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Suddenly, Democrats Love 'Obamacare'

At their convention in Charlotte, Democrats are embracing the one-time slur Republicans hung on the president's major domestic accomplishment. Here's why.

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Suddenly, Democrats love Obamacare--not just the law, but the word itself.

Coined by Republicans and poll-tested to death back in 2008, the term was intended as a slur against the idea of a massive health reform law.

But now that the vast majority of Americans are beginning to pay attention to the presidential election, Democrat after Democrat has followed the president's lead and started referring to the law with that very same moniker.

"Governor Romney promised that on his first day in office he's gonna sit right down, grab a pen and repeal Obamacare," Obama said in a speech in Boulder, Colorado, this week, en route to the Democratic National Convention.

He added that the move would immediately restore pre-existing condition exceptions to health insurance plans and bump 7 million Americans younger than 26 from their parents' insurance plans.

"You know, he calls it Obamacare. I like the name. I do care," Obama continued. "I don't know exactly what the other side is proposing; I guess you could call it 'Romney doesn't care.' But this law is here to stay."

Is it good for entrepreneurs?

Despite the fact that the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, authored and shepherded a very similar law into being when he was governor of Massachusetts, Republicans have made opposition to Obamacare a central part of their campaign.

Watered down though the final version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was, I've generally been in favor of Obamacare--at least insofar as it affects entrepreneurs and those who want to join their ranks.

By and large, I think a lot of small business owners agree.

Simply de-linking benefits from employment is likely to open up opportunities for lots of people to launch businesses, especially for those who couldn't afford to leave day jobs previously, simply because they needed health insurance.

And, the fact that more people will have health insurance has to be good for the country's health, right? More healthy people equals more healthy consumers.

Of course, I understand that not everyone agrees. One of the key legal challenges to the law was brought by the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

A little bit of linguistic jujitsu.

In the wake of the realization of how close the race is, and of the fact that Romney got little or no bounce in the polls after his convention in Tampa last week, Democrats "appear to think that the politics have changed," according to The Washington Post

Indeed, if the first night of the Democratic Convention is to be remembered for anything aside from Michelle Obama's speech, it will probably be remembered as the night that Democrats stood up and began fighting for their health-care law.

Writing in Politico, Jennifer Haberkorn agreed: "For us Democrats, Obamacare is a badge of honor," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday night, comparing it to the way Republicans have derided "Romneycare" as a "scarlet letter."

Republicans had started calling the act Obamacare after polls showed that the word didn't test well with voters. In Congress, a Democratic representative took her Republican colleagues to task on the House floor.

"Mr. Speaker, is it a violation of the House rule wherein members are not permitted to make disparaging references to the president of the United States," [Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said] on February 18, 2011. "In two previous gentlemen's statements on the amendment, both of them referred to the Affordable Care Act, which is the accurate title of the health reform law, as 'Obamacare.' "

That month, a record--which was broken a few months later--was set for the number of times 'Obamacare' had been uttered in Congressional speeches: 272 times, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation.

That analysis showed the word has been used nearly 3,000 times since its debut as a phrase on Capitol Hill in July 2009.

For a while, it seemed to work. But suddenly, and perhaps just in the nick of time, Democrats seem ready, willing and able to point to the health care law as a great accomplishment.

Last updated: Sep 6, 2012

BILL MURPHY JR. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.
@BillMurphyJr




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