Political Science

Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America

A gripping, in-depth account of the 2016 presidential election that explains Donald Trump’s historic victory


Oct 30, 2018
6.12 x 9.25 in.
64 b/w illus., 16 tables
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Donald Trump’s election victory stunned the world. How did he pull it off? Was it his appeal to alienated voters in the battleground states? Was it Hillary Clinton and the scandals associated with her long career in politics? Were key factors already in place before the nominees were even chosen? Identity Crisis provides a gripping account of the campaign that appeared to break all the political rules—but in fact didn’t.

Identity Crisis takes readers from the bruising primaries to an election night whose outcome defied the predictions of the pollsters and pundits. The book shows how fundamental characteristics of the nation and its politics—the state of the economy, the Obama presidency, and the demographics of the political parties—combined with the candidates’ personalities and rhetoric to produce one of the most unexpected presidencies in history. Early on, the fundamental characteristics predicted an extremely close election. And even though Trump’s many controversies helped Clinton maintain a comfortable lead for most of the campaign, the prediction of a close election became reality when Americans cast their votes.

Identity Crisis reveals how Trump’s victory was foreshadowed by changes in the Democratic and Republican coalitions that were driven by people’s racial and ethnic identities. The campaign then reinforced and exacerbated those cleavages as it focused on issues related to race, immigration, and religion. The result was an epic battle not just for the White House but about what America is and should be.

Awards and Recognition

  • Winner of the 2019 Richard E. Neustadt Award, Presidents and Executive Politics Section of the American Political Science Association
  • "The Most Ominous Book I Read in 2018" (Carlos Lozado, Washington Post)
  • One of Vox's 9 Thinkers Who Made Sense of 2018's Chaos