The newspaper headlines were likely already written, announcing Hillary Clinton as the first woman to take the helm of the White House. Instead, in the stunning culmination to a brutal and vitriolic campaign, real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump clinched the race Nov. 8 to become the 45th president of the United States.
The results defied the prognostications of many pollsters, pundits and political scientists, alike, leaving them scrambling to figure out what happened.
“It is going to take us political scientists a long time to figure this out,” said Robert Smith, a political analyst with San Francisco State University. He added, “This is an unexpected and dangerous outcome.”
Republican political strategist Raynard Jackson said he predicted this result, however, declaring to the AFRO that Trump had won even before the votes were fully counted.
“I don’t believe in polls and I was convinced he would win. Now, I’m vindicated,” the Washington-D.C. based political operative said. He added, “This is nothing short of miraculous…. People are going to remember where they were when they got the news.”
Jackson said Trump triumphed because he presented himself as an antidote to voters’ disaffection with Washington and the status quo. The average American bought into Trump’s promises to undo adverse trade deals such as NAFTA and to bring back jobs to the U.S., to “reclaim” U.S. sovereignty from international organizations such as the United Nations and NATO and to stem the influx of “foreigners,” so much so, they were willing to overlook his “personal liabilities,” the strategist continued.
“Trump is an outsider, and he tapped into a vein that both parties’ leadership willfully and recklessly ignored,” Jackson said. “This result was because of the total misreading by both parties and the media of how angry Americans are.”
According to CNN exit polls, Trump outpaced Clinton 58 percent to 37 percent among White voters, while the Democratic challenger held the larger advantage—74 percent to 21 percent—among non-Whites, including garnering 88 percent of Black voters.
Among non-college-educated Whites, Trump held even larger margins of support, with both men and women voting 67 percent for Trump and 28 percent for Clinton.
Some political observers said Trump fuelled his rise to victory by using derogatory, sometimes racist and otherwise incendiary rhetoric to stoke resentment—some racist in nature—among White voters.
“The outcome of this election is an expression of a kind of White nationalism and not just among working-class Whites, but among all Whites, who have a sense that this country is becoming non-White and they resent that,” said Smith, the San Francisco-based political analyst. “Trump said he would make America great again and for some that meant White again.”
Trump’s win, some say, does not bode well for African Americans.
“Obviously, the outcome will have a lot of impact in terms of public policy,” said Michael Fauntroy, political scientist from Howard University. “Most African Americans are progressives and if Hillary Clinton wins, we will see a continuation of policies begun by Barack Obama. And if Donald Trump wins, he would try to reverse all that.”
Both Fauntroy and Smith said with the GOP in charge of the White House, U.S. House and Senate, gridlock would be diminished and Republicans would work together to overturn the Affordable Care Act—President Obama’s signature legislation that provided health insurance for 2.3 million uninsured African Americans, and cut back on social programs like Medicaid and food stamps.
“What you can expect from a Trump presidency is probably the most inhospitable environment for African Americans since the 1950s,” Smith said. “The whole social security safety net Americans depend on, [Republicans] plan to shred that while giving tax cuts to the wealthy…. This is an extremely negative outcome for African Americans and for the country as a whole.”
With an empty seat in the Supreme Court and several aging justices, Trump will likely have the opportunity to stack the high court with conservative justices and that would not bode well for policies such as affirmative action, observers said.
Under a Trump presidency the economy and America’s standing in the world will also suffer, Smith said. Global markets all fell after Trump’s election. And, foreign leaders have offered mostly tepid, sometimes cautionary statements of congratulation to the president-elect, who has made several rash statements about breaking or renegotiating current trade and diplomatic deals.
“Our adversaries will use this as a means to attack American democracy itself—the fact that we will be taken over by a demagogue,” Smith said. “And our allies, the Europeans and Japanese, will find it hard to work with Trump and that will create great instability in international relations.”
Jackson, the Black Republican, said he thinks a Trump presidency can be a boon for the African-American community, however, especially if the president-elect institutes policies to boost Black entrepreneurs and HBCUs.
“That would go a long way to solving the pathologies in the Black community, which stem from a lack of jobs and a lack of education,” Jackson said, adding, “I think he’s going to make good on his promises.”
What is unclear is how well The Donald will keep his promise to “bind the wounds of division” among Americans that he, himself helped inflict.
“I say it is time for us to come together as one united people,” said Trump, during his victory speech in the early hours of Nov. 9. “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans and this is so important to me.”
Beyond the presidential and congressional races, there were several ballot initiatives in states across the country that were significant for African Americans, particularly changes to marijuana laws.
“Marijuana criminal laws have been used disproportionately against African Americans. It’s outrageous,” said Hilary Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy of the NAACP. According to Shelton, African Americans comprise 40 percent of all marijuana convictions but only 12 percent of marijuana users.
In four states, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada, voters approved recreational legalization, bringing to nine the number of states—and the District of Columbia—that allow the recreational use of the herb. Another four states, Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana approved the use of medical cannabis, bringing to 29 the number of states with such policies.
Several states also considered minimum wage referenda, with four deciding to boost the minimum federal wage of $7.25.
“African Americans are also disproportionately dependent on minimum wage jobs,” Shelton said. “A single parent with two children working full-time, all day every day for the entire year will still come out $4,000 under the poverty line if they are working a minimum wage job.
“Hardworking people should be paid fairly for their hard work,” Shelton added.