I’ll admit it. I woke up on a Wednesday morning in November 2016 in a world that I never thought was possible. Trump winning the Presidency is the single strangest political occurrence of my life. As a consultant, I figured it was time to hang up my business, because if I was this wrong about a guy like Trump, I must not be any good at all at what I do.
It wasn’t until I started looking at polling data, specifically data from the Obama-to-Trump flip states that I began to feel better about being that wrong (actually, I had accurately predicted the outcome of the election by two states the day before – flip Nevada and Wisconsin). How could those states that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, flip by sometimes double digits to perhaps the most callused individual to ever run for President? The likeability factors between Trump and Obama were almost as divergent as the outcome of the 2012 and 2016 votes.
Certainly I was wrong, but it doesn’t get much more wrong than the DNC and the Clinton campaign. In the days, weeks and months after the election, Democrats, fueled by their denial and incredulity, sought to explain their loss on everything except the real problem that exists: Their party is wildly disconnected from the American voter.
It’s Russia, Stupid!
Imagine for a moment being a voter, whom for whatever reason decided to vote for Donald Trump for the Presidency. Perhaps it was his “straight shooter” (riiiiiiiiiight….) image or that fact that he isn’t a “career politician”, or that your healthcare premiums skyrocketed under Obamacare, or that you lost your job when your industry started making those products in China (CHIIIIIIIIIIINA), you decided to lay your sacred trust at the feet of The Donald. You made that decision. Sure, he isn’t perfect, but you weighed your options and did what you believed to be your due diligence to vote for the person you felt was best qualified to lead our country. You watched all of the debates. You read the news. You educated yourself on the issues.
Your vote paid off. You were rewarded with the candidate of your choice. You may have celebrated as much as you did when you voted for Obama in 2012, or you may have felt the lesser of two evils was elected. Either way, you were confident in your vote and you felt you had been victorious in your decision.
Except now here are the Democrats saying that there isn’t any way in the world that Donald Trump connected with the electorate in any way. He certainly wasn’t as likeable as Hillary! Right? You’re lumped in with the KKK and other white nationalist groups and told how dumb you must be for voting for him. You’re told you’re a bigot.
The Democrats are so convinced that it couldn’t be their disconnect with the average voter that they blame their loss on some cooked up scheme that the Russians (who when called a geo-political threat in 2012 was laughed off as a joke) had hacked the DNC and released the information (anyone notice it has never been called inaccurate information?) in order to influence the outcome of the election. Despite numerous intelligence officials denying this is the case, they continued (and continue) to beat the drum of the Russian hack.
But you as a voter are confused. You weren’t influence by some Russia hack. Yet the democrats won’t accept that. You’re stupid for thinking anything differently. You’re either a white-nationalist, alt-right, Breitbart breathing hack, or you’re a mush-minded-moron who can be influenced by a foreign power.
If you’re this voter, how likely are you to pull the trigger for this party, let alone your blue-dog Senator or Congressman who has been calling you and Trump all of those things? Are you even considering voting for someone who is diametrically opposed to the man you just put in the White House?
A One Man Case Study
Meet Raymond Ciotti. Raymond is a 60 year old retired steel worker, who now drives a medical-transport van. He lives in the heart of Pennsylvania Steel Country, a fixture in the once bustling City of Johnstown. He is representative of apple-pie America as much as anyone out there. He’s married, has 3 kids, (and now 5 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild as he proudly shared), religious, and as a lifelong registered Democrat, has voted for Democrats since Reagan. I happen to know Raymond relatively well from having lived in Johnstown for a short period in 2005. In the years since, I have been by to visit several times. During those visits, Raymond and I have had some pretty heated discussions about George W. Bush, Barack Obama and everyone in between. Raymond and I could not have been more philosophically opposed.
Now imagine my surprise as I sat on the sidelines of this last election cycle (OG NeverTrump) and saw Raymond don his proverbial red cap and begin his MAGA chants. I could not have been more confused.
I decided to discuss with Raymond what was the deciding factors for him in the 2016 election.
“I was ready to vote for Hillary when it all got started,” Ciotti began. “It wasn’t until Donald Trump started really shaking things up that I started paying attention. He didn’t sound like the rest of them. I knew he was going to shake things up.”
Raymond stated he followed the news during the election, watched the debates, and heard both candidates. Ciotti questioned, “If Hillary didn’t know what the rules were as Secretary of State, how could we know she would follow the rules as President?” He voiced some concern with Benghazi and the email server, but the majority of his issue seemed more pro-Trump, than anti-Hillary.
I asked him if there was anyone of the other GOP candidates that he could have seen himself voting for instead of Hillary. “No, I didn’t like any of the other candidates. Had Paul Ryan ran, it might be a little different. He seems like he’s reasonable and knows what he is talking about. Of the declared candidates, No one.”
Republicans need to understand that their message didn’t exactly win either. Trump connected with people in a way I may never full understand. “No one in Washington is working for us,” continued Ciotti. “It seems the middle class gets ignored in favor of Wall Street and the uber-wealthy and the impoverished and lower class. I was tired of being told to get in line while it seemed no one was looking out for me.” When asked what the number one issue was for him in this election? “Obamacare. It is a disaster. It has increased costs for so many. It needs to go.”
As for how the thinks President Trump is doing so far? “I’d give him a B or B-. I think he is doing all the things he said he was going to do, and I am okay with that. It would probably be an even higher grade, but all the negativity from the mainstream media seems to give me some of that feeling of negativity.”
What All This Means for 2018 and 2020
Raymond lives in a Democrat district in Pennsylvania. I asked him if his views on politics have changed or if its the people who are in office? “It’s the politicians,” Ciotti told me.
I presented Raymond with three hypothetical election choices, of elections between a democrat who opposes Trump for the sake of opposing Trump and a democrat who finds things he can work with Trump on, versus a Republican who agreed to vote with Trump on everything and a Republican who would challenge Trump on certain things. Raymond (again, a lifelong democrat) said that he would vote against anyone who opposed Trump simply to opposed Trump. “If that person (the candidate), isn’t willing to work with the President, I won’t vote for them.” When asked if ideology mattered, if said it mattered for the candidate. “Personality plays into it. If the guy is likeable, and seems level-headed, I might vote for him.”
The place where Democrats need to be terrified is in the question of Democrat who opposes Trump vs. any of the hypothetical Republican candidates. “I’d vote for the Republican if the Democrat said he would just be against Trump,” said Ciotti.
In other words, there were no circumstance where Raymond said he wouldn’t consider the Republican candidate and a huge issue of why he wouldn’t consider a Democrat candidate for the same office. Opposition and “resistance” isn’t working.
Should the media continue to bang this drum, it only hurts Democrats. Opposition is doing them no favors. In fact, it may only extend Republican-held seats in the House and Senate.
Dude! Stop Giving Democrats Advice!
I am not writing this from a “Hey Democrats! Listen to me if you want to stop losing!” point of view. I am writing this as an observational point of view that they flat out refuse to accept the reality of the situation. Instead of acknowledging the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of voters who felt this way, they make excuse after excuse. They progressives have lost, the same way their communist forerunners did. It isn’t the Russians or hacking or anything that led to his downfall. It is your failed rhetoric.
It is at the same time, not a winning or more appealing rhetoric from Republicans. It is however, more preferential for 2016 Trump voters to have someone who will work with Trump than oppose him. Sure it is over 18 months before the next election, and 3 years before the next Presidential Election, but there is no indication that the Democrats learned absolutely ANYTHING from this election cycle or that they will take any time at all in reviewing the facts from 2016 to learn anything.
Democrats opined about the end of death of the Republican Party in 2012. The party was eulogized in publications across the country and on news programs all over the airwaves. I’m only doing my part, to return the favor. RIP Democrats.