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Symbol of National Health Care: Obama Administration (left) and Tea Party Movement (right)
The U.S. Healthcare Reform, commonly referred to as Obamacare, refers to the legislation of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA) that were signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama in March 2010. The constitutionality of PPACA was subsequently challenged by a majority of the U.S. states and organizations in federal court, which came to a closure on June 28th, 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mandate was a tax and therefore fell under Congress’ taxing authority.
The modern health care reform efforts in the United States began with the federal enactment of Medicare and Medicaid programs under the Lyndon B. Johnson administration in 1965. While numerous initiatives towards universal health care coverage have been proposed under several administrations spanning over the past decades, the public interest in health care reform reached its pinnacle as one of the main policy issues during the 2008 presidential campaign. The then-presidential candidate Barack Obama was among the most progressive advocates of universal health care and upon entering the office, it became one of the most critical and high-priority policy initiatives under his administration.
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Shortly after winning the election in November 2008, the newly elected President Obama launched the website Change.gov, where public opinion regarding the health issues became one of the first major discussion topics on the site. The survey post, which asked “What worries you most about the healthcare system in our country?”, went onto receive more than 2,200 comments within the first 24 hours.
2009: Tea Party Protests
During the congressional summer recess in August 2009, members of the Tea Party movement rapidly mobilized around the issue of the proposed health care reform bills and organized protests online as well as at the congressional town hall meetings. Meanwhile, conservative bloggers across the country dubbed the reform initiative “Obamacare” and characterized his political ideology as Socialist, a label that is still considered scandalous in the United States politics. On August 6th, 2009, YouTuber DougFromUpland uploaded a Hitler’s reaction video titled “HITLER RANTS ABOUT OBAMA HEALTHCARE AND RIGHT WINGERS,” (shown below, left) which has received more than 226,000 views as of July 2012.
As the Congress prepared to reconvene in September, advocates of the reform launched a grassroots social media campaign on Facebook to shape the public opinion regarding the bills. On September 9th, President Obama delivered an address about the health care bill before a joint session of Congress, during which the Rep. Joe Wilson interrupted his speech by yelling “You lie!” More than 880,000 Facebook status updates demanding the health care reform were posted within 24 hours, according to CNN’s column article published on the same day. On September 13th, YouTube channel FreeYourPixels uploaded a video comparing Wilson’s holler to rapper Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
2010: Legislation and Constitutional Challenge
In March 2010, after months of deadlocked debate between the Republicans and Democrats, both Houses passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA), which were signed into law by President Obama on March 23rd and 30th, 2010, respectively. However, Republicans and other critics of the reform continued to contest the law’s constitutionality, keeping the national debate well alive and feeding anti-Obamacare slogans for the Tea Party members.
2011: Occupy Protests
Throughout the year, the constitutional challenges over the health care reform continued in both state and federal courts. In September 2009, a series of sit-in protests known as Occupy Protests began to emerge across major U.S. cities, which brought students and progressive minded Americans together in displaying their support for universal health care coverage.
2012: Supreme Court Review
In November 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court began reviewing the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, which represented a number of related state-level cases that had been filed against PPACA and HCERA by numerous parties.
With the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on President Obama’s health care law less than a month away, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) unveiled a social media campaign using the hashtag #IWantRepeal on June 7th, 2012. The campaign was launched in the form of single topic blogs on Twitter and Tumblr, where people could submit their signatures with the hashtag and see their names printed onto paper petitions in real time via Ustream. The group also released a quick-paced YouTube video with instructions to participate in the hashtag campaign.
At first, the hashtag campaign against the healthcare bill seemed to be taking off with valid signatures, but shortly after its launch, the political news blog Wonkette published an article titled “Everyone Must Spam GOP’s Anti-Healthcare Reform Livestream Thing Immediately,” which apparently inspired its readers to visit the NRCC’s blog and spam the printer with irreverent signatures. Soon enough, the petition came under the invasion of trolls who sought to derail its message by submitting fake signatures, which were then printed onto the paper and streamed in real time.
According to various witness accounts, the trolls managed to flood the printer with their submissions for approximately 10 minutes before it came to a halt with the anticlimactic signature “Bruce Dackler.” Following the conclusion of the livecast, the story was picked up by internet news sites like Wired, Gawker and BuzzFeed, as well as blogs and discussion forums such as The Democratic Underground, BarStoolSports Forum and GameFAQ among others.
After months of oral argument and hearings throughout the first half of 2012, the Court upheld the validity of the individual mandate in PPACA, thus leaving the core principles of the reform legislations unaffected. The news of the Supreme Court’s ruling was met by split reactions from both the Republicans and the Democrats, as well as inspiring celebratory image macros and blogs from the proponents of health care reform, such as Affordable Care Cat and Hey Girl Affordable Care Act Tumblr blogs.
In June 2012, Republicans and conservatives on Twitter began using the hashtag #ObamacareInThreeWords to voice their opposition against the healthcare reform bill, including the Speaker of the House John Boehner (shown below). The hashtag enjoyed a brief period of widespread use among the detractors of the healthcare reform, however, it soon faded into oblivion following the re-election of President Barack Obama for a second term.
<a href="https://twitter.com/gopwhip">gopwhip</a>: <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23ObamaCareInThreeWords">#ObamaCareInThreeWords</a> --> We. Will. Repeal.</p>— Speaker John Boehner (SpeakerBoehner) June 29, 2012
Then on May 16th, 2013, the White House responded to the House Speaker John Boehner’s call for its repeal on Twitter, using the same hashtag and a picture of President Obama’s signature on the bill. According to ABC News, the delayed response from the White House came as Republican congressmen planned to vote for the repeal of Obamacare on that day, which marks the 37th attempt since the bill has passed in March 2010.
The hashtag soon became one of the globally trending topics on the site, spawning a wide range of three-worded responses from others who either supported or criticized Obamacare.
So. Was. Slavery. RT
<a href="https://twitter.com/whitehouse">whitehouse</a> It's. The. Law. <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23ObamaCareInThreeWords">#ObamaCareInThreeWords</a></p>— Right Scoop (trscoop) May 16, 2013
#ObamaCareinThreeWords Still largely unread.— Popehat (
Popehat) <a href="https://twitter.com/Popehat/status/335170669622992896">May 16, 2013</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Way. Over. Budget. <a href="http://t.co/aofFxD35p1" title="http://m.washingtonexaminer.com/cbo-obamacare-costs-double-to-1.8-trillion-in-first-decade/article/2529655">m.washingtonexaminer.com/cbo-obamacare-…</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23ObamacareInThreeWords">#ObamacareInThreeWords</a></p>— Dana Loesch (DLoesch) May 16, 2013
Not single payer. #ObamaCareInThreeWords— Dan Savage (
fakedansavage) <a href="https://twitter.com/fakedansavage/status/335122144960860160">May 16, 2013</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Ice cold beer <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23ObamaCareInThreeWords">#ObamaCareInThreeWords</a></p>— CollegeHumor (CollegeHumor) May 16, 2013
The Globe and Mail – Yo Kanye, I’mma let you have the best meme of all time
The Daily Dot – White House responds to Twitter hashtag a year too late