According to presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton because he connected with the voters on an emotional level that his rival couldn’t. In a CNN interview, Goodwin said Trump had a message that Americans had been waiting to hear.
“Donald Trump told a story, whether true or not, that people felt was real,” she said. “You know, that he was going to make America Great Again, that something had happened to this country, and that the people who had lost their jobs and their income and their dignity — he would make it better.
“And that kind of story somehow reached out to a certain part of America. And even if Hillary’s plans and her programs might have touched those people more deeply, the connection emotionally between her and those people seemed to have been lost.”
There is truth in what Goodwin’s saying, but she – like so many other commentators – makes the mistake of assuming that Trump “conned” the white working class into voting for his impossible promises. That’s a narrative that needs to be laid to rest. Is Trump going to live up to every campaign promise? Of course not. That makes him just like every other president in American history.
The difference here is that voters weren’t necessarily counting on Trump to magically “fix” everything wrong with the United States. What we liked about Trump was his attitude. If you can’t at least start with unapologetic patriotism and a desire to put Americans before foreign nations, what good are you?
Goodwin said she was caught off guard when voters rewarded Trump for his boastful tendencies.
“I think overcoming adversity is an extraordinarily important trait for a leader,” she said, “which was what stunned me, in a way, when Donald Trump said that he had the very, very best temperament of anybody who had ever run for the president because he always won, that he had a winning temperament.”
But see, that’s part of it as well. Twenty years ago, we understood as a country that America needed to be number one, that winning was better than losing, and that our nation was the greatest democracy in human history. In that environment, a braggart just comes across as annoying.
But we aren’t in that environment anymore, and that’s what made Trump a breath of fresh air. If his presidency is as refreshing as his candidacy, we’ll have no regrets.