With less than 37 percent of eligible voters casting ballots and a sweeping victory for Republicans, every prognosticator on the planet is looking for the message in the bottle. What did this election mean and what will be the outcome of its results? Here are more than a few suggestions.

For the Democrats

The president who stood for hope and change has provided neither; an economic recovery that favors only the wealthy, universal healthcare that isn't universal, a foreign policy that is no more than an extension of the last administration's disastrous hubris, no clear articulation of American national security or interests, no tax reform, domestic spying, curtailment of civil liberties, a gutless response to immigration reform promises and a continuous display of poor political strategy and judgment.

The Democrats have no clear message, and where there is a message, it is muddled. They had an issue, income inequality, and they failed to make the case. What is worse, they allowed the Republicans to define them.


Support from traditional alliances with ethnic minorities, women and the working man is slipping because the administration was always late to the party or sold them out when convenient to do so.

It is time to face the reality and actually speak for something on the national stage, things that everyone can believe in within the party: income equality, training and education at reasonable cost, a foreign policy that elevates us to the moral high ground, energy independence with a path to an all-renewable plateau, climate change, campaign finance reform and a fair system of taxation with financial safety nets for all. And when you speak, stick to your message throughout the campaign.

Define yourself now. Failure to do so will let candidates like Hillary Clinton do so for you. There is no question but that she is a reincarnation of Bill, and that means fawning before the demands of the business community, a lax approach to minority rights and demands and indifference to middle class issues. Even worse, she hasn't Bill's timidity in the arena of foreign affairs and will undoubtedly provide a muscular approach, which means simply continuous foreign military engagement.

For the Republicans

The Republican Party just enjoyed a Pyrrhic victory. It won with less than 37 percent of eligible voters participating and when 60 percent come back to the polls, most voters will find that the only legislation passed harmed them. The most recent list of anticipated Republican policy priorities provides nothing for the middle class: reducing corporate taxes, passing fast-track legislation for trade deals that remove protections for American workers, removing sales tax on medical devices and extending work hours so businesses can continue to deny healthcare coverage to employees. This agenda will please the money interests that put them in office, but it won't keep them there.

Using the fear factor will wear thin. Every psychologist will tell your that fear eventually leads to anger and when the largely uninformed followers finally figure out that the Ebola virus wasn't the threat they foretold; that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters weren't at their doorstep; that minorities don't threaten their lifestyle; that children crossing the borders doesn't constitute an invasion; that ObamaCare won't be accompanies by death panels, cancelled insurance or absence of choice; and that the desire for smaller government doesn't mean no government, they will become the permanent minority party that they are destined to be.

With mindless opposition, and when backed by millions of dollars in broadcasting, that message works on about 18 percent of the population; the rest either resent it or simply tune it out.

What worked for them in this election cycle can, in fact, continue to work in the future: reaching out to minority constituencies, pointing out the failure of the Democrats to deliver, emphasizing the shortcomings of big government, removing overregulation, emphasizing local control and focusing on liberties and freedom. These positions, backed by legislation, have genuine appeal to most Americans. But Republicans have to deliver. So far, it is clear they will not.

For the progressives

The country is deeply divided and their supporters are a minority within one of those divided parts. Progressives have to get used to the idea that their agenda has to be viewed as long-term, because they will fail if they refuse to accept it. That means grassroots organizing has to be reorganized for the long haul. It has to be institutionalized, fundamental reform requires education, leadership needs to be grown and fostered, efforts need to be consolidated and fewer voices are needed to broadcast the message. Right now it is nothing more than cacophonic noise.

As hard as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAll fracked up: Biden's Keystone State breakdown What do Google, banks and chicken salad have in common? Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit MORE (D-Mass.) worked to support progressive Democrats and women, her efforts largely failed. But the message was the right one and she articulates it in a way that resonates. A much more determined and intelligent strategy is needed to roll out her style and voice.

Progressives have got to stop flogging your base for money every single day of the week and using false hope or threats as a reason to support the cause. They need to find a Tom Steyer (the billionaire supporting climate change initiatives) for minimum wage or sustainable income, civil liberties, energy independence, foreign affairs or immigration reform.

Voters are limited in their choices and that vote has to cover a lot of ground, so the votes tend to be the result of an impression, good or bad, constructive or destructive, positive or negative. This election expressed disgust and disgust is traditionally followed by the "throw the bums out" vote. The only place where specific policies can be promoted or supported is through referenda. Conservatives know that. Witness the laundry list of abhorrent legislative initiatives that spew forth from ALEC (the Koch brothers-supported American Legislative Exchange Council). For those progressives who engaged in state sponsored initiatives, "good on you." Minimum wage initiatives passed in four states and the legalization of marijuana in two (and a half — D.C.), but much more is needed.

Republicans make a strong case for local control. Progressives need to view that as part of their agenda. Big government is good if it serves. It should be transparent but also efficient and, to the extent that it can be, unobtrusive. Administration of Social Security and Medicare are remarkably efficient but tons of government regulations are burdensome. Monitoring and streamlining have to be part of the agenda. Too many Americans don't even listen to the "government can serve all" message because they know that is not true.

Russell is managing director of Cove Hill Advisory Services.