He says he listens, but I don’t think he hears.
After last week’s elections, President Obama accurately described his party’s treatment as a “shellacking.” And he was right. But then, when asked what caused that “shellacking,” he said that the problem was communication — he hadn’t properly gotten his message out.
His presumption is that his positions and beliefs are so right and proper and sensible and reasonable, all he has to do is explain them adequately and we’ll all slap our heads, say “oh, of course! NOW we understand it!” and get in line — or, at least enough of us.
Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
I am reminded of a discussion I once overheard between a fairly devout person and another who was confirmed as hostile to religion. The disbeliever challenged the faithful one by noting the Holocaust — how could God allow such evil to happen? Weren’t there a lot of good people who died in that event? Didn’t they pray to God for help, and didn’t God not answer those prayers?
The believer’s answer was remarkably simple: “God hears all prayers, and God answers all prayers. It’s just sometimes God’s answer is ‘no.'”
(The discussion continued on for some time, and got considerably more involved, but that key statement is what I’m citing here.)
Mr. President, a great many of us don’t need to be properly communicated to. We don’t need to be educated to precisely what you’re selling. Sir, we understand it just fine — and we are saying “no.”
We don’t want it. You can gild it up, sugarcoat it, or talk about how ignorant and resistant and wrong-headed and greedy and selfish we are, and we won’t want it. You can talk about how wonderful your promises are, and how great it will be, and we won’t want it.
Conversely, we can simply say that we’re simply failing to properly communicate our objections. You’re an intelligent and reasonable man, sir — you’ve certainly told us so countless times, both personally and through your proxies — why can’t you comprehend our principles and beliefs that compel us to reject your agenda?
I’m not asking you to embrace our beliefs. I know that ain’t gonna happen. But by insisting that the sole problem is that you haven’t properly explained yourself enough, you insult us. You are saying that principled opposition simply isn’t possible, and we’re just ignorant dolts who can’t understand you unless you spell it out, slowly and clearly, over and over again until we finally grasp it.
Last week, a lot of Americans didn’t say “we don’t understand, Mr. President, and we don’t like it.” The message was “we understand it all too well, and we don’t want it.”
If you can’t grasp that, Mr. President, that’s OK. We’ll be giving you plenty more opportunities over the next two years, repeating and clarifying and simplifying that message over and over and over until you understand it.