Trump won because of a backlash against politically correct culture.
No, I don’t mean in the short term. In the short term, Trump won because his promises to shuffle up the political and economic status quo appealed to “Reagan Democrats” in Rust Belt states that Romney was unable to win because he embodied the status quo. Trump won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin and possibly Michigan because he promised (misguided) protectionist policies that appealed there. He also won because Clinton proved unable to inspire anything close to President Obama’s turnout in 2012 (Trump is actually going to end up with about the same amount of votes as Romney).
But step back, and look at the bigger picture. How was Trump even here at all? He survived a litany of scandals and political faux-pas, any one of which would have sunk your typical candidate. Just look at not-for-much-longer Senator Mark Kirk in Illinois and how quickly he was sunk by an admittedly dumb, but probably not malicious, comment about challenger Tammy Duckworth’s Thai heritage.
Trump was here because he took on the mantle of the warrior against political correctness early on, and used that shield throughout his campaign. By successfully painting the media and Washington politicians as peddlers of a culture of political correctness that stifled good ideas, he handed himself a get-out-of-jail-free card that he was able to use again and again throughout his campaign.
This backlash is the source of the alt-right movement. The alt-right movement embraces rhetoric that is, by any measure, pretty repulsive. But they embrace it because to them, it is an expression of their freedom, a counter to an increasingly oppressive media and political culture that slings terms like “sexist,” “homophobic,” and “racist” around at any person that looks at them the wrong way.
This is not to say that these terms never apply. They usually do apply to the alt-right. But they are so commonly used that almost anyone with conservative views gets called them fairly often, no matter how moderate or tame their language. Support the right to life? Sexist. Believe government should not have a role in defining marriage? Homophobe. Think people should have to provide identification before voting? Racist.
When this happens, the terms become meaningless. I assure you that every single person who supported Trump was called at least one of these terms long before Trump even came along, either directly or because of how a member of the media or Congress referred to someone with the same views. So when Trump came along, and was correctly excoriated in the press and called a racist, sexist homophobe, it did not mean anything. Trump supporters had heard it all before, and if anything, it endeared Trump to them even more. Sure, Trump took some slight hits among moderate demographics, but he always came back because the ground never fell out from under him.
I hope the Left learns something from all of this. It is the classic lesson of the boy who cried wolf. Democratic politicians made dramatic claims about how evil each Republican who came along was in order to win elections, almost always without any real cause. Democrats across the country found it easier to explain opposition to their views by simply dismissing Republicans as bigots and referred to Republicans as such. Republicans grew tired of the constant insults and embraced someone who was called everything they were, and yet stayed strong in the polls. The result was President Trump. It’s too late to stop President Trump from happening, but hopefully this will spur Democrats and liberals to abandon this false understanding of what Republicans are. Racism, sexism and homophobia are problems, not political tools. This election will either cause the Democrats who took political correctness to an extreme to treat them as such, or they will continue to lose elections.