The 2012 election season is over, and we are beginning to look forward to 2014. For us Republicans, before we can really close out our 2012 cycle, we need to go through the five stages of political loss and grief before we can move forward.
1. Denial and isolation: This is the "that really didn't just happen, things were trending the right way, how did we not pick up even one swing state" phase. Most political operatives go into 24 to 48 hours of hibernation to dull the pain and make up for months of sleep deprivation. Luckily the 48 hours of denial and isolation are about up, and we are on to the really fun phase of…
2. Anger: This is what Washington is good at. The blame game is beginning, and the knives are coming out. It is time to throw candidates, consultants and vendors under the bus. "If the candidate had only listened to me, it wasn't the candidate’s fault it was that damn (fill in the blank), if I'd been running the show we would have (fill in the blank again)." The best part of this phase is that the media facilitates this anger and scapegoats are outed in a very public manner. Everyone loves a public execution. Come on political operatives, you've got about two weeks to really stick it to your enemies, and the political chattering class will eat it up.
3. Bargaining: The bargaining phase is time for political operatives to attempt to gain some control over their helplessness and vulnerability. We've all got to work, so it is time to build new relationships and strike new deals—time to identify who is on the way out and who is on the rise. For those of you on your way down, I hope you were really nice to the political community during your assent to power. If not, you are going to find that your political capital bank account is very low. For those of you on the rise, now is the time to be super nice and build your political capital war chest for the future. It will be here before you know it.
4. Depression: Depression usually hits right after the holidays. The practical implications of the Republican loss are now staring political operatives in the face. We are in the Valley of Death for political operatives and vendors. Potential candidates have not even told their spouses that they are considering running for office, so they are not hiring you. Candidates who are moving forward don't have the funds to pay you. You will see lots of opportunities to improve our political organizations, but it will seem impossible to build a consensus among the players. It is time to start executing on the plans you made during the bargaining phase, and it is going to take a lot of work—which becomes depressingly evident. Sometimes we all need a big hug.
5. Acceptance: Like all businesses politics is cyclical. Luckily for us, it is a federally mandated cycle. Where there are seats of power to be had, candidates will spring up to pursue them. We are the seasoned professionals that are here to help those candidates win. Politics is the greatest industry in the world. Personalities, technology and public opinion are all chaotic weather patterns that create the perfect storm every November. The rules of the game are constantly changing. What worked on Tuesday will not work on November 5, 2013, or November 4, 2014, and that is what I love about this industry.
Erik currently runs sales and marketing for CMDI, the largest Republican fundraising technology platform. A version of this post was also published on CMDI’s blog.