I have often in my professional and personal life used William Bridges model for transitions, that is also close to Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s model for dealing with death, and the loss associated with it. So I thought it might be helpful to apply it to the recent Republican election loss. It speculates what would constitute a healthy transition and moving on for the party, while being somewhat skeptical if they really will.
- Denial. This was the phase the Republican Party was in during the closing month of the campaign as the polling data was fairly consistently against them and they accused the polling companies of being wrong. This is fairly typical human behavior when faced with unpleasant reality. Karl Rove was suffering from it on election night, though Fox News got over it rather fast and declared Obama the winner with commendable speed.
- Anger. We are currently in the middle of this phase with the rage in the Republican Party seeking all sorts of scapegoats from Mitt Romney, to single women, Hispanics, voter fraud, you name it….everyone but themselves. Not a lot of mea culpa in this anger.
- Mourning. It would be healthy but is unlikely if the Republican Party actually went into a period of mourning, of recognizing the loss before it rushes into judgment about what happened and its causes. The loss is too fresh for good analysis, too much of a shock and so it is likely that the same data delusions that drove the defeat will continue if there is not a period of suspending judgment, acknowledging the defeat and then starting the next stage:
- Adaptation. This would start with really honest data driven After Action Review as the US Military call it: finding out what went well, what could have been better and what to do differently next time. This is where I am skeptical because the Republican Party has since the famous quip of the Bush White House that the media were in the reality based world and the White House made the reality, been in the world where data does not drive decisions but already made decisions drive data. I doubt this will change because it has become part of the core anti-intellectual identity of the Republican Party’s base and its leadership. But we will see…
- Moving On. One of the secrets of this transition process is that it is difficult to healthily move on until the earlier stages are complete. I doubt the GOP will properly mourn and I am fairly certain that their adaptation will be superficial and so they won’t really move on, but will pretend to do this to themselves as much as to anyone else. They will make superficial gestures in the direction of women and minorities and continue to be the ‘good ole boys party’…
Here is another version of his model which you can fit for yourself around the Republican Party’s process: