In the aftermath of last Tuesday's midterm elections, a new narrative has come from the Obama camp: the election results were due to bad communication from the White House to the American people. The idea is if they had communicated their successes more effectively, voters wouldn't have voted for Republicans overwhelmingly.
On the one hand, they have a point. The Obama Administration has a communication problem, one they have suffered with since Obama took the Oath of Office. On the campaign trail, the Obama team was effective in packaging a message and getting it out to the people. We may not have agreed with the message, but it cannot be denied that Obama's campaign communication team was a well-oiled machine.
Once in office, however, Obama has suffered with communication missteps, many of which can be left at the feet of former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. While the communication during the campaign was accessible to everyone, the post-campaign communication has become smug, snarky, and condescending towards anyone who holds a contrary view. Look at the Obama Administration's treatment of Fox News, for example. Whether it was the occasional off-handed remark about whether Fox News is a legitimate news network or the more ham-fisted attempts to treat Fox News as illegitimate, the Obama Administration spent a lot more time attacking a cable news network than they did in articulating a message related to their efforts. That shows a poor communication strategy designed not to trumpet their successes, but bleat out a poor tuba solo and blame it on others.
While I admit the Obama Administration's communication hasn't been as effective as it should have been, I can't completely chalk up the midterm election results to it. A huge part of any communication strategy is determining the message to send to the intended audience, while containing as well as possible any unintended messages. In the absence of the former, the latter becomes the message by default. We can argue about what the Obama Administration has done, but it means little if the source of those accomplishments isn't talking. That cedes the ground to third parties on both sides of the aisle, which can lead to a distortion of the intended message.
In this case, the message that was conveyed to the public was a disjointed mess of Leftist arrogance, partisan fear-mongering, and rampant hypocrisy. Combined with the TEA Party's rhetoric energizing people to get involved and the way the political winds tend to shift in midterm elections, it was assumed the Democrats would suffer losses. The question was how many.
Chalking up the political drubbing Obama's party received last Tuesday on a failure to communicate is appropriate, but only to an extent. If Obama wants to avoid another setback for his party (and possibly himself) in 2012, he'll need to address the communication issues within his own circle of power soon.