As the world awoke to news that the United States now has a new President-elect, the full effect of the shock US election result is still in its infancy. With feelings across the USA covering triumph and jubilation to shock and despair, just how did America's 45th and newest President, Donald J. Trump, become the most powerful man in the world? And after such an unlikely result, what happens next?
The Man Who Came In From Nowhere
Many outside the USA are not aware of just how long the American electoral system really is. Easily lasting in the region of 18 months, its formative stages usually go unnoticed. And so it was this time around. Until a certain reality TV star, property tycoon and self-made billionaire decided to get involved.
Donald Trump had already had a little taste of a US presidential campaign back in 2000 when he ran as candidate for the Reform Party. However, he soon withdrew from that nomination race despite winning two primaries beforehand. It was assumed his interests now lay elsewhere, namely in business and reality TV, so not many took Trump's 2015 candidacy seriously. Many saw him as a humorous distraction to raise his own profile. Someone to ruffle feathers and liven up the usually dry political debates.
Certainly he was seen as no real threat to the political heavyweights that surrounded him, not only in the opposing Democratic party, but also in his own Republican party. But it was the billionaire outsider's comments at a rally announcing his intention to run for President that made the nation, and the world, take notice.
I'm not a politician
His notorious claim that he would build a "great, great wall" along the US & Mexico border was the first of a long list of brash and bold statements from the New Yorker, with many seeing such comments as being so far fetched and out of touch with reality that he couldn't possibly be taken seriously.
However, as the campaign rumbled on, his lack of political prowess and correctness served, not as a handicap, but as a qualification to propel him forward, even stating "I'm not a politician, I can proudly say". Despite this, or maybe because of it, his campaign was slowly gathering momentum among the so called disillusioned and forgotten people of America. Still the political elite, and millions of US citizens, discounted him.
It was only after, against all the odds, Trump had seen off every single one of his Republican opponents throughout the primary elections, that he officially announced his acceptance of the Republican
nomination to run for the Presidency - arguably the toughest job in world politics. This was the real start of one of the most remarkable campaigns in US election history.
A tough nut to crack
Trump's final hurdle in this mammoth Presidential campaign trail, was his Democratic opposite number, Hillary Clinton. No stranger to US politics, Clinton rose to fame as First Lady of The United States during former President and husband, Bill Clinton's reign, before becoming Senator for the state of New York in 2001.
Prior to becoming the US Secretary of State in 2009, her previous knowledge of a Presidential campaign in 2008--conceding in the final stages to would be President, Barack Obama--had surely given her a large dose of the experience needed to crack even the toughest of nuts on the 2015/16 US election trail. So then there were two. Trump vs. Clinton. For many, still confused as to how Trump, with zero political knowledge or experience, had made it so far, this represented the last chance for Clinton to finally take him out of the race, expose him and his non-policies for the bluster and machismo they really were. But no one predicted what would happen next.
An eye for an eye
Across September and October 2016, Trump and Clinton took to the stage in front of the TV cameras for a series of three, live Presidential debates. The first debate, in front of a mammoth 84 million viewers, saw Clinton become the first woman to debate as part of a US Presidential election campaign, with polls suggesting that she'd won the debate resoundingly. Two more debates followed with each one getting more and more acrimonious. In the third and final debate, not even a handshake was offered between them at the start of the proceedings, just a nod of the head and a forced smile through gritted teeth from the pair of them.
In a hard fought, often bitter, final stretch, both candidates dished the dirt on their opponent. With each of them fanning the flames of controversy surrounding the other, trying to destabilise their opponent's campaign. It seemed Clinton still had the edge on Trump, despite the FBI email scandal that Trump was so sure would pin Clinton back.
Clinton also stoked the fiery tempers of Trump's supporters earlier in the campaign, calling them a "basket of deplorables" for their perceived outlook on race and religion. Maybe the Clinton camp thought that would open the eyes of some of the Republican support to make them realise the mistake they could be about to make if they voted for Trump. A risky strategy, even with three months of the race left to run.
Undoubtedly though, far more controversy surrounded Trump. 14 separate issues dogged him throughout the campaign, most notably his refusal to release his tax returns, his almost bizarre use of Twitter, his comments made about women and his reliance on alleged lies, falsehoods and mistruths. Barely a day went by that wasn't plagued by controversy for either candidate, but while Clinton was repeatedly investigated for the email scandal and expressed regret for the "deplorables" comment, she usually chose to rise above the taunts to carry on in a professional and political manner. This wasn't a tactic Mr Trump chose to abide by.
Despite his obvious inexperience in the political arena, his lack of concern over policies, his unpredictability and his inability to give firm answers to specific questions, growing sections of the voting public were now seeing Trump as a breath of fresh air in the stale American political landscape. No accusations, slurs or misdemeanours were sticky enough to derail his campaign. No matter how hard the opposition threw them, they just slid right off. Every time he did take a dip in the polls, he kept on rising to the top and coming back stronger. Trump was fast becoming an actual, viable choice for President and a shock US election result.
As the Trump campaign steamrolled ahead, his policies honed in on immigration and his support for everyday, blue collar workers to retain more manufacturing inside the US. His rallies and speeches were talking directly to the people of the nation and he managed, somehow, to connect with his supporters in a way that Clinton never could.
Clinton herself had an army of support for her policies that included rights for women, gender and race equality and her popularity was high. Sadly for Clinton, this wasn't enough. Over the years, people had grown to mistrust her and her impressive CV showcasing a career in politics. In the end, it worked against her.
For many, she had become the face of everything that was wrong in US politics. Her claims of being the most qualified to lead America signalled a huge turning point for Trump and his supporters - they didn't want that experience. They saw it as sign that under Clinton, they were in for more of the same. People saw an opportunity for change in Trump. Much like the UK Brexit vote earlier in 2016, Americans were tired of the so called political elite in Washington that focused on wealth, prosperity and growth. They wanted someone who listened to the working class, the underdogs.
With his campaign funded by his own wealth and not reliant on donations from the rich or famous, a vote for Trump was seen as a vote against globalisation, against immigration and against the political elite. It was the ultimate protest vote.
What happens next?
Now, after a shock win and one of the biggest upsets in US election history, what happens to America and the world next? Much like Brexit, no one really knows and it will take a considerable amount of time before we see any major changes.
With Clinton's political career now all but over, there's a certain weight of expectancy to see if Trump follows through on his rally cries. One of his more immediate tasks is to follow through on his promise to bring the country together. That could be a very difficult job considering the verbal potshots he's fired throughout the campaign trail. But what about other issues - can he offer more than just quick fix solutions?
Having shaken the global markets after the US election results were announced, they did rise again almost immediately, but what of the US and global economy in the longer term? It's too soon to tell at the moment, as Trump declared "We have a great economic plan. We'll double our growth and have the strongest economy anywhere in the world".
Another bold statement that sounds hopeful for America. But the overall economic plans, however detailed they may or may not be, could have ramifications around the world that affect all of us as they trickle down to the man in the street.
It's clear that the political landscape has changed dramatically on both sides of the Atlantic and we've yet to see how any changes, planned or otherwise, will impact us. But, we all continue to watch with interest to see how the next chapters of the story unfold.