Dave Weigel finds many House Republicans convinced that they were on the right track. He quotes Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina:
We believe we did it for the right reasons. We believe it was good policy. We believe good policy makes good politics. But we have to be able to explain that policy in order to accomplish it. I did an interview with a local radio station back home a week ago, and it started with them saying it was ‘just seven days until default.’ That was an indication that our message was not getting out [bold mine-DL].
Poor communication is one of the most overused excuses for political failure. It takes for granted that there were no other flaws with the chosen strategy, and it also treats “getting out the message” as if it would have made all the difference between winning and losing. If the Republican message was that there was no risk of default, or that default wouldn’t be so bad, it reached many Americans, but this mostly served to alienate more people. Now it’s possible that House Republicans’ message wasn’t “getting out” because it seemed to change from day to day, but it seems more likely that the original message–shut down the government to defund the ACA–was received and rejected by most of the people that heard it.
I am reminded of the clumsy efforts at public diplomacy during the Bush years, which started from the premise that other nations would ultimately be more approving of what the U.S. was doing abroad if Washington could just get the message out and get the messaging right. It was unthinkable that the problem might have been the substance of U.S. policies or the way they were being carried out, and so the only thing that needed fixing was the “messaging.” When someone insists that the main problem that a party or a country has is that it needs better or more effective messaging, it is usually the case that he doesn’t have the first clue what the real problems are.