When President-elect Donald Trump took the stage at nearly 3 a.m. today to claim victory in the race for President of the United States, he began his remarks by mentioning that Secretary Clinton had called him, saying:
“She congratulated us… It’s about us… On our victory.”
It was a short phrase, lost perhaps in the early morning sleepiness of people having waited two years plus another six hours to find out the results of the election. But from a campaign perspective, it was significant. The results of yesterday’s presidential election demonstrated the power of “us,” as the Trump campaign, which spoke to many different sectors of the American voting public even as it was often denounced by his own party, was always seen as a group of people with a cause, and a leader. Throughout the campaign, Trump talked about “us” and “we” as he described what he often referred to as a “movement.”
Consequently, I believe that Hillary’s campaign made a grave mistake with the slogan “I’m With Her,” because it was the antithesis of what Trump was trying to accomplish. Yes, it was clear from the outset that the slogan and logo were intended to direct people (via the arrow) to the first woman president in U.S. history, which may have made sense at the time, but it left the door wide open to paint Clinton’s campaign as being about her, and her alone.
Whether it indeed was about her own ascendency, or if her own “movement” was just not branded as well, once Trump started saying “I’m With You” every time someone said “I’m With Her,” it was a stark contrast. The Clinton campaign picked up on that partway through, changing the logo and slogan to “Stronger Together.” But “I’m With Her” never lost its prominence in the campaign, and even on Election Day the hashtag #ImWithHer was prevalent on social media.
Policy, mudslinging and wrongdoings from each candidate aside, from The Campaign Coach’s perspective this was the difference in the election. Now, the final count may have Clinton winning the popular vote, so clearly it wasn’t the be-all, end-all with voters, but take away the hardline Democrats and Republicans and there is a percentage of voters who need something to believe in to lean the election to either side. They believed in Trump’s message because they felt as though they were a part of it – “Make America Great Again.” It’s not much different a scenario than how the very inclusive “Hope and Change” engaged people eight years ago.
Clinton made two key mistakes directly related to this topic. First, her comment about Trump’s “basket of deplorables.” Nothing unifies people more than being grouped together in an insulting way, and this labeling solidified exactly the inclusive environment that the Trump campaign was building. Second was Clinton’s YouTube video where she, in a fit of exasperation, said, “I don’t know how I’m not up by 50 points.” Not inspiring, because it was not about the people of America and their needs, but came across very much as about her alone. Understandably, there are frustrating moments throughout a long (very long) campaign that make you want to do something like that, but it was ill-advised, and played into Trump’s message.
None of this is to suggest that everyone’s motives in the presidential race were pristine for the entire length of the campaign, nor am I asserting that anyone’s motives were in the wrong place at any point during the campaign. I’m talking about the story that was told to the American people, and ultimately, Trump’s story was better told.
The lesson for local candidates in this is to always remember that you’re running for office to be a representative of the people, and that should reflect unwaveringly in your public message. From your logo to your slogan to your stump speeches to your volunteer force, everything you do should be about how you’re going to best represent your constituents. While elections are “won,” public service is not a prize, even though coverage of races makes it seem that way. It’s a responsibility. And candidates who demonstrate that their allegiance is to the voters who they’re asking to put them in office are the ones whose message will be the most inspiring. When you’re talking to your community, using whatever forum that is, use “us” and “we” more than you point to yourself. Encourage people to be a part of your movement.
So… Ready for next year’s local elections? I’ll give you a couple days off before we start revving you up for that!!!