take a back seat behind ‘America first’? It may not be a mutually exclusive situation in the area of economic development. America first cannot be a closed door policy in this day and age. It is more about using our funds wisely and more productively. The world is studying Trump phenomenon and victory and waiting to see his economic and foreign policy. Kissinger has offered a good advice to Trump: To analyze and reflect to demonstrate that he is on top of the known challenges and the nature of their evolution. Again history offers lessons.
19. Who is going to be the new Secretary of State, Defense secretary, National Security Czar, Attorney General, Supreme Court Justice, ….has occupied lots of media pages or screens. To my surprise, Giuliani had been vocal, such as signaled to build a gigantic military. Trump had maintained his style, mysterious and vague, and let the transition team do their job. We expect the new team, no matter what their previous experiences were, will climb a learning curve to find a way to work as an effective team in the Trump Administration. The resumes of individuals will be less critical than the chemistry among people. With Trump’s experience as a successful CEO and a head of family having all children devoted to him, Trump is likely to be able to build a competent team, by hire and fire, quickly if necessary.
20. There is a simple analysis in the organic media stating that Trump victory will make five losers (Japan, Germany, France, South Korea and Mexico) and five winners (Russia, North Korea, Israel, Turkey and China) in their relations with the U.S. Although the analysis is simple but it does have some logic. We certainly should keep a close watch on the future development of the relationship between the U.S. and these countries.
In conclusion, Trump did recognize the anger in the silent majority, a movement needed a Champion. He seized the opportunity and turned the movement into a phenomenon. He did a lot of things right, but most critically he had his own pollsters and used the social media and Internet smartly. He beat not only his strong opponent, Hillary Clinton, successfully but also the biased mainstream media brilliantly and won the victory. He certainly has a lot of challenges lying ahead but his surprise victory puts him in a good position to make a fresh start, permitting a learning phase and a few resets and to achieve success as many of his supporters expecting. Trump may very well fulfill his promise to “Make America Great Again” and not at the expense of the world.