There’s a lot of it around. The Democrats and their media and spook allies are in a complete lather over Putin’s supposed personal influence in the US election. Confident of victory and its spoils up till midday on election day, the Clinton team are incapable of assessing just what a debacle of a campaign they ran, still less what they need to do now.
Their grief denial stage is running so long and has become so extreme that it looks likely that any swift rebuild of an effective electoral opposition by the Democrat Party is not on the cards. They could be doomed to further irrelevance for several more stages in the US biennial electoral cycle. Contrast this with the swift and hard-hitting review instigated by Reince Priebus after the 2012 Presidential election. Those who think that Trump is a political novice not likely to last should note that the same Reince Priebus is now his Chief of Staff. Trump didn’t campaign to the formula in all respects, but he may use it to govern.
Denial in politics can take a variety of forms. When you are in the middle of a campaign that is not going well, it is all too easy to construct and cling to an unrealistic path to victory, and even more importantly to underestimate the strengths of your opponent. Labour did this in 2008; we built a negative campaign around attacking John Key that was a mistake and did not work. As Bryan Gould has recently noted, we underestimated him to our cost.
Labour’s campaign style is still excessively negative, and not yet clearly focused. Now that Key has gone, it will be crucial that Labour does not underestimate Bill English. He has many different and arguably more admirable characteristics than his predecessor. Nobody’s fool, he has been tested in the fire and not found wanting for some time now. He does have some vulnerabilities with all his eggs in the so-called “social investment” basket, but they will need careful research and even more careful communication to be effective.