Last night President Barack Obama won re-election pursuing a campaign of delay, denial and division. In Illinois, Democrats restored their supermajorities in both the state House and Senate.
Our job today is to study yesterday’s results and learn everything we can to begin working toward a better tomorrow.
Lesson #1: read the waves
The elections of 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 were all wave elections – yet each sent a different signal. Despite last night’s results, the American people are still searching for a sustainable, long-term path. Re-electing Obama was not an ideological choice – he ran on nothing. This wave was attributable to superior campaign strategy, tactics and execution focused on dividing the electorate and maximizing turnout among the Democratic base. It worked, but at great cost for the long-run as the country remains more divided than ever and the debt crisis looms. Division in the face of crisis is not a good recipe for success.
Lesson #2: go – and stay – on the offensive
Not only did the Obama team launch its re-election strategy the day after its 2008 victory by relentlessly organizing throughout the troughs between elections, but they also overcame the 2010 wave by putting the Republicans on perpetual defense. Romney was attacked all summer long; he did not respond and thus fell behind. His high point was when he went on offense in the first debate. Rather than continuing an aggressive offense after this surge, however, he returned to a passive, defensive posture in an attempt to win over more women and independents. You cannot win from a defensive posture.
Lesson #3: talent matters
We must recruit better talent for modern policy and political fights and then provide the training they need. We need better policy fighters. We need stronger campaign management. We must train candidates to be better communicators – this is an essential skill set that ties all of our initiatives together.
Lesson #4: Illinois needs strong leadership
Whether running party caucuses, grassroots organizations, policy organizations or national groups, we must learn the right lessons and adjust accordingly moving forward. In terms of the Republican caucuses, with the Democrats having a supermajority, if leaders continue the pattern of seeking a seat at the table rather than providing a clear party-in-exile alternative, the rank and file members, investors and grassroots activists must demand changes. Regardless, the status quo is untenable.
Finally, I’ve heard from many who are disappointed and even distraught. They feel that way not because of an election result, though that hurts. The emotion emanates from a great fear that our liberty is at real risk. I believe deeply it is. But I believed that before this election. If I believed our liberty was at risk before this election and was willing to fight for it, I should certainly be willing to fight for it even more now that it is at even greater risk.
The American miracle is worth fighting for – it was yesterday and it is today. You, too, despite the disappointment, must continue the fight. We owe that to the gift our Founders left us. More importantly, we owe that to our children and the generations to come who expect us to preserve liberty for them.
CEO, Illinois Policy Institute