The Trump Election: Intersecting Explanations

by William Minter, Editor, AfricaFocus Bulletin

"White racism, pure and simple."
"It is fundamentally an urban-rural split."
"Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate."
"Democrats ignored the white working class."
"The electoral college is structurally skewed."
"The Comey letter did it."
"Putin did it."

Page text last updated: August 14 2018 (date each entry added to database can be found in database).

Beginning in July 2018, I started a series of short essays on selected topics covered in this database. I began with an overview article in AfricaFocus Bulletin on "10 Ways to Misunderstand the Trump Election, and Why They Still Matter," at

Essays on particular topics published to date include:

The weeks following the November 2016 election were rife with competing theories about how the unthinkable, in fact, happened. Pundits and analysts, not to mention ordinary people on social media, were quick to reduce the election results to a single factor that they insisted was to blame for handing the presidency to Trump.

But as David Leonhardt noted in a New York Times op-ed, "One of the sillier aspects of postelection analysis is the notion that any one factor determined the result." Instead, there are many factors that interacted to produce the outcome. In analyzing which were more important, how they interacted, and what implications there are for strategy, that complex intersectionality must be taken into account.

This database of articles, monographs, and books was prompted by my frustration with arguments that seem to reduce the reasons for Trump's win to one factor while downplaying all others. Through the first few months in 2017, I added to it regularly. The pace has been slower since then. But I continue to find new books and articles that shed further light on more than 21 distinct but interrelated "explanations."

Given the extremely small margin of votes responsible for Trump's electoral college victory, in my opinion, there is enough evidence to conclude that almost all these explanations were at least "sufficient to tip the balance of the election." How "important" each was beyond that threshold level of significance remains highly disputed, not least because that has implications for the legitimacy of the outcome, for assignment of blame, and for strategy for both opponents and supporters of this seismic shift in political power.

As of July 12, 2018, the database includes

  • 21 different "explanations," of differing levels of generality and significance,
  • 436 recommended articles available on-line from a wide range of sources, and
  • 47 books and working papers, most of which I have read and all of which look "worth reading."

A few entries have comments, which can be seen by clicking on the double-pointed arrow at the left. Most do not, but you can assume a default comment that I think the article or book "worth reading" and not nonsense.

You can see the full database below by scrolling down, or go directly to this link:*

For articles on a particular factor/explanation:
Overview analyses | White racism | Urban-rural split | Economic decline or stress | Electoral college
Putin intervention | Social media | Voter suppression | Clinton campaign mistakes | Democratic Party failures
Anti-immigrant attitudes | Right-wing populism | Right-wing ideology & organization | Mainstream media
Misogyny and gender roles | Islamophobia and anti-semitism | Values/attitudes | Religious identity
FBI Intervention | Right-wing media | Republican party | Third parties and related

All articles

For books and working papers click here.

This is a guide to sources, not an analysis. The explanations/factors included are not mutually exclusive nor are they all clearly defined. And they are of varying relevance in either analysis or strategy for the future. However, all are in my opinion "significant," in the sense of being important enough to have possibly changed the outcome of the election, and to be relevant for thinking about strategy for the future.

The columns in the table include "nested sub-tables" with lists of relevant sources. The sources are put under the explanation most applicable, although of course many could fit under more than one. The ones under "Overview analyses" are the ones which in my opinion most adequately try to relate multiple explanations.

The database used ( is an effort to combine the advantages of a simple spreadsheet with those of a more complex database, particularly in terms of maximizing the ease of data entry. I find it very user-friendly for input, and a new edition promised by the developer will offer additional capacity with an application program interface (API) for using the data and displaying it in a form more friendly for access for viewing.

Note: Largely limited to current articles and books, this is a much more modest project than the in-depth and highly recommended Trump Syllabus 2.0, which dives deeply into the historical roots of the Trump phenomenon rather than focusing specifically on the election results. For another listing, organized in the form of a syllabus, but without comments on the readings suggested, see

This page is part of the No Easy Victories website.