It's frustrating to me when people wrongly attribute substantial disagreements to a "failure to communicate". Here's Barack Obama speaking:

"I am confident that when you come to a general election, and we are having a debate about the future of this country -- how are we going to lower gas prices, how are we going to deal with job losses, how are we going to focus on energy independence -- that those are voters who I will be able to appeal to," he said.

"If I lose, it won't be because of race," Obama said. "It will be because ... I made mistakes on the campaign trail, I wasn't communicating effectively my plans in terms of helping them in their everyday lives."

No matter who wins the race for the presidency, the losing party should concede that they lost on substance, not merely on process. In the quote above, Obama basically asserts that voters cannot possibly reject him for the presidency once they understand his plans for America. In Obama's mind, if he loses it's because he just didn't articulate his ideas clearly enough, not because America both understood and disliked his ideas. An Obama loss would be due to process -- "mistakes on the campaign trail" -- not substance. He admits no possibility that his ideas are unappealing to voters. Anyone who doesn't vote for me doesn't really understand my positions.

I don't mean to pick on Obama, because this sort of phrasing is common among politicians and "commoners" alike. Sometimes it's legitimate. Most of my disagreements with my wife are due to miscommunication... but some are the result of real differences. Whether the dispute is domestic or international, it's important to recognize when it can be resolved by clearer communication and when there are substantial issues that need to be addressed through compromise, disengagement, violence, or whatever means are appropriate.

When conflict is wrongly attributed to a "failure to communicate" but there are actually substantial differences to be resolved, the conflict becomes harder to deal with from both sides. Unless you're willing to recognize that there's a substantial disagreement, how can there be resolution? Additional "clarification" is pointless when there's already both understanding and disagreement. Furthermore, the other party will be insulted by your continuing insistence that the disagreement is merely a product of their ignorance.

Part of the reason presidential campaigns drag go on for so long is to ensure that voters get all the information they need to cast their votes based on substance, not process. As Obama has pointed out, he and Hillary have debated each other 21 times -- by now voters have the measure of the man. If Obama loses to either Hillary or McCain, he would be wise to consider that his ideas, and not merely their delivery, may be to blame.

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