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Newsmakers of the Year: Donald Trump, rule-breaker in chief

For shattering political traditions and moral boundaries, and for a historic run—for better or worse—Donald Trump is Maclean’s 2016 Newsmaker of the Year
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Green Bay
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, U.S. October 17, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, U.S. October 17, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Donald Trump. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Our annual Newsmakers issue highlights the year’s highlights, lowlights, major moments and most important people. Read our Newsmakers 2016 stories here, and read on to see why Donald Trump made the list as one of our seven Newsmakers of the Year.

Donald Trump did it all wrong. His campaign launch was a disaster of off-the-cuff race-baiting and back-of-the-napkin plans for a Mexican border wall. He didn’t spend real time on the ground in Iowa or New Hampshire, eating breakfasts at greasy spoons or attending coffee klatches in church basements. He invested hardly any money in TV ads, or hiring staff, or opening offices. He insulted his Republican opponents, picking on them for their looks, or stature, spouses and mothers. And he refused to pledge loyalty to the party he was hoping to lead, attacking its elder statesmen as cowards and failures.

As the months went on, the 70-year-old’s errors became more egregious. He advanced loony conspiracy theories as fact, and got caught out lying, often several times a day. He flubbed interviews and was unable to provide even the most basic of details for his promises and policies. He praised tyrants for their “toughness,” cozied up to foreign dictators and voiced his support for torture, assassinations and other war crimes. He was a billionaire who pledged to make America a fairer place as he flew around on his fleet of private jets, refusing to make public his tax returns.

Related: How Donald Trump won the race to become president

Trump committed electoral suicide by vilifying the mainstream media as corrupt and dishonest, while playing footsie with “alt-right” Internet trolls and their cesspools of racism and anti-Semitism. When a former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan endorsed his candidacy, it took him three whole days to disavow him. At the Republican convention, his would-be first lady, Melania, plagiarized her address to the nation, claiming Michelle Obama’s words as her own. Meanwhile Trump demonstrated his own hubris by trying to pass off Scott Baio as a celebrity.

Melania Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention. (Photograph by Scott Feschuk)
Melania Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention. (Photograph by Scott Feschuk)

Trump said things that no other major party nominee had ever said before—lots of things. He denounced longtime American allies as freeloaders, and claimed that climate change was all a Chinese hoax. He scapegoated Muslims as terrorists, denigrated African-American communities as “hell holes,” and got caught bragging about sexually assaulting women in an old “hot mic” tape. When 10 women came forward with claims that he had groped them in the past, he suggested some were too ugly to warrant his attention, and threatened legal action: “All of these liars will be sued when the election is over.” He boasted about the size of his genitals, live on TV. He even picked a fight with the Pope. Academics and pundits debated about whether he should be labelled a fascist, or if he might be suffering from mental illness. He fired two campaign managers over the course of a summer. (The first just couldn’t get along with Trump’s kids. The second, it was revealed, had taken millions in payments from a Kremlin-backed puppet regime in Ukraine.)

Trump’s recklessness knew no bounds. He attacked the grieving family of a fallen U.S. soldier. He dubbed his Democratic opponent “Crooked Hillary” and promised to appoint a special prosecutor to put her in jail. He begged for Russian or Chinese hackers to steal his country’s secrets and interfere in its affairs. And when it seemed certain that he would lose, Trump told his followers that the election was “rigged” and urged them to stand watch at the polls in certain “areas.” Then he refused to say whether he would actually accept the outcome if things didn’t go his way. “I’ll keep you all in suspense,” was his taunting line.

It was the phoniest, crassest, most racist and misogynistic campaign in modern American history. It was surpassed in ineptitude only by the one run by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Despite it all—or more accurately, because of it all—Donald J. Trump won. The 45th president of the United States will be wholly untested, unqualified, and temperamentally unfit for the world’s most important job. But he will have a Y chromosome.

The debate leading up to his Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration (and presumably for the four years that follow) will be whether the jackass can change his spots. Trump talked about taming his tongue and Twitter account during the campaign and becoming more “presidential,” yet the pivot never came. On election night he promised to be a leader “for all of Americans.” Yet post-victory, the early indications gave little cause for optimism. Trump renewed his fight with the media. He named alt-right guru Steve Bannon as his “chief strategist and counsellor,” an appointment applauded by white nationalists and denounced by pretty much everyone else. He asked for top-secret security clearances for his adult children. There were reports that Trump’s transition team were having difficulty convincing him to crack the briefing books. And a story—possibly apocryphal—that the president-elect’s closest advisers were unaware that they would have to hire an entirely new political staff for the White House once Barack Obama left town.

America is not united. Trump won the electoral college, but lost the popular vote to Clinton, in an election where just 58 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. There was a spike in hate crimes and reports of racial harassment. His victory was greeted with mass protests in the streets.

Donald Trump did everything wrong. But it was America that made the mistake. Now the question is how the rest of the world will end up paying for it.

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