It was June of this year. About 150 of my fellow Georgians were gathered around the grand staircase in the home of Atlanta business legend Charlie Loudermilk. Speaking to the group, Donald Trump put me on the spot.
“Matt, whose going to win in November?” Trump had reminded my friends there that I predicted he would win the GOP nomination even before he entered the race, having written so in my December 2014 syndicated column. One thing I had learned over the years is that the New York businessman reads a lot and is never hesitant to give you his thoughts. He writes on a copy of the column and has it scanned and emailed by his assistant.
I also learned that he never forgets.
I was on the spot. How did I answer him? I’ll leave that for the end. Instead, I’ll first focus on the beginning.
America has become a nation captivated by celebrity. Many years ago I penned a piece stating that, based on polling, reality TV would die a quick death. Boy was I wrong.
Trump took his celebrity and unabashed entertainment style and brought to politics a rough and tumble and often raw style which captivated the imagination of those who came to love him, hate him or who were simply stunned or shocked by his presentation.
And he coupled that brazen style with simple messages of a wall, of America “winning again,” of law and order and a promise of a return to prosperity for the average working man and woman.
He spoke in simple sentences deliberately aimed at a listener with the nation’s educational average of an 8th grader. He added concepts easily imaginable to the most people, like that “beautiful big door” that he said would offer hope to the masses he would block with that wall from entering this nation from Mexico.
As the media started its nearly instantaneous and, for the most part, endless attack on him following his announcement in June of 2015, his message increasingly became one of taking on “the establishment.”
Then came the GOP debates. From the very first question to Trump, the already demonized “elite media” was joined by the political establishment. Candidates with a plethora of political experience found themselves taking turns swiping at him only to be reduced to monikers such as “low energy Jeb” and “little Marco.”
By the time Hillary Clinton– the uber-professional of the political game– earned her shot at him, Trump had already planted the seeds of victory.
His message, delivery, and attack tactics had galvanized a demographic that for years had been left unmotivated by GOP presidential nominees. White male voters came out in droves for Trump and they voted for him by a huge margin. White females weren’t that far behind them. In fact, combined, 58% of all Caucasian voters voted for Trump.
Contrary to the immediate mythology of the contest, it wasn’t just voters with only a high school degree who cast their ballot for Trump. He carried over 50 percent of voters with only a high school degree or with some college education. And among the often mentioned “college graduates” he trailed Clinton by only 4 points. Only those with post graduate degrees went heavily for Clinton.
As for the evangelical Christian vote, the man who allegedly groped women and quite definitely could speak– to put it politely– “colorfully,” carried 90% of their vote.
Equally amazing was the fact that Trump exceeded the performance of Mitt Romney’s 2012 contest among both African-American and Hispanic/Latino voters.
It’s simply too trite to say that Trump won because he took on the establishment. That was the message in a nutshell, but it wasn’t the main reason for his victory.
Trump won because he managed to make the 2016 election one big reality show. He grabbed the nation’s attention in a way no other political candidate had ever come close to. In the end his supporters turned out to make sure he wasn’t voted off an island or, in Apprentice lingo, that he didn’t get fired.
So how did I answer the question he put to me last June?
“You will win Donald. It will be Donald J. Trump.”
I really had no clue. But I knew one thing, Donald Trump never forgets.
Matt Towery is the Chairman of InsiderAdvantage as well as an attorney, author and former Georgia state legislator. This oped first appeared in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.