The meta-context for this article is that everyone is talking about how everyone's going to be asking how this happened for years to come. For me, the new media implications of the Trump campaign and his supporters, are some of the strongest. Trump's online support, ranging from "alt-right" activism to foreign hacking, exhibits a "post-Obama" quality that bears deep discussion by communicators, politicos, digital experts, and online organizers.
In 2008, with the support of some of the smartest online strategists at the time, Obama was able to galvanize an online organizing platform never seen before. Comprised largely of small donations, the sheer number of supporters that drove the campaign was astounding. Remember that at the time, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were barely 3 years old. All three would grow their user base 5-10 times by 2012. At the time of his election, "Web 2.0" and social media were just taking hold.
By 2012, not only had social media taken hold, but the data hegemony of the democratic party also stood out to campaigners on both sides of the aisle. Republican voter organizing was rudimentary compared to the big data wielded by OFA (Organizing For America). This was the future of national, state, and local elections and the Republican party admitted to themselves that they had to gear up for 2016.
But what happened was not a battle between two equally matched, data-driven powers with the experience of 2 similar elections behind them. Instead, social media took on a life of its own. Populist forces were able to drive the conversation in a way that neither party was fully prepared to handle.
Newly coined terms like fake news, 4chan, alt-right, alt-left, Kek, and darknet formed a cacaphony with principles of neo-fascism, hacking, cybersecurity, progressiveness, demagoguery, and investigative journalism.
Now we know that Trump was relying on Russian-supported media and quite a few sources and content designed specifically to subvert the democratic process of the US presidentical election process.
For the next election both parties will have to take control of this new construct of online media and make sure that their efforts are not subverted by outside sources. Both parties will either combat it using intelligence and/or take advantage of it using their own tools and strategies.