The election of Donald Trump to the office of President has divided the country on a number of crucial issues. Contentious elections are not new. But have we seen this kind of President-elect before?

Harvard historian Nancy Koehn joined BPR to talk over the historical significance of President-elect Donald Trump.

Koehn emphasized the role of social media in his victory, saying he used it to capitalize on emotional energy by channeling it toward a cause. She said Trump's methods were somewhat atypical, working around his party to win.

“It’s not like he came through the chute of the traditional party structure-- quite the opposite,” she said. “In many, many ways this election, and a lot of the forces [we] have been talking about.... were bottom up forces.”

Trump himself has attributed some of his success to social media.

Koehn explained that Trump’s victory was possible because of his ability to pick up on signals from his supporters.

“Emotional energies always mattered a great deal,” she said. “He’s very successful at reading the emotional energy of large groups of people.”

Some of Trump's campaign rallies garnered tens of thousands of people.

Koehn said that while other candidates in American history have broken with the status quo or run on platforms not aligned with traditional politics, the country has never seen someone quite like Trump.

“None of these people that were quite significant departures from the guardrails of the politics of the major parties of the time came to the election at a moment like Trump did, with all the different larger forces aligned as Trump has,” she said. “This is a sober moment in our American history.”

To listen to Nancy Koehn’s interview on BPR in its entirety, click on the audio link above.