There will be more and better analysis as the evidence gets digested, but here are three initial thoughts on lessons from Donald Trump’s surprise victory.
First, the polls were wrong, but not by very much. The final polls had Clinton about three points ahead in the popular vote and she looks set to end up being about one point ahead. That’s a small enough margin to continue to have faith in polls at being able to paint the big picture where margins of more than a couple of points are involved. (It was the same picture in the European Referendum – most polls were only off by a handful of points rather than by dozens.)
Second, ask yourself two quick questions. What was Donald Trump’s slogan? What was Hillary Clinton’s slogan? One had a memorable, consistent slogan. The other lost.
Big, bold, simple and consistent messaging is key to political success – because most voters don’t pay that much attention to politics most of the time. Now try asking someone you know who isn’t a party member what the current Liberal Democrat slogan is.
Third, Clinton had the best ground organisation by some margin and yet lost a series of swing states by agonisingly small margins. Ground organisation matters but it gives an edge rather than transforming completely political prospects. Even Obama’s ground game didn’t gain him that much.
Strategy and messaging matters – and hence the core votes pamphlet I wrote with David Howarth came before the much more tactical organisational pamphlet. To help turn those ideas into reality is the main reason I’m running for the Federal Board in this autumn’s internal Liberal Democrat elections.
I’m also running a survey for party members on the party’s strategy and messaging. If you’re also a member, you’re very welcome to take part in the survey here (and by all means share it with other members – thank you).
What other lessons would you draw?