By Michael Petruzzello, Managing Director, MSLGROUP D.C. MSLGROUP D.C. has always prided itself on a campaign-style approach to public affairs and advocacy. Our people are campaign people, having worked on dozens of campaigns, from small-town mayor to President of the United States. We deploy strategies that are nimble and opportunistic to get our clients heard in a competitive media environment and a crowded legislative arena. As we look back at one of the most unusual Presidential elections in American history, we are pleased to share some of our insights and offer some advice for our clients on how to apply the lessons of this unprecedented election. Let's Be Frank: No One Saw This Coming, Because No One Was Looking in the Right Place It is a mistake to characterize Trump voters as exclusively working class, or rural, or non-college educated. Trump voters are culturally isolated and feel politically alienated. A September study of Trump voters by Jonathan T. Rothwell of Gallup discovered that those who view Trump favorably disproportionately live in racially and culturally isolated zip codes and neighborhoods. [caption id="attachment_7247" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Image source: Gage Skidmore on Flickr[/caption] It appears that Donald Trump won the election by motivating low-propensity white voters in traditionally blue states. These voters rarely voted in previous elections, because their votes were not large enough to effect the outcome, and were cancelled out by votes from major metropolitan centers. Whether these were rural voters in Wisconsin and Michigan, small town voters in Pennsylvania, or exurban voters in Florida, these low-propensity voters shifted the outcome in enough states to decisively rewrite the political map and elect Donald Trump the next President of the United States. Trump motivated these voters by focusing on issues that had previously been ignored -- a political system rigged to benefit elites at the expense of working Americans, trade deals that failed to account for economic dislocation in American manufacturing, and crumbling infrastructure that is incompatible with America’s status as a world power. These issues can form the basis of a new political coalition -- provided that Congress is able to address them. Trump’s appeal was not limited to concerns about economic anxiety. Although Trump received more support from Latinos and African Americans than Romney did in 2012, many pollsters attribute this to growing demography rather than actual support. Trump appealed to anti-immigrant sentiment at a time when net migration from Mexico to the United States is near zero. He appealed to law and order and fears about crime, despite the fact that the violent crime rate is lower than it has been at any time since 1970. A substantial part of Trump’s support came from people who unfortunately equate the growing demographic diversity of the United States with national decline. Trump’s appeals to racial resentment will complicate a large variety of issues -- from immigration to voting rights to criminal justice reform.
Politics and public policy have a major impact on the environment in which our clients operate. They may need to manage political and legislative risk, or may be looking to benefit from a supportive regulatory environment - and their ability to do so will be determined by how successful they are in shaping policy.
Creating a successful public affairs strategy depends on three factors: a profound understanding of the political climate, the government objectives, and effective stakeholder outreach. With our extensive contacts and international experience, MSLGROUP is at the intersection of business, government and the media. We provide strategic counsel to companies, organizations and other entities seeking to navigate the political risks and challenges of doing business in this complex environment.
Contact: Mike Russell