In March of this year, we wrote a piece challenging the Republican Party to start listening to their voters in the wake of an almost inevitable Trump nomination. After last Tuesday’s historic upset by President-elect Trump, we would like to offer the same piece of advice to our Democrat friends across the aisle: you forgot the cardinal rule of politics – always respect the voter.
After losing power in all three Houses (the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives), the soul searching within the Democratic Party has already begun. Democrats are feeling what the Republicans supporting the 16 other candidates felt after the primaries: shock that the electorate had so roundly rejected Hillary Clinton. After all, she was a well-funded candidate with the backing of a popular President (54% approval rating), First Lady, Vice President and one of the greatest political minds of his generation, President Clinton.
No doubt the reaction by some of the American people after these shocking results has been disheartening: students burning American flags on college campuses, protests turning into violence and people of color having racist remarks hurled at them or written on their cars. Both sides are guilty and we have collectively acted like children after this election, not as a city shining on the Hill for the rest of the world to see. Voter turnout this cycle was abysmally low, and it shows half of the American population thinks that elections do not affect them. The voters have made a clear message – change needs to come, and in two forms: an adjustment to our role in the world and a very clear focus on the country domestically.
In Washington, both parties have been guilty of taking the electorate for granted. The President and the Democratic party apparatus cleared the field for a candidate whose flaws were evident to any outsider, but not to the king and queens looking down on the plebes. Despite the fire and enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders, the Democratic establishment patted their base on the head and told them they knew better. They failed to see that it wasn’t about Bernie, Hillary, or even Trump. Rather, it was about a message that resonated with the forgotten voter. In a change election year when people were hungry for more than what was being offered to them, they forced the queen bee of the establishment down their voters’ throats. Why Barack Obama ultimately decided to hand his party back to the Clintons, after he so successfully took it away in 2008, will always be a profound mystery to us.
The Republican Party learned its lesson about not respecting the voter earlier than the Democrats. Now, with zero control in Washington, the Democrats are swallowing the same bitter pill. No doubt the next four years have the prospect of being quite turbulent, but the GOP would be remiss if it didn’t remember the lessons of its primary: Listen to the voters. Respect the voters. You aren’t smarter than the American people, and should you forget that lesson, they will remind you quickly.
Matthew Swift is the CEO and co-Founder of Concordia as well as the Founder of Opportunity.us.
Morgan Ortagus is the National Co-Chair of Maverick PAC and a former U.S. Diplomat.