Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)



First Advisor

Jennifer Delton

Second Advisor

Ronald Seyb


In 2016, the United States elected Donald Trump, a former businessman and reality star, as president. How did that happen? Why did that happen? There are many who have tried to answer this question in the years following his election, some of whom have offered variations on a similar idea: Trump's style of politics is part of the larger trend of conservatism that has been taking over since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. This idea has been propagated both on the left and on the right, and while at first it may seem apt to compare Trump and Reagan, the two could not have been more different in terms of the campaigns they ran, the vision they had for the country, and how they transformed the nation. So if not Reagan, who was/were the political antecedents to Donald Trump. I propose that Trump's brand of anti-establishment politics has much more resonance with the campaigns of Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura, who ran independent campaigns during the 1990s, and who each honed their own unique styles that allowed them to frame themselves as "against the establishment." By historicizing Perot and Ventura's campaigns within the larger economic, political, and cultural changes that occurred within the United States from the end of the Second World War all the way up to the end of the Cold War, I attempt to show how their campaigns were not anomalies, but rather, were manifestations of a new political energy that developed in response to a rapidly changing world and a new world order that prioritized certain people, industries, and values, and left others behind. It is with this historical context, along with a close examination of these two political outsiders, that may help explain how Donald Trump became electable in 2016.

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