Donald Trump's stunning win is 'uncharted' political territory

Donald Trump's stunning upset victory has astonished some of the most seasoned political pundits and left many voters and political observers wondering what to expect from the soon-to-be commander-in-chief.

Republicans now control the House, Senate and White House

With the Republicans holding the House and the Senate, Donald Trump, it would seem, will have the power to implement much of his agenda. (John Locher/Associated Press)

On Jan. 20, Donald J. Trump, the controversial and provocative New York real estate mogul, will raise his right hand, place his left hand on the Bible and be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

It's a scene that seemed almost unthinkable to some of the most seasoned political pundits, now stunned and astonished by his upset victory. And it's left many wondering what to expect from the former reality show host, and now soon-to-be commander-in-chief.

"I think we're in uncharted territory for what comes next for our country," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. "This is an outsider taking a wrecking ball to Washington and we'll have to see how much change he brings to the way things are done."

In a victory speech early Wednesday morning, the outspoken president-elect seemed contrite, saying it's "time for us to come together as one united people."

"Ours was not a campaign, but rather a great movement."

With the Republicans holding the House and the Senate, Trump, it would seem, will have the power to implement much of his agenda, which includes building a wall along the Mexican border, executing mass deportations of illegal immigrants, slapping tariffs on foreign goods and tearing up or renegotiating trade deals. 

He'll also have little opposition from fellow Republicans if he tries to quash some of U.S President Barack Obama's signature accomplishments, such as Obamacare, the Iranian nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement — all of which are opposed by the majority of Republicans.

'He will get much of what he wants'

And Bonjean believes that by winning the election, Republicans will quickly fall in line to support a Republican president.

Matthew Baum, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, agrees Trump will be in a strong position relative to the Congress.

"So I expect he will get much of what he wants, at least initially," he said.

Donald Trump thanks Clinton, calls for unity

6 years ago
Duration 2:13
President-elect strikes conciliatory tone during acceptance speech

To his supporters who embraced his "Make America great again" slogan, Trump's win is a mandate for change and a strong rebuke to the system and the so-called establishment. 

But for his critics, including many #NeverTrump conservatives, his victory signals a validation of a man they say is a sexual predator, a racist and a misogynist, who is uniquely unqualified and lacks the temperament to hold the office of the presidency.

Trump has also stoked fears on a range of other policies, including suggesting he wouldn't honour the country's commitments to NATO allies, and his vows to beef up libel laws against journalists.

I expect he will get much of what he wants, at least initially.- Matthew Baum, professor of public policy at Harvard University

"It's going to have everyone on edge for a long time," Bonjean said.

For Trump, who has never served in the military or held an elected office, this is a remarkable triumph. His prediction that he would pull off a "Brexit plus, plus, plus" — a reference to the surprising referendum results in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union — was right on the money. 

Not only did he turn blue battleground states like Florida and Ohio red, he scored surprising victories in the Democratic states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and is likely to win in Michigan.

'People wanted change'

His proposed temporary ban on Muslims and vow to get tough on illegal immigrants had enormous appeal to many of the white, non-college-educated voters who made up his base. And it's those traditionally Democratic states where manufacturing has been hollowed out that Trump's anti-trade message resonated and won over many white, blue collar Democrats.

To his supporters who had embraced his 'Make America great again' slogan, Trump's win is a mandate for change and a strong rebuke to the system and the so-called establishment. (Jae S. Lee/Dallas Morning News/Associated Press)

"After eight years of a Democratic White House, people wanted change. They wanted something different and Trump has been able to make a solid case for himself," Bonjean said.

Democratic strategist Brad Bannon admits it's clear a majority of Americans think the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction.

It's going to have everyone on edge for a long time.- Republican strategist Ron Bonjean

"I guess we just discounted it or ignored it," he said.

Much had been said about Trump's ground game and how it couldn't compare to the Clinton machine. But in the end, it seemed to matter little. As Bonjean says, Trump's supporters were obviously more enthusiastic than Clinton's. And when a campaign is boasting about its ground game, it's a sign they're worried whether people will come out to vote, he said.

Challenges for Trump

Yet despite Trump's impressive victory, Democratic strategist Bannon says Trump will still face challenges, including possible resistance in the Congress. 

"The only fly in the ointment is that Trump doesn't get along with Republican members of Congress. For instance, he has a horrible relationship with House Speaker Paul Ryan," he said. 

"Yes they are all Republicans, but the reality is that congressional Republicans don't like Trump very much."

Trump doesn't have a great relationship with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. (Reuters)

Many of Trump's promises also seem inconsistent with how governing works, said Hans Noel, an associate professor of political science at Georgetown University.

His pledge to get money from Mexico to pay for the wall is a prime example. Even if he was able to secure such a deal, it would be Congress that decides what to do with the money, not the president.

"Getting policy through the legislature is complicated and requires a lot of working with congressional leaders. He may not be able to make that work," Noel said.

"But on a lot of things, the president can do a lot on their own. On trade, there are things Trump could do without even going through Congress. On other things, Congress may take the initiative, and Trump would go along with it."

Baum says Trump doesn't appear to be all that engaged in the nuances of policy, and a lot of policy-making will be delegated to his advisers. 

That's why a successful Trump administration will depend on who Trump brings into his inner circle and whether he heeds their advice. 

But conservative David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and critic of Trump, was much more pessimistic when discussing a Trump presidency.

"This administration will be a series of crises." ​

Watch Trump's full victory speech below: 

Donald Trump's full victory speech

6 years ago
Duration 15:23
Donald Trump's full victory speech


Mark Gollom

Senior Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.