The Republican contender has upturned the American political establishment. On his path to victory he fully embraced this fact, rather than trying to present himself as another statesman.

Donald Trump gave his victory speech in New York City the early hours of Wednesday morning
Donald Trump gave his victory speech in New York City the early hours of Wednesday morning

Americans have made history today, electing a businessman-turned-reality television star as the president of the United States. The Republican Donald Trump has handed the Democrat Hillary Clinton a humiliating defeat, which almost none of the opinion polls, pundits or real-time analytics predicted.

Victorious in battleground states, including Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, and stunning the country by bagging Pennsylvania, Trump has continued to befuddle the millions who never thought the day would come when the man behind The Apprentice would be running a world superpower. It was one of the most polarising political campaigns in living US history.

Trump has always presented himself as a larger-than-life personality.

A man who marries European models. Who embosses his name in giant gold letters atop of Manhattan skyscrapers. The privileged white man from Queens who gets name-checked in the raps of Lil Wayne and Kanye West.

For decades now, and throughout hundreds of media appearances, he has carefully crafted himself as the embodiment of the American dream as seen by a 12-year-old boy in New Jersey.

But in politics, his closest antecedent is a man few, if any people, in the United States have heard of.

Though he headed into Election Day as the nominee from the party of Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, the man Trump has the most in common with is Wendell Wilkie, the little-known political novice who ran against Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) in 1940.

More than 70 years after Wilkie — a businessman with no prior political experience — tried to challenge FDR, Trump has become only the second complete political outsider in US history to front a major party ticket. And the first to win the presidency.

Whereas his rival boasted decades of experience at nearly every level of US politics, it was precisely Trump's brash outsider status that has motivated millions of voters in the United States to carry the former reality star, the Republican nominee, to the White House.

Trump had no well-established political structure to fall back on, but what he did — and still does, more than ever before — have, is instant name recognition.

A name recognition that is due in large part to the many businesses and products that make up the Trump brand.

For the many who do support him, the fact that Trump feels more at home on Madison Avenue or Wall Street offered a comforting change from his opponent, a career politician whose political life spans the governor's mansion in the southern state of Arkansas, the East Wing of the White House as First Lady, the Congress as a junior senator from New York and finally, the state department as secretary of state.

It was his pointed attacks against his opponent's traditional path to the White House, and what was viewed as her political "insider" status that invigorated so many of his backers.

At the third presidential debate, Trump acknowledged his main opponent's experience, saying: "The one thing you have over me is experience … You talk but you don't get anything done."

He has taken other opportunities to label his opponent "Crooked Hillary," a reference to her use of private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

Donald Trump began his career in the 1980s as a real estate developer in New York City. (Reuters)
Donald Trump began his career in the 1980s as a real estate developer in New York City. (Reuters)

He also gained support by taking a hardline stance on immigration, saying he will build a wall along the Mexican border and end trade deals he believes are taking jobs from US workers.

"When Mexico sends its people …They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists," he said at the announcement of his candidacy last June.

These policies have earned him a considerable following among white voters without college degrees.

"Today the American working class is going to strike back, finally," he said at a last-minute campaign stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Monday.

In a May 2016 essay, Derek Thompson, a senior editor at The Atlantic, said Trump's comments on immigration and trade is especially pertinent for blue-collar workers who feel they have been marginalised by the loss of factory jobs to outsourcing and globalisation.

This assertion is further buoyed by a Wall Street Journal report that said Trump had secured victory in areas that were most negatively affected by competition from China.

The man, the brand

Unlike other presidential candidates before him, Trump had a nearly unchanging brand to present to US voters.

He didn't need a kitschy "I Like Ike"-style slogan to gain people's attention - his two divorces, four bankruptcies and endless high-profile feuds had already firmly established it.

After all, this is a man whose first major foray into national politics was a years-long media campaign in which he constantly espoused the false "Birther" theory that President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, was not born in the United States.

It was a dangerous, racially charged and clearly false, accusation, but Trump rode the so-called Birther movement for five years. It wasn't until the final weeks of this election that he finally accepted the truth that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii.

Regardless of his concession, the rhetoric worked.

This week,The Crusader, a newspaper affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist movement in the US, published an article supporting Trump's bid for the presidency.

Trump's eponymous chain of hotels and casinos have filed for corporate bankruptcy four times between 1991 and 2009 [Reuters]
Trump's eponymous chain of hotels and casinos have filed for corporate bankruptcy four times between 1991 and 2009 [Reuters]

"America was founded as a White Christian Republic. And as a White Christian Republic it became great," the article, referencing Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," read.

The Trump campaign quickly distanced themselves from the publication, but it's not the first time the GOP nominee's rhetoric has earned him support among white nationalists.

In January, the editor of a white nationalist magazine in the state of Iowa recorded a robocall message urging Iowans to back Trump.

In February, David Duke, a former head of the KKK,expressed his support of Trump.

"We both simply sound like you," Duke, running for Senate in the southern state of Louisiana, said of the Republican nominee and himself in a campaign commercial.

Off Script

Rather than trying to act to the part of a statesman, Trump has spent the last 511 days ramping up his braggadocios persona.

There were questions, too, about his strange affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, Trump has managed to rally a voter base of mainly white men making less than $50,000 a year. Many of his supporters, according to The Washington Post are self-identified conservatives.

From the start, Trump made it known that he had little interest in censoring himself to appeal to the masses.

At his campaign announcement last June, Trump spent a large portion of his 40-minute speech bashing immigrants from Mexico as criminals and "rapists" who are "bringing drugs" into the US.

The outrage at his comments was instantaneous.

Major business partners, including NBC the network that aired The Apprentice and Macy's and Serta — who had carried Trump-branded ties and mattresses — severed ties with him.

But the uproar seemed to have little effect on Trump himself. If anything, he became more bombastic as the election wore on.

In December 2015, Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States. He bolstered that claim in February 2016 when he said he had "absolutely no problem" with "looking Syrian children in the face" and telling them "they can't come" to the United States.

From then on, the controversies kept rolling in.

There was his refusal to release his tax returns, a first among major party candidates in four decades. Then came his comments about the family of Captain Humayun Khan — a US soldier who died fighting in Iraq. At the end of their first face-to-face debate, Hillary Clinton reminded the public of Trump's derogatory remarks about a beauty queen, whom he referred to as "Miss Piggy."

Locker room talk

But it took a decade-old video of Trump on an entertainment news programme to dent his campaign.

One the 2005 tape, Trump, who was still hosting The Apprentice, bragged he routinely forced himself forced on women.

Seemingly unaware that his microphone was switched on, Trump spoke of hitting on a married woman and how (according to him) his celebrity status allowed him to have his way with women.

"Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything," the former real estate magnate-turned-reality-star, said on his way to meet a soap opera star.

Trump tried to divert attention to the controversy by bringing up the sexual proclivities and alleged misconduct of Bill Clinton, his Democratic opponent's husband and a former two-term US president.

He even invited four women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment to a press conference only hours before his second debate with Hillary Clinton. He brought the four women as his guests to the second debate in Missouri, where they sat in one of the first rows.

But it proved to be the controversy that would not go away.

At the debate, Anderson Cooper, one of the moderators, raised the issue within the first 20 minutes.

"You bragged that you sexually assaulted women, do you understand that?" Anderson asked only 48 hours after the tape surfaced.

Trump responded by calling his statements "locker room talk."

It was an attempt to brush off his comments as nothing more than a form of misogynistic bragging among adolescent heterosexual men in the United States.

A Gallup poll conducted in February found that 22 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents listed Trump's reputation as a 'good businessman' as the most important reason for voting for him. (Reuters)
A Gallup poll conducted in February found that 22 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents listed Trump's reputation as a 'good businessman' as the most important reason for voting for him. (Reuters)

It didn't work. His opponents quickly latched on to the comments as proof that Trump lacked the moral fortitude and temperament required for the presidency.

At an October campaign event for Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, the current First Lady, berated Trump for comments she said were below "basic standards of human decency."

"This wasn't just locker room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behaviour, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turned on the TV," Obama said.

Trump tried hard to put the controversies behind him; he turned to a different tactic, claiming the election was rigged against him.

"Millions of people are registered to vote who shouldn't be," he said during his final debate with Hillary Clinton.

In fact, he ended that debate in typical Trump style, with a bombshell.

When Chris Wallace, the debate moderator, asked Trump if he would concede in case of a loss, he responded simply: "I will tell you at the time … I'll keep you in suspense."

It seemed a fitting end to Trump's unconventional campaign. Today Clinton is the one who had to pick up the phone and concede to Trump.

In the year-and-a-half since declaring his candidacy, Trump has managed to survive controversy after controversy — nearly all a result of his own words or actions — and still maintain support from millions of US voters. All this despite suffering from the lowest favourability ratings in the history of US presidential elections.

Even before his victory on election day, he had already guaranteed that he would not fade into obscurity like Wilkie.

Now, the ballots have been cast. The campaign posters will be placed in an archive and in four years, new candidates will appear, but Trump — both the man, the brand, and the future president — will carry on.

His name will not be forgotten in the annals of political history. It's etched permanently into the Manhattan skyline, and, soon, it will be etched on the door of the Oval Office.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies