The Corner

Re: Watching Obamacare

Yuval, you’re right that the current effort to rebrand Obamacare will probably work about as well as slapping a New and Improved!! label on an expired can of pork brains. But from the Democrats’ point of view, all of their problems (and thus all of the country’s problems) stem from a failure to properly communicate to a thick-headed public the glories of modern progressive thought. Scoff if you wish, but Democrats think they won the last two elections through just this sort of judicious framing of their policies. And if they can only come up with the proper rhetoric to sell the public on Obamacare, they expect to do equally well this time around.


In 2006, Democrats skillfully applied the insights of messaging guru George Lakoff. Simply redefine taxes as “membership fees” and call tort lawyers “public-protection attorneys,” Lakoff said, and victory will be yours. Sure enough, all it took was a strong and simple message, plus a major environmental disaster on the Gulf Coast plus a faltering war overseas plus a series of sex scandals dominating the news, and the Democrats won back both houses of Congress.


In 2008 they took Lakoff’s theories and went to town, distilling the essence of liberal thought down to a few stirring words. Put that together with a near-total economic collapse, and the Democrats increased their edge in Congress and won the presidency too. Way to go, George!


So now, in 2010, everything is in place for another electoral triumph. There’s already a major environmental disaster on the Gulf Coast, a faltering war overseas, and a series of sex scandals dominating the news, and they’re working real hard on the near-total economic collapse. Now all the Democrats need to do is put their talented message-framers to work on Obamacare, and there’s no reason this year’s election can’t be just as one-sided as the last two.

Fred Schwarz — Fred Schwarz is a deputy managing editor of National Review.

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