Monday, March 26, 2012

Fighting to Control the Meaning of ‘Obamacare’

On Monday, the Supreme Court will begin three days of arguments over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The act is often called “Obamacare,” primarily by Republicans, as a term of disdain. Democrats have tried to limit the term’s use to reshape perceptions, but that has been a tough sell. Grant Barrett, a vice president for the American Dialect Society, says it is almost impossible to persuade people to discontinue the use of a political word. “It’s an invitation to have your heart broken. You forbid it, and they start writing it on the bathroom stalls.” Now Democrats seem to be embracing the term, launching a Twitter campaign that seeks to build positive associations for it.

Fox News
MARCH Number of times “Obamacare” has been used from March 1 to 23, according to transcripts kept by ShadowTV.
JUNE 12 The Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty uses “Obamneycare” to link the plan to one Mr. Romney signed as governor of Massachusetts.
Number of times “Obamacare” was used each month by members of Congress as recorded in the Congressional Record.
Uses of “Obamacare” in debates, television interviews and major speeches from May 1, 2011, to March 11, 2012, (or until a candidate dropped out), as transcribed by Federal News Service.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL Republican candidates use “Obamacare” to fire up the base, promising to repeal the law.
JAN. 7 Representative Steve King of Iowa uses “Obamacare” more than 60 times in a speech. In the Congressional Record, Mr. King has used the word nearly five times as often as any other lawmaker.
JULY 8 Quoting an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, Roy Blunt of Missouri, then a congressman, and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona enter the word into the Congressional Record for the first time.
MAY At a campaign speech in Iowa, Mitt Romney criticizes Democratic health care plans, saying, “The path of Europe is not the way to go. Socialized medicine. Hillarycare. Obamacare.”
APRIL 30 A spokesman for FreedomWorks, a group affiliated with the Tea Party movement, writes on the group’s blog: “Barack Obama is busy promoting his own version of HillaryCare. You can call it ObamaCare.”
FEB. 11 Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan says that while opponents use “Obamacare” in a derogatory sense, he also uses it because “it’s going to go down in history as a major accomplishment of the President’s.”

MARCH 23 The Obama campaign posts on Twitter, “If you’re proud of Obamacare and tired of the other side using it as a dirty word, complete this sentence: #ILikeObamacare because ...”
OCTOBER Democrats object to the use of the term “Obamacare” in mailings paid for with Congressional funds, saying that it violates a rule against using the mailings for political reasons.
FEB. 18 Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida argues against the use of “Obamacare” on the House floor. “It is meant as a disparaging reference to the president of the United States, and it is clearly in violation of the House rules against that.”
AUG. 15 Mr. Obama uses the word in a speech, adding, “I have no problem with people saying ‘Obama cares.’ I do care. If the other side wants to be the folks who don’t care? That’s fine with me.”

DECEMBER The Department of Health and Human Services buys advertising on Google so that a link to its web site,, appears at the top of searches for “Obamacare.” An official tells Politico that this is part of an effort to “get accurate information to people about the new law.”
MARCH Jeanne Schulte Scott, a lobbyist, writes in the journal Healthcare Financial Management: “We will soon see a ‘Giuliani-care’ and ‘Obama-care’ to go along with ‘McCain-care,’ ‘Edwards-care,’ and a totally revamped and remodeled ‘Hillary-care’ from the 1990s.”
MARCH 23 Mr. Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law.

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