The 2016 United States presidential election was defined by changes in modern news and social media, politics, and cybersecurity issues, causing the election to be extremely divisive and controversial. (Kurtzleben)
When campaigning began in 2015, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were the most prominent candidates. Clinton and Bush were both political insiders with a family history in politics. Early polls show Clinton beating bush 51% to 46% in a possible general election. Clinton’s campaign raised $794,875,608, and Bush’s campaign raised $155,838,961.
Bush, the Republican governor of Florida, began his campaign on June 15th, 2016. The Republican primaries featured the largest field of candidates of any primary in history. In 2015, Bush was ahead in the polls at 22%, followed by candidates Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee.
The Republican field of candidates was upended on June 16, 2015, when Donald Trump announced his campaign for the republican nomination. He ran on the slogan “Make America Great Again,” focusing on issues such as the loss of industrial manufacturing jobs in the midwest, decreasing trade deficits, fighting Islamic terrorism, and stopping illegal immigration to the United States of America through Mexico by building a wall on the U.S./Mexico border, which he claimed Mexico would pay for. Trump quickly gained popularity with working class white voters, quickly shooting past Walker, Rubio, Bush, Carson, Huckabee, Cruz, and others in polls. At the 2016 Republican National Convention from June 18th through June 21st, Trump won 45% percent of delegate votes, winning 1,441 delegates and and 37 states. Ted Cruz was second with 551 delegates, followed by Marco Rubio with 173 delegates and John Kasich with 161 delegates.
Clinton, the secretary of state under President Barack Obama, began her campaign on April 12, 2015. Her primary opponent was Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont who ran on a Democratic-Socialist platform that resonated with younger voters. Sanders ran on a platform of government-funded healthcare and higher education. Clinton appealed to Obama’s base, championing equality of race and gender and gaining support from racial minorities and upper-class democrats. Clinton wanted to close the gender pay gap, increase background checks on gun buyers, increase the minimum wage, and stay out of the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Sanders and Clinton were the only democratic candidates that remained by the Democratic National Convention on July 26, 2016. Clinton won 2,842 delegates to Sanders’ 1,865 delegates, although the popular vote was closer than many expected with Clinton receiving 55% of the vote to Sanders’ 43%.
The presidential candidates of both parties suffered from scandals and federal investigations. Clinton was called out by critics for using a personal email server as secretary of state, instead of federal servers that were more secure. Clinton was investigated by the FBI, and over 100 emails were found which contained classified information. Clinton was also accused of deleting emails that had been subpoenaed for investigation. She was further criticized when it was revealed that her server had been subject to hacking attempts. FBI director James Comey stated that she was careless in her handling of the situation, but not criminally negligent.
The controversy returned multiple times throughout the campaign, decreasing her support and giving her a reputation of dishonesty, which Donald Trump capitalized on by giving her the nickname “Crooked Hillary” and calling for her to jailed. Trump also said that if elected, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her.
Clinton also received criticism for her handling of the Benghazi situation. On September 11, 2012, a terrorist attack killed four american diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. Clinton and Obama were accused by critics of negligence during the attack that led to American deaths, and falsely blaming the attacks on a video mocking Islam.
Trump was also the subject of scandals during the 2016 election. Critics accused him of racism and xenophobia after his comments during the announcement of his candidacy, in which he said Mexico was sending drugs, crime, and rapists over the border. He was accused of sexism after a recording of him was leaked in which he referred to “grabbing [women] by the pussy” without consent. (Kurtzleben).
Trump was also accused of intolerance for his comments on Muslims. Notably he proposed a ban on immigration from certain Muslim countries: “A prohibition of Muslims — an unprecedented proposal by a leading American presidential candidate, and an idea more typically associated with hate groups — reflects a progression of mistrust that is rooted in ideology as much as politics.” (Kurtzleben). This is one example of the divisiveness of ideology in the 2016 election.
Trump was also accused of ties with Russian government, and Russian meddling in the US election. FBI investigation found that Russia created fake social media accounts to promote Trump and discourage support for Hillary Clinton. They spread false information and “fake news” to increase political tension in the United States. Russian hackers also hacked into multiple sources of confidential information, releasing the information and hurting Clinton’s campaign. The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee were hacked, and emails were stolen and released. Much of the stolen information was distributed through Wikileaks.
Three televised debates took place during the general election between Clinton and Trump. The first debate took place on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York. It was viewed by 84 million people and was the most viewed presidential debate in American history. Polls showed that 62% of viewers thought that Clinton won the debate.
The second debate took place on October 9, 2016 in Saint Louis, Missouri. It was viewed by 67 million people. Polls showed that 57% of viewers thought that Clinton won the debate. During the debate, United States citizen Ken Bone wore a red sweater and asked an excellent question about energy, earning him short-lived praise and internet stardom after the debate.
The third debate took place on September 26, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was viewed by 72 million people. Polls showed that 52% of viewers thought that Clinton won the debate. A vice presidential debate also took place between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine at Longwood University in Virginia on October 4, 2016. Polls showed that Pence won the debate.
Despite her performance in the debates and the predictions made by pre-election polls, Clinton lost the electoral vote to Donald Trump. Most polls predicted at least a 70 percent chance of a victory for Clinton. On November 8, 2016, Trump won 306 electoral votes and Clinton only won 232. Trump won key states Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Trump also won Michigan, which was expected to vote democratically as it did in 2012 and 2008.
538s Nate Silver writes on the reason for Clinton unexpected loss: “By one measure, Wisconsin was the most important state in the nation in November. According to FiveThirtyEight’s tipping-point calculation, it was the state that put Donald Trump over the top to 270 electoral votes and the White House. (Or at least arguably it did: Pennsylvania has a competing tipping-point claim.1) So here’s an interesting question: How many times did Hillary Clinton visit Wisconsin during the general election? The answer: Zip, zilch, nada. She didn’t set foot in the Badger State after losing the Democratic primary there to Sen. Bernie Sanders in April.” (Silver). Many experts agreed that Clinton had not spent enough time campaigning in important states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
Clinton did however win the popular vote. She received 62,523,126 overall votes to Trump’s 61,201,031 votes. (Kurtzleben, Danielle)