In one of the most shocking U.S. elections in modern political history, Donald Trump has defeated Hillary Clinton.
“I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans,” Trump said in his victory speech after the Associated Press called the race for him at 2:30 am Wednesday morning. Striking a conciliatory tone, Trump continued, “For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can work together and unify our great country.”
He also said Hillary Clinton had called him to concede the race. “Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” he said. “I mean that very sincerely.”
Trump’s upset was one he had been predicting for months, gleefully comparing himself to the Brexit vote in England. Yet it was one that almost no other major predictors foresaw, all giving Clinton various degrees of comfortable leads in their election day predictions.
“It was Donald Trump versus almost all the experts … it looks like Donald Trump was right,” Jake Tapper said on CNN at 10:40 pm on election night (before major battleground states had been called).
Trump, a reality television star and political neophyte, upended every rule in the book to clinch his victory. He bested 15 other candidates in the Republican primary, most of whom were governors and senators. “One of [Donald] Trump’s real sources of strength is not just that he took the fight to the elites in an abstract way, but that he was the one guy on a stage of 16 candidates who really seemed culturally disconnected from the other candidates,” J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, told TIME before the general election.
In the general election, Trump didn’t run his campaign in any sort of traditional way. He was outspent in campaign ads by Clinton by 3 to 1, and he had a small, disorganized ground game up against the Clinton election machine. TIME wrote two separate cover stories about the meltdowns and disarray inside the Trump campaign. Not to mention the candidate’s freewheeling, bombastic speaking style and penchant for engaging in Twitter fights with Gold Star families and former beauty pageant contestants.
But throughout his campaign, Trump openly flouted convention and touted his success in tapping into a populist vein in the country that no other candidates had been able to effectively access. “This is a movement,” Trump would tell his followers who showed up by the tens of thousands to see him speak. Many supported him from their anger and their sense that the country needs a big change, that the way government works is broken. In the final days of his campaign Trump began using the the slogan “drain the swamp” to talk about the nation’s capitol, which he said crowds loved.
Trump’s victory exposed real divisions and new fault lines in the American populace, as he was on track to win huge majorities of non-college educated whites, while winning less of college-educated whites, who are normally reliably Republican. The fight between the first female major party candidate and the man accused of sexually assaulting women also turned into a referendum on gender; “what women can be, and what men can get away with,” as TIME put it in the cover story the week before the election.
“There’s going to be a schism of some sort,” former Republican Gov. Bill Weld, who ran as the vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket this election, told TIME before the election.
As president, Trump has promised he will build a wall along the border with Mexico, suspend the Syrian refugee resettlement program, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and renegotiate NAFTA. His election, coupled with Republican control of Congress, will also likely put a new conservative Supreme Court justice in the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Conventional wisdom said everything from demographics to campaign infrastructure would keep Donald Trump from ever reaching the White House and making good on these goals. But Trump told his followers not to believe the polls showing him down and promised the pundits that there were secret Trump voters out there. “100%” his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted early Wednesday morning before the election was called, in response to a Washington Post writer tweeting, “There was a silent Trump vote. A big one.”
It turns out Trump was right.