As I’ve written in the past, labeling health care reform as “Obamacare” is a petty tactic. That would be the case even if it were an accurate label. The trouble is that it’s really a misnomer. President Obama did not draft the health care legislation in Congress. What he did do was supply Congress with a broad framework for what he thought reform should look like. In fact, he did not even come up with that framework on his own.
It’s easy to blame the President when things go wrong–or right depending on where you stand–but as Mark Schmitt writes in The American Prospect that really gives the single man far too much credit. According to Schmitt:
“..[E]ven world-historical figures color within lines that they do not draw themselves. What presidents, governors, or even legislators are willing and able to do is defined by forces and efforts outside of themselves….[T]he work underlying the current health-reform effort began years before Obama even announced his campaign for the White House. Drawing on the lessons of past failures, when reform had no organized constituency, advocates and funders put massive resources into groups such as Health Care for America Now. They picked up political scientist Jacob Hacker’s idea of a public plan within a structured insurance marketplace and developed it to give progressive advocates of a single-payer system something politically realistic that they could get behind. And they worked to ensure that all the Democratic candidates for president (with the exception of single-payer stalwart Rep. Dennis Kucinich) converged around roughly the same basic model. Years of health-reform-policy development, projects to improve public awareness of health reform, and advocacy campaigns were able to lay the groundwork for health reform well in advance. It was never going to be easy, but the best possible mechanism for achieving the long-thwarted goal was constructed for the president to flip the switch.”
So, you see, calling it Obamacare really highlights a lack of understanding. Of course, the people who started pitching that name to the public know the names of the real architects of health reform: Jacob Hacker, Jeanne Lambrew, Sara Rosenbaum, Jonathan Gruber, Henry Aaron, John Holahan, and many, many, many others. But they know that most of you don’t know who those people are, and that even if you did, you wouldn’t feel as viscerally about them as you would an elected official, most especially the President. The lack of understanding, you see, is your own, and politicians capitalize on that lack of understanding by appealing instead to your emotions. Don’t like Obama? Then you’re sure not to like Obamacare. Don’t know who Jacob Hacker is? Then you might actually be open to what the Hacker Option would do for America. It is just that simple.