Defeat like the Democrats absorbed in November is never easy to accept. I happen to understand the feeling more so than most. I spent 25 years of my life as a football coach. Football coaches are not the typical breed you find in politics today. We don't tend to take losing casually and linger far longer on our defeats than our victories.
I am no longer a football coach but I do retain some of the qualities I picked up during my coaching career. The most important lesson I derived from coaching is the realization that there are always fixable mistakes that contribute to losing a football game. Just as there are reasons that cause you to lose an election. Determining the reasons your team lost the game, or the election, requires brutally honest analysis. There is no place to hide when game films reveal in slow motion how you failed to execute.
The only way I know to deal with defeat is to determine how you failed and fix the problem. Don't change the entire playbook, have confidence in your fundamental philosophy, but fix what is broken. If you have no idea how to fix the problem then maybe you should find another activity to take up your time.
In the tradition of a Monday-Morning-Quarterback, I'm going to identify some areas of weakness the Democratic Party might consider fixing some time soon. This season may be over, but its never too early to begin thinking about next season.
1. The costly efforts of the Democrats to establish a massive ground game and Get-Out-the-Vote campaign failed, why? A GOTV effort can only be effective if the party first wins over the voters and convinces them that voting for a Democrat is in their best interest. As it turned out, Trump didn't need a massive ground game in a state like Pennsylvania to win. Instead, he found success going directly to voters and convincing them that he alone could undo decades of economic decline in rust-belt and coal mining areas. Trump did a very good job of selling a nonexistent solution to desperate people. Trump was like an old time snake oil salesman that goes from town to town telling people his bottle of elixir will cure all that ails them. As Trump's popularity spread, his arrogance was fueled by ignorance.
Trump's ground game was primarily his yard signs. His signs greatly outnumbered Hillary signs. More importantly, many of his signs were not traditional campaign signs. Instead, they were "issue" oriented signs, such as, Hillary for Prison in 2016 and Proud Deplorable for Trump. As Trump barnstormed the country he left behind a trail of dirty footprints that should not have been ignored.
In the future, Democrats need to get tougher and attack head on. Republicans have weaknesses, plenty of them, take advantage of what they give you and attack repeatedly, again and again. Keep running your play until they prove they can stop it. For example, it is a mystery why the Democrats let up on Trump after his attack on Gold Star families. Democrats tried to reignite that issue late in the campaign, but it was too little and too late. Trump would have hammered the Democrats at every opportunity and at every campaign stop he made throughout the country if the situation were reversed.
2. "When they go low, we go high". This approach works beautifully for Michelle Obama, but it failed the test when facing an opponent that replaces real with fake claims. The Democratic Party cannot sit back and hope that voters somehow recognize the intrinsic goodness and humanity of progressive philosophy. Democrats must realize they are in a street fight and their opponent is willing to throw America under the bus in order to win. Neither can Democrats simply recoil and turn the other cheek to be hit again with lies and baseless accusations. Democrats must adopt a Winston Churchill approach to political campaigning; we shall fight ignorance on the beaches, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, and we shall never surrender.
3. Finally, the Democratic Party needs to do more to maintain it's advantage with Millennials, the 18 to 30 year old voters. Obama captured 60% of the Millennials, Hillary still received the majority with 55%, yet her lower percentage represents an area of concern. There are approximately 24 million Millennial voters as of 2016. Hillary's 5% drop might have given this election to Trump, especially in the closely contested swing states. Democrats need to take several pages from Bernie Sanders' playbook and burn the opposition with it.