On Thursday, during a press conference of House Democrats reacting to President Barack Obama’s proposal to “allow” insurance companies to un-cancel individual health insurance plans, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) had an interesting way of referring to Obamacare. He did not call it the “Affordable Care Act.” Instead, he called it the “health security law.” The change did not seem to be an error but a calculated shift in terms.
The idea Becerra was trying to convey was that the law was about “new protections and rights,” such as the guarantee that parents “will never go bankrupt if they have to take their child to the doctor.” The term “health security” also sounds close to “Social Security,” which is essentially considered a permanent entitlement, never mind all of its problems. White House press secretary Jay Carney was on the same page:
This week GOP leaders say they are ditching immigration & tax reform to focus on throwing 3m young people off their parents’ insurance.
— Jay Carney (EOP) (@PressSec) November 14, 2013
Democrats seem eager to move the debate away from “price,” “plans,” and “exchange”–terms that vex the middle class. Instead, they want us to talk about “security,” “rights,” and “protections”–terms that appeal to the poor and their would-be representatives. Not coincidentally, leading Obamacare strategist Robert Creamer is de-emphasizing health insurance and ramping up the class rhetoric on the minimum wage.
On the one hand, this is just a typical political tactic: change the subject, pivot, re-frame, etc. On the other, the move toward “security” and class warfare is a sign of how deeply afraid Democrats are that Obamacare is in serious trouble. They’re not preparing to fight over bits and pieces of the law. They’re digging trenches for a battle over full repeal, building a rhetorical firewall to stop conservatives’ sudden momentum.