Election Day Blog: 2016 Historic Campaign Ends-Maybe

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— By Linda Peek Schacht, leader-in-residence and veteran political communicator in White House, the Congress and presidential campaign

schacht_250Election Day is here. It’s up to us. If you haven’t voted, stop reading this and go exercise that precious right. That right has been protected by lives lost in wars and secured by suffragettes in the early 20th century and by courageous thousands who were marched, jailed and beaten in the 1960’s civil rights movement.  Don’t let their sacrifices be in vain.  VOTE!

Three things I am watching throughout the day and into the evening:

1. The demographic divide of voters. This is a stark story of two Americas and we need a decisive vote for a president to be able to bring us together.

Latino voters in historic numbers, a widened gender gap, African Americans responding to President Obama’s call to give him a “third term” by voting for Hillary Clinton--all could mean victory for her. 

White working class voters and Republicans who came home in response to Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence and the Comey letter eleven days before the election could be decisive for Donald Trump.

2. A gracious and timely concession speech will be more important than the first words from the President-elect.  It is important to model support of the new president for disappointed supporters with a strong call for them to unite behind the winner.  Look at George HW Bush’s concession to Bill Clinton as the model.  We need some “greatest generation” grace and patriotism to bring the country together.

3. A gracious and inclusive victory speech will acknowledge the reasons almost half of voters did not support them and a promise to work on the issues important to those voters.  The President-elect’s unifying and welcoming message will invite Americans to join in hope for the future. It will hold out an olive branch to those in Congress with whom the new President will need to work.  Most of all, it will be a reflection of American optimism and commitment to hard work.

I promised to finish my top ten reasons that this campaign has shattered norms.

If you missed the last two blogs, here are the first 8: (Click here to read reasons 1-5 blog and here to read reasons 6-8 blog)

1. Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination as the first woman to lead a major party ticket; 2. Two candidates with the first and second highest negatives in history; 3. Unprecedented attacks on the tenets of American democracy: the peaceful transfer of power and the integrity of the vote; 4. A foreign power attempts to influence a US election; 5. The R-rated sometimes X-rated campaign; 6. The influence of a politicized FBI; 7. The Deepening Divide between Demographics Remaking the Electoral Map; and 8. Whither the Fourth Estate: challenges to the media.

Rounding out the ten are these norm-shattering final two:

9. Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party

No matter who wins the election, the Republican Party will face the results of a campaign that ignored all the recommendations of their 2012 “autopsy” after the defeat of Mitt Romney.  Those recommendations included being more inclusive, especially reaching out to Latino votes. 

If Donald Trump wins, he will do so by using his reality show celebrity to put together a very different base of Republican voters and without the support of many Republican leaders.  His alt right Breitbart-fueled campaign ran on a message of fear to stoke anger among primarily white voters and brought the fringe elements of the Republican Party into power during the campaign. If he loses, Republican leaders in Congress and in statehouses will have to decide how to wrest control from those elements and move their party back into the mainstream while holding on to the new voters Trump brought into the Republican fold.  If he wins with Republican voters who felt betrayed by their leadership in Washington, as well as Reagan Democrats, some Republican brand names will likely lose their leadership positions. 

10. Technology, technology, technology

While ever present, technology’s impact is a mixed bag.

Russian hacks of DNC and Clinton campaign emails was a gift to Wikileaks, the media, and the Trump campaign.  Will any of us ever write an email the same way again?

Research shows that Facebook was the gateway to news for a majority of Americans.  Fake news sites populate many of those Facebook posts.  The Trump campaign CEO came from Breitbart, a powerful alt right website.  Electronic smart boards to show us changing electoral maps have replaced Tim Russert’s white board from 2000.

Fundraising appeals were unavoidable from both campaigns through email, Twitter, and texts.  Election Day the same is true of get out the vote efforts.

But first and foremost is the first Twitter candidate.

Andrew Jackson refined the use of newspapers, FDR rallied the nation with radio, JFK and Ronald Reagan mastered television, Obama connected like never before with digital media.  And in 2016 Donald Trump used Twitter to set the media agenda through most of the campaign with his 140 character tweets.  His election night tweets will set the tone for his supporters as the election ends.

Read Schacht's recent Election Watch Blog posts:

One Day and Counting: Three More Ways This Campaign Shattered Norms

Four days and counting

Eleven Days and Counting The Post Reality Campaign: the Wages of Spin?

19 Days and Counting: Last night’s historic precedent, voter fraud, who can be funny tonight?

20 Days and Counting: What to watch in tonight’s presidential debate