National Review Online

The health-care summit, summarized.

The president and his Democratic colleagues insist on framing the health-care debate in terms of Us vs. Them: The big bad private sector is out to hurt you, and the heroic government wants to save you. But for their continuing effort to sell Obamacare to the American people, the third time won’t be the charm.

Us vs. Them isn’t working, and what’s more, it can’t work. Because, contrary to what the Obama administration thinks, public opinion is not endlessly malleable. 

Issue-framing strategists like Frank Luntz and George Lakoff often describe a pliant public that can be manipulated by the perfectly phrased message. There is some truth to this: Research shows that citizens do seek out elite guidance in decision-making. But however many ways you frame an issue, the public still has to choose to place greater weight on one consideration or another. 

As elite opinion on health-care reform has become more defined and consistent, the public’s considerations have become more entrenched. Now, the verdict is in: Americans clearly prefer choice and freedom over government control. 

President Obama hoped his summit would be a chance to start anew and reframe the debate, but it’s too late. Citizens have been forming their views for months now. The White House might be willing to ignore public opinion, but it’s not going to be able to change it.

– Sabrina L. Schaeffer is managing partner of Evolving Strategies and a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum.