Throughout the 2016 general-election campaign, just as throughout the year's Republican primaries, most of the people who follow politics for a living spent their time thinking about how things would be after Donald Trump lost. Politicians and strategists tried to position themselves just right for a post-Trump world. Journalists wondered how Republicans would come back. And conservative writers and thinkers, especially those who were implacably opposed to Trump, sought the best ways to learn lessons from his failure.
But Trump won. And he won as a Republican. Roughly 90% of self-identified Republicans voted for him, and there was considerably less ticket-splitting than usual. In fact, it is probably fair to say that Trump won because he was a little more, rather than less, than a conservative Republican. His appeal was broader than Mitt Romney's was, especially in key swing states, and surely broader than, say, that of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio would have been in the Rust Belt states. Trump won — unlike Republicans recently — in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, because a significant number of voters (mainly from union households) who had voted for Obama flipped. They were perfectly fine with voting for the African-American president who had their back against the oligarchic, union-busting, entitlement-trimming Romney Republicans. But this time — tutored by Bernie Sanders, in part — they thought Hillary Clinton was the more oligarchic candidate, the one taking orders from Wall Street, and she didn't waste any of her campaign on the Rust Belt voters and their concerns. Trump, meanwhile, spent lots of time speaking directly to them at his huge rallies, promising to protect what they have — their industrial jobs, their unions, even their Social Security and Medicare — while restoring at least some of what they've lost.