As a Democratic consultant this election was pretty devastating, I won’t lie. Even with some bright spots on the West Coast, we’re looking at a GOP-controlled House and Senate, and a President Trump for four years.
With the split in the Electoral College versus the popular vote, there are reasons for everyone to feel left out and left behind. A quarter of this country feels utterly betrayed by another quarter. Half the country didn’t even bother to take part.
I wrote something a couple months ago about what to do with your digital infrastructure after a losing race, and the lessons still hold. There are tips for what to do as a former campaign staffer, too.
What I didn’t talk about is the emotional side of things—the stages of grief, and how it takes time to go through. This election is an emotional wound for many, and for our country too. Take care of yourself, ok?
What’s also hard is that the terrain is shifting, and important decisions are being made right now—the presidential transition team and staffing, and who will run the DNC and RNC going forward.
What can you take away from this election? It’s some of the same things that we’ve always known: field matters, but it’s not everything. Campaigns matter, but they are not everything either. Digital is great, but all these things are effective more on the margins, rather than reshaping an entire race.
If you live in a bubble, and if you’re in a major city, you probably do, there are large swaths of the country that you’re not hearing from and may not understand. But the people living in rural and small town America are living in a bubble too—if you never travel, never meet anybody unlike yourself, your worldview is limited too and people different from you can be more easily demonized.
The problem with social media and this election is that platforms like Facebook deliver the content that people will respond to the most. This doesn’t mean it is the most accurate content, or the most thoughtful content.
As Eli Pariser wrote in his book The Filter Bubble the internet will increasingly serve up the information we want to hear, that which reinforces our existing beliefs as opposed to opening us up to new ideas. Challenging people’s assumptions doesn’t deliver as many clicks and page views as telling them what they want to hear.
Future candidates may well take away the lesson that delivering red meat to your base, and running a fact-free campaign is effective. And the whole consulting class has to deal with the repercussions of that.
Should you tell your candidates to tell the truth, when a lie is more effective? Should you try to educate voters when delivering slams and insults works better? This cycle seemed to deliver the message that the low road is the more effective road.
Laura Packard (@lpackard) is a partner at PowerThru Consulting, a Democratic digital strategy and web development firm.