Trump Wins the Presidency

Hillary Clinton conceded shortly before 3 a.m.

Donald Trump has been elected the next president of the United States of America.

No, this isn’t a prank, or the beginning of an Onion article that you clicked on by mistake. The businessman-turned-TV star-turned Republican presidential candidate, who vowed to “Make America Great Again” while further dividing the country along racial and ethnic lines, pulled out a jaw-dropping upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton that pundits will likely puzzle over for decades to come.

Clinton conceded shortly before 3 a.m., after Wisconsin was called for Trump.

Trump’s victory goes well beyond “Dewey Defeats Truman” or the Hanging Chads that decided the 2000 presidential race or whatever other how-bout-them-apples election surprise you learned about in your high school world history class. Clinton, a former Secretary of State, senator and First Lady, was widely expected to topple Trump — who ran a wildly unorthodox campaign — and become the country’s first female president.

But all of the Take It To The Bank prognostications went straight to hell on Election Day once Trump picked up crucial swing states — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania — and steadily won others that had previously been won by President Barack Obama, including Wisconsin and Michigan. The talking heads on television sputtered. The stock market took a massive nose dive, worse even than what we saw in the aftermath of 9/11. And Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed billionaire who bragged on the campaign trail that he could shoot a guy in broad daylight and not lose votes; Donald Trump, the husband and father who insisted he had great respect for women after audio footage emerged of him bragging before a TV gig years ago about how he likes to grab women by the pussy; Donald Trump, the political novice who was endorsed by the KKK and who claimed that he knew more about ISIS than actual military generals; that guy learned early this morning that in two months, will be handed the keys to the White House, and allowed to help direct the country’s future.

As a July Philadelphia magazine story on Trump-leaning York County showed, Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric resonated with people who were left disenfranchised by the continual erosion of working class and middle class jobs in the country, and who were disinclined to ever trust or vote for Clinton. She was forever tainted in the eyes of so many by issues that could be summed up in single-word chants: Benghazi! Emails! 

Trump knew how to capitalize on that perception, perpetually taunting Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” and vowing, during a nationally televised presidential debate, to have yet another investigation launched into her lost emails if he became president. There was nothing, frankly, that he wouldn’t say — promising to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and ban Muslims from entering the country were the first toes in the water, and when those ideas were embraced rather than scorned, he tried out others, like arguing that the election had been rigged as part of a grand conspiracy. Violence was encouraged at some of his rallies, and reporters who covered his campaign events were regularly singled out for scorn, opening the door for attendees to scream “Jew-S-A!” at some of them.

As of 7 a.m., Trump had won nearly 59 million votes. Some might tell you that they voted for him because they’re just fed up with Washington, D.C., and career politicians, and some will say it’s because he’ll be tougher on ISIS and illegal immigration, and some will argue he’s made a lot of money for himself over the years, so that could mean the country will prosper economically. But there’s simply no way to ignore the darker shadow that clung to this race like the stench of the death — the racist, sexist and xenophobic ideology that seemed reinvigorated now that it was allowed to re-emerge from the cellars where some of us naively thought we’d stored that part of our national identity.

It would be laughable to try and guess where things go from here. We’ve had unpopular presidents before; in some ways, every president is divisive. But there’s not much of a blueprint for a moment like this, when the country is being placed in the hands of a man who has never held political office before, a famously thin-skinned celebrity who has never contended with the endless give-and-take of governing or waded into complex situations on a global scale.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was in Philadelphia on Tuesday, telling a story about how this presidential race reminded him of 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater faced off in a contentious race, and worries about civil rights and desegregation and nuclear bombs swirled in the background, and the whole country felt like a damn powder keg. Jackson ended his story on a positive note — because Johnson won, and some things got a little better, even though it wasn’t easy. But then Lyndon Johnson never did talk about standing in the middle of 5th Avenue and shooting somebody just for the hell of it.

Follow @dgambacorta on Twitter.