What Should Democrats Take Away From Election Night 2016?

On Wednesday, Hilary Clinton gave a dignified, responsible and inspirational concession speech, reaffirming all the reasons why many wanted her to be our next President.

Since Wednesday, Democratic politicians and operatives have pointed to range of issues that cost Clinton the election. Bad polling, poor tactical decisions on media buys, lack of candidate attention to Midwest states, bias, sexism, voter suppression, and the ill-timed letter of FBI Director Comey were all listed as decisive factors in the loss. Without dismissing the importance of any of these issues, Democrats interested in the future of the party should carefully look at the exit polls.  There are many elements that go into a loss (or win) in a Presidential election, but there are a few issues identified in the polls that merit further thoughtful consideration:

1.       Trump won the majority of voters who thought the economy was “Fair”, the majority of voters who felt their families were worse of economically and voters who thought the next generation of Americans will be worse off than they are today.

In short, Democrats did not provide a compelling message of hope to those most worried about their economic futures and those of their children. This group represented 27%-41% of all voters and Clinton lost them by 16%-32%. Historically, Democrats have been unabashed in their support for families under economic stress. The fact Clinton’s message failed to connect with these voters is worth further discussion.

2.       Trump won those voters who served in the military by 27%.

More than 1.5 million voters in Florida are veterans, and constitute important constituencies in key counties in Ohio and other Mid-West states. Though the most successful program for veterans (the G.I. Bill) was created and expanded by Democrats, Clinton never seemed to break through with a message that resonated with veterans, even though Trump went out of his way to insult POWs and Gold Star families.

Hilary Clinton is already about 400,000 votes ahead of Trump in the popular vote. However, the only thing that matters is the Electoral College. Democrats shouldn’t miss the opportunity review how the affirmative message resonates with important constituencies and prepare for 2018.