There are always lessons that we can learn from the results any election, but when one is the most stunning upset in US political history we really need to pay attention. Here are the first lessons that come to mind:
1) Money isn’t what it used to be. Trump won spending about five dollars per vote…half of what Hillary spent. That’s not to say that money doesn’t matter. It helps you communicate and organize. But this totally upends what the “smart people” who try to get big donors to waste millions of dollars constantly tell us.
2) Free media matters! And being able to go above the media with your own outlets matters too. (See #1)
3) Being politically incorrect won’t kill you. Hopefully other candidates will learn to take off the political correctness filter. Don’t be so buttoned down and afraid of the media. Channel what your target voters are thinking. And doing so can get you free media. (See #2)
4) Staying on message matters…a lot. Because the “message” matters. This one speaks for itself.
5) Republicans don’t have to pander to win (repeat…Republicans don’t have to pander to win). Note that Trump got a higher percentage of the black, Hispanic and Asian vote than Romney did…using a message that the “smart people” (who showed us how to lose) said would kill us with minorities. A blue-collar, middle-America message appeals across racial lines.
6) Evangelicals are a growth market. Trump got a higher share of evangelicals (81%) than Romney, McCain or Bush…and there are tens of millions more that still don’t vote. It’s the second most loyal demographic – and the largest pool of untapped votes – in American politics. Keep in mind that any real growth that we will ever see among minority groups will come from those sitting in church somewhere on Sunday mornings. That means that religious liberty issues matter.
7) The Rust Belt is the GOP’s presidential future. I’ve been saying this for years. The future of our winning/keeping the presidency lies in combining most of the South with the Rust Belt; meaning blue-collar voters and Catholics (of which Trump won 52% nationally). And they don’t like globalism and open borders.
8) Yes, nationalism can win – and that’s a good thing. And yes, it can “co-exist” with conservatism – especially given the fact that a large percentage of self-identified real world conservatives (not ivory tower egg-heads) also subscribe to an America First (i.e. “nationalist”) message. The pharisaical, legalistic “conservatives” who claim that true conservatism = globalism will lead us to nothing but a further divided, less successful conservative movement and party. (See #7)
9) We can see shadows of realignment. While not a technical electoral realignment by political science standards, this was the leading edge of one, seeing us win states that we haven’t carried since Reagan was on the ballot. This “message” (and even better messengers) can expand that market and bring about a real political realignment for the Republican Party. Not to try would be political malpractice. (See #8)
10) Successful politics is about addition and multiplication. And that starts with unity. Now is our opportunity to bring new people in and build something bigger than what we had.
I’m sure other lessons will become self-evident (or may be right now), but these are some that Republicans should take to heart. Pass it on!