WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Donald Trump, a man who has never run for any elected office before.
Donald Trump, who made his name nationally as a flamboyant billionaire turned reality TV star.
Donald Trump, who built a primary campaign on a pledge to build a wall along our southern border and make Mexico pay for it.
Donald Trump, who, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino in late 2015, proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
Donald Trump, who faced allegations of sexual assault from a dozen different women in the closing weeks of this campaign.
Donald Trump, who said and did 1,000 things in this campaign that would have lost the race for any other candidate.
Yes, that Donald Trump is going to be the most powerful person in the United States — and maybe the world — for the next four years.
What Donald Trump has done is nothing short of cataclysmic. He has fundamentally reshaped the political map. He has broken the Republican Party into pieces — and its shards still remain scattered everywhere. He has proven that the political polling and punditry industries need a deep re-examination.
But, even more than all that, Trump's victory reveals that many of the assumptions that people have long made about who we are as a country and what we want out of our politicians, our political system and each other are, frankly, wrong.
Trump's candidacy was premised on the idea that everyone — politicians, reporters, corporations — is lying to you, and lying to you to to feather their own nests. It was a Holden Caulfield campaign: Everyone, except Trump and his supporters, were phonies.
In short: Trump played on the deep alienation and anxiety coursing through the country. Globalism, immigration, a growing chasm between the haves and the have nots, a rejection of political correctness in all its forms. A prevailing sense that things were so screwed up that radical change — and make no mistake that is what Trump cast himself as in this contest — was the only option left.
Consider this: Just 38% of voters in the national exit poll said that Trump was qualified to be president. (52% said the same of Clinton.) And yet, he won the White House on Tuesday night.
That disconnect can only be explained by a desire to blow up the whole system. And I don't just mean the political system. I mean every elite and establishment institution that's ever assumed they know best — the media very much included. Trump is the collective middle finger from all the people who think the elites have laughed them off and dismissed them for too long. It is the average man's revenge — made all the more remarkable by the fact that the vessel of this rage against elites and the establishment is a billionaire who tells anyone who asks how smart and rich he is.
How Trump happened then, while remarkable, can be understood and analyzed. What Trump will do as president is a far more difficult question to answer.
Trump's policy positions were loosely defined, at best. His lone consistent position throughout his life is on trade, where he has long favored a more protectionist view, suspicious of broad trade deals like NAFTA or the Trans-Pacific Partnership. His immigration stance — build a wall and make Mexico pay for it — seems far-fetched. His plans on taxes, on education, on energy are all sketches of ideas as opposed to specific policy proposals.
How does Trump relate to the GOP congressional majorities he is going to enjoy? He ran against the Republican establishment — in the primary and general election campaigns. He vilified them as tone-deaf to the changes happening not only within their party but also in the country. What now? Trump sits in the catbird's seat. Republican leaders need to come to him — but is he willing to accept them into the new Republican Party he has forged?
And what of the Democratic Party? Hillary Clinton began the 2016 campaign as the strongest non-incumbent front-runner in the history of modern politics. Her presumed strength glossed over the fact that a) a significant amount of liberal unrest — represented in the primary by Bernie Sanders — remained toward her and b) the Democratic bench is remarkably thin.
What does it mean for world markets, that plunged as the likelihood of a Trump victory shaped up? Or the U.S. relationship with foreign countries? Or our involvement in foreign conflicts?
There are many questions that Trump's victory creates. And more I can't even think of.
Here's what I do know: Trump's victory is the single most stunning political development I have ever witnessed. And it's not close. This is the equivalent of dropping a refrigerator — or maybe 10 refrigerators — into a smallish pond. There are obvious, giant waves. But there are 1,000 other ripples that we might not even see today — or might not even exist today.
Cataclysm. Plain and simple.