Itineration: Cross Disciplinary Studies in Rhetoric, Media, and Culture,
President Barack Obama and his promises of health care reform were met with strong public support when he took office in January 2009. By the time Congress ultimately passed legislation in March 2010, not only had a majority of citizens turned against health care reform, but many had come to interpret it as inimical to American values. Opponents pejoratively branded the president a “socialist” and his reform as “socialized medicine.” A review of the history of health care reform efforts in the United States over the last eight decades illustrates that this rhetoric and the defining patterns of its proliferation have remained remarkably consistent over time. This three-part analysis illuminates the origins and character of this “socialized medicine” narrative, discusses its resiliency and efficacy as an oppositional political discourse, and examines this narrative’s renewed vigor in the case of Obama’s 2009-2010 reform effort.