The Donald Trump experiment is what the American people want.
With his victory Tuesday over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republicans have taken back the White House after eight years of Democratic President Barack Obama.
And political observers are assessing how different 2016 was from previous presidential elections.
Social media and so-called alternative news sites found a way to drive campaigns as never before, they say.
Both parties now face identity crises, and must find ways to bring into the fold increasingly powerful factions that feel left behind by traditional politics and national policies, including international trade.
Here’s a look at 10 of the lessons of presidential politics that were learned in 2016.
1. Outsiders’ influence is growing
The ability of two outsiders – Trump and sometimes Democrat Bernie Sanders – to shake the nation’s two political parties to their core this year showed just how dissatisfied voters have become with traditional politics.
“Voters across the political spectrum feel like something is deeply broken in American politics, so their objective in this cycle was to bring in an outsider,” S.C. Republican Party chairman Matt Moore said. Voters, he added, “do not trust those who are part of the system to fix it.”
Republican Trump, a political newcomer, and U.S. Sen. Sanders of Vermont, a self-described democratic socialist who joined the Democratic Party only when he sought its nomination, drew huge followings among voters disenchanted by the traditional two-party system.
Bucking free trade, both candidates appealed to populist anger over a once-thriving U.S. economy that has shipped jobs overseas, leaving behind idled blue-collar workers, many white.
Trump tied the loss of jobs to failures in immigration policy, which he also linked to inner-city violence and the illegal drug trade.
Like Sanders, Trump positioned himself as an alternative who would disrupt Washington’s influential elite, amassing a powerful following among voters. And Trump’s crowd carried him to the White House.
2. Dems, GOP face identity crises
Now, both parties must respond to the concerns of voters who backed Trump and Sanders, “making people feel that their voices are respected and valued and heard,” said S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison. “I anticipate that both parties will do a lot of introspection.”
Sanders failed to stop Clinton, but he pushed the Democratic Party left, showing the dissatisfaction of progressives and raising questions about the fairness of the party’s nominating process.
Harrison says Democrats must embrace progressives. “The day that we don’t understand that we’re a big tent, and are tolerant and open to the diversity of ideas within the party is the day that the party shrinks.”
The party also must address the desire of its base to have younger, fresh leadership at its top, something that Clinton – a figure in Washington for almost 30 years as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state – could not claim to be, said Alissa Warters, a Francis Marion University political scientist.
The GOP also has questions to answer, despite winning the White House and retaining control of Congress.
Trump’s vision for the country often conflicts with conventional Republican Party views and even with his own running mate, leading to questions about the GOP’s values.
While the GOP has championed foreign interventions, Trump is wary. While Republican leaders advocate free trade, reforming entitlements and fretting about the national debt, Trump advocates tariffs, maintaining Social Security and trickle-down tax cuts that would add trillions to the national debt.
3. Campaigns go social
Presidential politics increasingly is waged via social media, not political party.
Both Clinton and Trump leaned heavily on social media in their campaigns. Trump amassed more than 14 million followers on Twitter to Clinton’s nearly 11 million.
The ability to communicate directly with voters is a huge force in campaigns now, Moore said.
“Donald Trump has his own channel: 20+ million social media followers,” Moore said. “That is something we have never seen in politics before.”
That direct communication can be a two-edged sword, however.
Trump’s social media often was spontaneous, which got him into trouble at times but did not sink his campaign. For example, a predawn tweet by Trump lashing out at a former Miss Universe, who accused him of sexism, ended up dominating more than a week of the news cycle.
4. Privacy is history
Francis Marion’s Warters pointed to Wikileaks’ publication of emails from Clinton and her campaign, and Trump’s 2005 taped conversation in which he brags about sexually assaulting women as examples that privacy is history.
“Because of social media and the ability for everything to be hacked, everything to be filmed, everybody having a camera on their phone, really nothing is secret anymore,” she said.
Moving forward, candidates likely will assume that “every word, every action is being watched, and you have to presume that it is going to come back and haunt you,” the political scientist said.
5. Noise tops issues
While social media and the internet now can power a campaign, they also have a downside for candidates and the political process, the GOP’s Moore said.
Campaigns and traditional news outlets are dealing with “the rise of literally thousands of media sources” with “questionable sourcing and truthfulness,” Moore said. “That is something that no one predicted.”
Many of the new media sources are agenda-driven, pushing out one-sided and often-false “news” stories that spread like wildfire on social media. That interferes with political parties’ ability to set their own agendas, define the campaign’s issues and share their own message about the candidates.
The parties – especially the GOP – must do more to push back, Moore said.
6. Traditional media under siege
Traditional news outlets always ends up a favorite punching bag for political candidates.
But U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, said threats to traditional media have gone further this cycle than in previous ones.
Clyburn compared Trump’s threat to make it easier to sue media and his accusations the media “rigged” the election with rhetoric employed by fascist dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
“The worst thing that could happen to any democracy is for the fourth estate to be undercut or muted in any way,” Clyburn said. “I don’t like everything I see in the newspapers, including some of the things they write about me. But I think it is necessary to keep an independent press if we’re going to keep our democracy in check.”
Many Trump supporters are distrustful of traditional media and likely will not change their minds after so many outlets projected Clinton would win easily on election night.
“National media ... is really suspect after this election,” said Clemson University pollster Dave Woodard, a sometimes GOP consultant.
7. Presidential campaigns become reality TV
2016 might be remembered as the year presidential campaigns became reality TV.
A master of selling “interesting TV,” Trump earned a lot of free media coverage, Democrat Harrison said. Some estimate the value of the exposure Trump, a billionaire businessman and former reality-TV star, received for free on cable TV outlets at $3 billion.
Now, Harrison fears future candidates will see Trump’s election as offering a road map, including prescribing that they “need to be overly bombastic so they get this earned media.”
Harrison said news outlets must take responsibility for their influence.
Trump’s celebrity and divisive rhetoric also took away from coverage of policy, some say.
“For Trump, his rhetoric is so inflammatory anyway, that that became the news story, not what he was trying to talk about or any issue he’s interested in,” said Clemson’s Woodard. “His personality and rambunctious nature became the story.”
8. Polls, experts are not perfect
Almost no one predicted Trump’s win.
The analytical website FiveThirtyEight gave Clinton a 71 percent chance of winning the presidency on Tuesday morning. The New York Times’ The Upshot blog gave her an 85 percent shot.
Pre-election polls had Clinton faring much better than the final results, both nationally and in South Carolina, where she lost by 14 points.
“Don’t trust the experts, that’s for sure,” said Woodard, a pollster. “The polls and pundits really took a beating this time.”
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, summed it up simply in a Wednesday morning blog. “Well, what can we say – we blew it.”
9. GOP’s ‘Big Tent’ dream on the line?
After Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss to President Obama, Republican leaders sounded the alarm that their party had to reach out to minority voters – a growing force in elections and a big part of Obama’s two winning coalitions – if it wanted to win the White House.
Then it nominated Trump, who started his campaign by denouncing undocumented immigrants as murderers and rapists, and later promised to deport all 11 million of them.
Still, Trump managed to win 29 percent of the Hispanic vote. While less than Clinton’s 65 percent, Trump’s Hispanic support was up from Romney’s 27 percent in 2012, according to CNN exit polls.
Now, with control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Republicans have an opportunity to win the Hispanic vote – “the biggest prize in politics” – for good, Clemson’s Woodward said.
All they have to do is pass sensible immigration reform. Woodward recommended Trump enlist his former GOP primary competitors, Hispanic U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, to help with the job.
“If they’re able to address some of these really festering issues – like immigration groups and citizenship for Latinos – they could really capture a significant portion of those groups,” Woodard said. “(Trump) is savvy enough to keep the base happy and also solve these problems. If he does, the Republicans are the dominant party for 20 years.”
10. Change trumps tradition
2016 was a “change” election.
After eight years of Obama, change trumped traditional experience or judgment – bad in both cases with Clinton, Trump supporters argued. After years of trade deals, lost jobs and a weak economy, many voters – including in states once thought to be Democratic bastions – were willing to take a risk on Trump.
Nationwide, some Republicans might have had to hold their noses while voting for Trump, but they did not stay home or flip to Clinton, as some pundits and Democrats had predicted.
Some said the opportunity to fill vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court was too important to leave to Clinton. Others argued Clinton’s latest email flare-up was evidence the Democrat thought herself above the laws that govern everyday Americans, a kind of elitism that has proven detestable to U.S. voters in recent years.
Nationally, Trump received more than 1.1 million votes fewer than Romney in 2012. But that was OK because Clinton won nearly 5.8 million fewer votes than Obama’s 2012 total.
“Hillary certainly helped,” Woodard said. “She was a more damaged good than the media gave her credit for. A lot of people didn’t like her, and they showed that by voting for Trump.
“It wasn’t that they really liked Trump, although I think he may end up being a much more likable character than he’s been presented.”