Critical Condition

NRO’s health-care blog.

A Competing Message


I’ve been surprised this whole time at Democrats’ disregard for where the American people are at on this issue.  Take, for instance, the odd situation you see in most polls where large margins oppose the Democratic health-care reform bills, but often do favor the public option or some variation on that theme.   America doesn’t like the reform package as a whole but likes the idea of creating more competition (which is how the public option questions are phrased in most polls). We on the right may disagree that a public option would create competition and even believe it would diminish or destroy competition, but the questions are usually framed as a public option “to compete with private insurers.”  It succeeds because it is framed with the free-market argument of competition!  That’s the lesson Democrats should have taken from the polls, that people want a solution but they want more competition not more taxes, regulation, and spending.  

Instead, they’ve created a bill where very few people think their own health care quality or costs will get better if it passes.  Democrats failed to credibly articulate why they think this bill creates positive outcomes for individuals and that’s why you’re seeing their coalition fracture over this issue.  Their left wing is caught up in their pursuit of ideology rather than a workable solution, and the ones closer to the center are hoping that tweaks here and there in the bill will give them adequate political cover.  At the end of the day, though, most Americans will know one thing: did Member X vote for or against the plan.  And voting for the plan – tweaks to appease the moderates or no tweaks – will be a huge political liability for many of these moderate Democrats.

— Kristen Soltis is the director of policy research at the Winston Group, a strategy and polling firm in Washington, D.C.


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