Looking back on it now, it already feels like Donald Trump’s victory was the only possible climax to the 2016 election. It’s almost hard to believe…how hard to believe it was when he won! Sure, almost all of the polls showed Hillary Clinton with a lead in the states she needed. Sure, you had nearly every pundit in America – including some Trump supporters – predicting her victory.
But the intangibles – the gut feelings – were always in Trump’s favor.
Intangibles like the colossal rallies he held all over the country. Trump galvanized conservatives (and not a few independents and Democrats) in a way that no Republican politician has in years. You certainly didn’t see Clinton regularly speaking in front of thousands of rabid supporters unless she had help from Beyonce and President Obama.
Intangibles like the narrative of the election. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews had a phrase he liked to mention during the primaries: “Whenever you hear about a movement to ‘Stop X,’ bet on X.” The 2016 election was always about STOPPING TRUMP. And that was the way Clinton wanted it, because the more the media focused on her, the worse her poll numbers looked.
Intangibles like the broader Western movement against globalization and multiculturalism, explicitly marked by the Brexit vote. Trump embodied what is becoming a global rage at the liberal establishment; Hillary embodied the establishment itself.
Intangibles like authenticity. You can’t look at Trump’s record and call him “honest,” exactly, but there’s a difference between honesty and sincerity. Trump isn’t shy about fibbing, but he does not come across as a man who is telling supporters one thing while secretly plotting something else. Hillary Clinton is both a documented liar and, worse, an obvious political phony.
This collection of intangibles explains why Trump’s supporters were so willing to believe that his loss would prove that the election was rigged. How could the unpopular, uninspiring “heiress” to Obama’s White House possibly overcome these powerful national trends?
As it turns out, of course, she couldn’t.