Less than 17 months — that’s how long it took Donald J. Trump to reach the White House, besting rivals who had been chasing that dream for years. But his political ambitions go back nearly three decades.
In 1998, on the set of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, the provocative billionaire first signaled his interest in the Oval Office.
“I think I’d win. I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t go in to lose,” he boasted to the iconic television host.
“People are tired of seeing the United States ripped off,” added the real estate tycoon.
The author of the best-selling “The Art of the Deal” ultimately declined to run that year, but the seed was planted.
Beginnings and a breakthrough
In 1999, Trump took the idea a step further. He quit the Republican Party and announced an exploratory bid under the Reform Party banner, with neither a conservative or liberal agenda but backing for America’s “workers.”
He blasted Germany, France and Japan as countries that treat America “like a whipping post” when it comes to international trade.
Trump abandoned his bid after four months, but that early run helped shape his nationalist, populist orientation that would prove crucial to his success 17 years later.
Fast forward to June 2015, when a new race for the White House was cranking up.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders dominated the Democratic field, while 11 Republicans including Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were already running for their party’s nomination.
In the glittering lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, Trump threw his hat in the ring pledging to “make America great again” — a vow that would become his campaign slogan.
A month earlier, he had not even been included in Republican primary polling, and was known far more for his role as the brash reality TV boss on “The Apprentice.”
By July, he was leading in the polls.
His candidacy proved a blockbuster. As controversy swirled and he flung his harsh rhetoric in multiple directions, Trump never apologized.
As his presence on cable news channels grew, he endured endless criticism while soaking up the benefits of wall-to-wall coverage.
The political establishment collectively cringed on December 7, 2015 when he proposed that Muslims be barred from entering the United States — one month after terror attacks in Paris left 130 people dead.
“The Donald” nevertheless rose steadily in the polls: from 25 percent, to 30, and then 35 percent approval among Republican likely voters.
On the eve of the first primaries in February 2016, the Republican establishment became convinced that the anti-Washington candidate would hit a support ceiling of 30 or 35 per cent, and that another candidate would ultimately consolidate the remainder of the party’s support and oust Trump.
But the party’s base appeared to be in open revolt, riding the anti-establishment wave embodied by Trump and rival Ted Cruz, a senator with Tea Party backing.
On February 1, Cruz snatched a narrow victory in the opening contest in Iowa, and the primaries race congealed around the battle between two figures distrusted and disliked by Republican heavyweights.
As Trump slowly built a lead, outside groups poured millions of dollars in vain into an “anyone but Trump” movement.
But by early May, Trump had seized the nomination.
Victorious, he strode on stage at the Republican convention in Cleveland in July, proclaiming: “America first!”
But the real war was yet to come.
Trump’s tactics hardly shifted as he pivoted to battle the Democrats, who were better funded and enjoyed support from incumbent President Barack Obama.
Trump expertly tapped into the anti-elitism that swelled in communities across America, and despite his brutal rhetoric, he managed to rally most of his party.
At campaign events that often attracted tens of thousands of supporters, he portrayed Clinton as the ultimate political insider, chummy with Wall Street and a symbol of the status quo who deserved to go to prison over her email scandal.
In September, Trump seized on Clinton’s bout with pneumonia to portray the 68-year-old former secretary of state as too feeble to lead.
But he lagged behind in public polling.
Clinton appeared to dominate their three televised debates, and Trump earned rebukes when he tangled with the Muslim parents of a US soldier killed in action, and then a former Miss Universe.
Controversies over his foundation and his unreleased tax returns simmered.
One month before the election, Republicans were sent reeling with the release of a decade-old video in which Trump is heard crudely boasting about assaulting women.
But in the campaign’s final weeks, the political winds began to shift in Trump’s favor.
On October 7, WikiLeaks began publishing emails hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s account, laying bare the cynicism and indiscretion of her campaign’s inner workings.
Combined with a surprise relaunch of an FBI probe into the email case, the revelations proved devastating for Clinton, who thought she had weathered that storm.
Even on the eve of the November 8 election, polls suggested the damage was not enough to reverse the trend line of a Clinton triumph.
But in a surprisingly close election, broad antipathy against Clinton combined with Trump’s change-agent message was enough for the political novice to gain ground in several “Rust Belt” states.
The world was stunned to see many white working-class voters in those states — who once supported Obama — favouring the Republican candidate.
Even the brash billionaire appeared stunned by his own victory.
“I sort of thought I lost,” Trump said, recalling how he had purposely rented a small New York ballroom for election night.
Trump’s Full Speech
Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.
We, the citizens of America are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people.
Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships, but we will get the job done. Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power. And we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.
Today’s ceremony however, has very special meaning, because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, DC. And giving it back to you, the people.
For too long, have reaped the rewards of government while people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered period, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It be longs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not what truly controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
Everyone is listening to you now, you came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the centre of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighbourhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves.
These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public. But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists. Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories, scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash
Trump’s Full Speech cont’d from pg 6
but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge. And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealised potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. For many decades, we have enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidised the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.
We have defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own. And spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the pass and now we are looking only to the future.
We assemble here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.
Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body. And I will never ever let you down.
America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.
We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
We will follow two simple rules, buy American and hire American. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and reform the world against radical islamic terrorism which we will eradicate from the face of the earth. At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when god’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue sold art. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.
There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.
Finally, must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it.
The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail.
Our country will thrive and prosper again. We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.
A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.
We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms. And we all salute the same great American flag. And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, they look at the same night sky. They fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator.
So to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words, you will never be ignored again.
Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage, goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. Together, we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again.
We will make America safe again. And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And god bless America. Thank you. God bless America.