You're going to get a lot of people explaining Trump's 2016 win by some formulation of "the people wanted X" with X being something that Trump provided. But most of those epxlanations are going to be wrong. They're wrong because they don't understand two key factors about Trump's...
Best answer: You're going to get a lot of people explaining Trump's 2016 win by some formulation of "the people wanted X" with X being something that Trump provided. But most of those epxlanations are going to be wrong. They're wrong because they don't understand two key factors about Trump's 2016 victory.
1) Trump barely beat Clinton. He got 47.22% of the vote in Wisconsin and she got 46.45% of the vote. That means he got a statistically insignificant 0.77%. His Wisconsin victory wasn't some sort of big triumph for Trump, but rather a close won thing which he could just as easily have lost. So explanations about what the people of Wisconsin wanted or not don't have a lot of explanatory power.
2) Perhaps much more importantly is that Trump got 1.405 million votes in Wisconsin in 2016. In 2012, Mitt Romney got 1.407 million votes. Mitt Romney lost Wisconsin. So Trump got fewer votes than the losing candidate did four years earlier. Wisconsin didn't vote for Trump, they not-voted for Clinton. Barack Obama got 1.62 million votes in 2012. Four years later, Clinton got 1.38 million votes. There was no swing towards Trump. The people of Wisconsin swung away from the Republicans in 2016. It's just that they swung even more dramatically away from the Democrats.
So what happened in 2016 isn't that Trump persuaded a bunch of Wisconsinites to vote for him. In fact, he did worse than Romney did. But he kept the Republican numbers relatively stable, which Clinton suffered a massive loss of over a quarter million votes. Those people didn't defect to Trump. Some of them voted for third party candidates, but others just stayed home. I don't think we fully know the reasons why. Some have credited the state's voter suppression law, which requires a photo ID to vote. The law, passed in between the two presidential elections, may have kept people from voting. But I think that the bigger issue is apathy about Clinton. The biggest factor was probably the FBI's announcement that they were looking into her emails again. Although this turned out to be nothing (the "new" stuff they were looking at turned out to be copies of stuff they'd already reviewed and they quickly closed the case) it turned off a lot of voters in the closing week of the race. This built on lingering issues with people who didn't like Clinton for various reasons. Some black voters felt she wasn't racially sensitive enough, some left wing voters felt that she wasn't liberal enough. Underlying all of this was a feeling on the left that Trump couldn't possibly win. This may have been especially true in Wisconsin, which no Republican had won since the 80s. I bring up the sense of Clinton's inevitability because I think it's a crucial factor in explaining Trump's win. The people who were skeptical of Clinton felt like it was okay to not actually vote for her because there was no way she could lose. They could have their cake (Trump being defeated) and eat it too (not have to cast a ballot for a candidate like Clinton who they didn't like).
The feeling of inevitability also helps explain the swing back to the Democrats in 2018 when they won the Governorship and the Senate. Democrats were super energized to defeat Trump. Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic Senator up for election last year, got about 70,000 votes more than Trump did. Democrats weren't enthusiastic about Clinton but complacent over her victory in 2016. In 2018 they weren't complacent and turned out in strength for Baldwin (and in somewhat lesser strength for Gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers).
The reality is that Wisconsin is a purple state. It has both a Democratic and a Republican Senator. It's gone traditionally for Democrats but Republican Scott Walker won three races for Governor there. Trump lucked out in 2016, but in 2018 things swung back towards the Democrats.