(UPI) — Republican Donald Trump on Tuesday completed one of the most improbable campaigns in American history, going from business mogul and tabloid sensation to a reality television star — and now the 45th president of the United States.
His stunning victory deals a searing blow to Democrats, who hoped eight years after sending the first black man to the Oval Office they would break through the highest glass ceiling for women. In the end, Clinton, a candidate with three decades of experience in public service, was dogged by political scandals past and present that overshadowed her potentially historic White House bid.
Trump, having concluded one of the most divisive campaigns in U.S. history, spoke in the wee hours of Wednesday, promising to unite a country after a closely fought race and “bind the wounds of division.”
“It is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out for your help so we can unify and bring together our great country,” he said.
Trump was gracious speaking of Clinton.
“She congratulated us — it’s about us — on our victory and I congratulated her and her family on a very, very, very hard fought campaign. 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. I mean that very sincerely,” he said.
By the UPI/CVoter projections, Trump won at least 284 votes in the Electoral College, with some state races still too close to call. Candidates need 270 to win.
Trump’s campaign roused a sleeping giant in American politics: working-class white people, a group that powered the Reagan revolution in the 1980s, but had failed to produce a popular majority in five of the last six elections. Trump’s aggressive, unapologetic rhetoric about a nation suddenly devoid of its prior greatness offended millions, but served as a call to arms for millions more.
His policy prescriptions also ignored political norms for a national campaign, channeling the anger of Internet message boards and conservative talk radio into a set of proposals that, if enacted, would permanently change the face of the nation and its relationship to the world. He has proposed building a wall on the Mexican border and promised he will force the Mexican government to pay for it. He assured voters the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants will begin immediately after he is sworn in. He has promised to rip up free trade deals and set fire to an international climate pact negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama and 200 other nations. He has hinted American military alliances will be subject to allies paying for U.S. protection.
His campaign drew crowds more in line with a rock concert or a football game, and were frequently just as rowdy. Chants of “lock her up!” referencing Clinton’s private email server scandal, were as frequent as “USA! USA! USA!” The rallies occasionally turned violent, when supporters physically accosted protesters, with Trump as emcee sometimes egging them on.
Trump ascends to the presidency after running one of the most unconventional campaigns in the nation’s history. He began the race by calling Mexicans “rapists” and “murderers.” He repeatedly brawled with his Republican primary opponents including a string of debates each nastier than the last.
He referred to his opponents not with their political honorifics senator, governor or secretary, but with schoolyard taunts: “Little” Marco Rubio, “Lyin'” Ted Cruz, “Low Energy” Jeb Bush, “Crooked” Hillary Clinton.
And that was only the policy end of a campaign that was defined just as often by public feuds the candidate engaged in with ordinary Americans.
He publicly criticized a Muslim Gold Star family that lost a son in Iraq after they criticized his proposal to halt virtually all Muslim immigration. He ridiculed a former Miss Universe as fat after she became a topic of discussion at the first presidential debate.
Even a month ago, Trump’s hopes for the presidency seemed all but lost, after a tape of him speaking into a hot microphone for Access Hollywood in 2005 captured vulgar comments, as he boasted his celebrity status empowered him to kiss and grope women without their consent.
After the tape, a dozen women came forward, each telling a similar story of Trump kissing or groping them against their will – and Trump responded by calling the women liars who were out for attention. Some he said were not pretty enough to warrant his attention.
In electing Trump, millions of Americans voted for a candidate about whose personal finances – and vast business empire – they know less than any major party nominee in the last 40 years. Trump steadfastly refused to open his tax returns to public scrutiny, citing an ongoing audit by the Internal Revenue Service. The New York Times published one year of his taxes, 1996, which showed Trump took a loss of nearly $1 billion, which he later acknowledged he has used to offset taxes on his personal income for more than 18 years.