Business mogul Donald J. Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States. The act of writing that factual sentence represents the surreal culmination of a surreal election cycle, the likes of which the country has never witnessed. A few thoughts:
(1) This was an upset of epic proportions. Needless to say, based on all of the available data -- including, reportedly, to the Trump campaign itself -- most analysis did not see this coming. Myself very much included. Based on polling and electoral models, the GOP nominee looked like he needed to win every state carried by Mitt Romney in 2012, flip Florida, Ohio, and Iowa, then find a way to break through Clinton's "blue firewall" to cobble together the remaining electoral tallies. I called this plausible and laid out an accurate road map to how it could happen, but did not believe he would pull it off. Not only did he do so, he burned the so-called firewall to the ground. He won Wisconsin. He won Pennsylvania, he won an electoral vote in Maine. And as of this writing (5:00 am ET), he may yet win Michigan and/or New Hampshire. These are feats no Republican presidential ticket has accomplished in decades. The state-level polling was wrong. The data was wrong. The models were wrong. Hidden Trump voters were real. Rally sizes were indicative of the enthusiasm gap. An inferior ground game didn't matter. Getting outspent by a lot didn't matter (the consecutive low-budget vanquishing of Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton destroyed the Left's "money runs politics" meme). Having an unfavorable rating of roughly 60 percent, with large majorities rejecting his qualifications and temperament, didn't matter. A sizable chunk of those people voted for him anyway. Much, much more on all of these details to come, but for now, NBC's Mark Murray summed things up rather well:
Everything I thought I knew about presidential races ('00, '04, '08, '12) turned out to be incorrect. The polls. The parties. Turnout.— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) November 9, 2016
(2) The abject political humiliation of Hillary Rodham Clinton is complete. She's spent practically her entire adult life building up to this moment, and she choked, losing to Donald Trump -- the least popular (according to finalized exit polls) presidential nominee in American polling history. We already knew that the American people neither liked nor trusted Mrs. Clinton. Now we know exactly how deep those sentiments ran. The Democratic establishment heavily tilted their primary in the favor of an incorrigibly corrupt liar, and they've paid an extraordinary political price for their myopic machinations. Hillary Clinton may have wriggled off the hook for her many scandals, but fate caught up with her. Her ultimate indictment was delivered by the American people.
(3) The policy legacy of President Barack Obama is a smoldering wreckage. Trump ran as the anti-Obama in virtually every way imaginable, and he prevailed. Obama explicitly argued that the election of Hillary Clinton was necessary to secure his legacy; voters responded with a decisive, "no thanks." It's all in jeopardy now. The reckless Iran deal. The failing, unpopular Obamacare scheme. The slew of legally dubious executive orders. And the list goes on. Obama will now hand over the White House and the highest office in the land to a man who effectively launched his political career by questioning his eligibility to hold that office. It's truly unbelievable.
(4) The Republican Party's victory was extraordinary and comprehensive across the board. Democrats picked off just a handful of House seats (fewer than I'd projected), so a large GOP lower chamber majority remains in place. Much to my shock and delight, Republicans not only held the Senate, they will have at least 52 Senators when the new Congress convenes in January. Quite possibly 53. And there are rumors that at least one red state Democrat may be considering switching parties. (As a reminder, the Democrats' 2018 Senate map is brutal). Several of these Senate Republicans won smashing victories in crucial swing states. Portman by 21 in Ohio. Rubio by eight in Florida. Ron Johnson (!) by five in Wisconsin. Hats off to the NRSC on a cycle for the ages, in light of the task at hand. Chuck Schumer will be the Senate Minority Leader, replacing the departing and cretinous Harry Reid. Last but certainly not least, Republicans actually gained governorships. As of this writing, GOP executives will control at least 33 of the nation's 50 states. Two-thirds. That is flat-out dominance. Thus, for all the perceived and real divisions on the Right (Trump's election is a watershed, revolutionary moment), the Left is about to undergo some extremely nasty political recriminations:
The blood letting on the left is going to be intense.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) November 9, 2016
(5) Senate Republicans' decision to follow the Biden Rule and decline to confirm the lame duck president's Supreme Court pick to replace the late Justice Scalia has been vindicated. The people must decide this election first, they argued. And now the people have spoken. Donald Trump has floated a strong list of possible nominees, and conservatives must do what they can to hold him accountable and ensure that he follows through on his pledge to appoint a jurist in the Scalia model. If he does, this is a massive, massive victory for constitutionalists, and a devastating blow to Democrats, who were licking their chops over tugging the federal judiciary significantly to the left. The courts were the top reason to oppose Clinton's candidacy, in my view.
(6) I've made no secret of my views on Donald Trump. Those views have not changed -- although I was very happy to describe his victory speech as gracious, magnanimous, humble, serious, conciliatory, and yes, even presidential. I pray that he will internalize and respect the profound awesomeness of the office and the power it entails. I will pray for our new president. Over the course of my opposition to Trump, people have asked my what I would do if he were to win. I answered that question in a mid-September essay:
If he should win, I'll admit that I was wrong about his viability (I've consistently pegged his chances of prevailing at about 20 percent, largely because his opponent is so terrible), celebrate America's delicious rejection of Mrs. Clinton, relish the brutal affront to Obamaism, and set about supporting and opposing Trump's actions in office, as necessary. I appreciate that many will disagree with this approach, but it's the best I've got under the circumstances. My job, as I see it, is to offer political reporting, analysis, and commentary rooted in reason and prudential judgment, and guided by a moral compass -- and to do so with intellectual honesty and transparency.
I meant every word of that. And now here we are today. The '20 percent' miracle happened, thanks in large measure to the surpassing, historic terribleness of Hillary Clinton. The "unelectable" man was elected. (Yes, the stronger showings of other major Republicans down-ballot strongly indicate that a less flawed GOP nominee may have crushed her by an even more astonishing margin, but that argument is moot now). I continue to harbor grave worries about the temperament, character and ideological underpinnings of President-elect Trump. Nevertheless:
I will pray for him as POTUS & will give him the benefit of the doubt. Hope that I'll be able to support him a lot more than I oppose him. https://t.co/mzL30g8zU5— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 9, 2016
I'll leave you with this throwback to the day Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination for president. I called her the "Unpopular, Corrupt, Shameless Habitual Liar Democrats Deserve." In a year in which I've been wrong about a number of things -- defensibly so, I'd argue, but wrong nevertheless -- I was absolutely right about her. And with that: Onward, to this new, improbable chapter in American history.