With the passage of health care insurance reform finally assured, the Democrats face the next huge hurdle. And this one may be even more important than finally passing the massively complex and politically perilous legislation. The time has come to name whatever this thing is so the Democrats can frame and sell their handiwork to the country and lay claim to their achievement for all time.
In its intent to change American society forever, this health care legislation can only be compared to Social Security and Medicare. The completion of the health care safety net will be the third leg of the Democratic Party's fundamental contribution to America. For the sake of political smarts, this beast cannot continue to be called "health care reform," or "health insurance reform."
The Democrats need a name that expresses their ownership of a system of health care that for the first time attempts to include all Americans. The challenge is that this new system will quickly become a complete and normal part of American life. In ten years it will be difficult for people to remember a time in which coverage could be denied, or a world in which you could lose your house because a child became ill. People will forget the time when there was genuine terror in the notion that most human beings were running around with something called "pre-existing conditions" that somehow flagged them as unworthy of health care. At this moment, for instance, Canadians don't know what we're talking about when we say, "pre-existing condition."
It is possible that the new system simply gets no new name, like the Medicare prescription thingy the Republicans created with the donut hole. They failed to name it, and now they don't own it. Health care reform could just slip invisibly into the fabric of American life. There's no question it will become the way things are, a new normal, like the existence of the web. If so, that would be a great loss to the Democrats if it happens without getting named. They would be forced to make convention speeches that go like this:
"We're the party that gave you Social Security, Medicare and mandated health insurance for all."
That would be a catastrophe. So here goes: It's a complete modern health care system. But it's not Eurocare, since our insurance companies are still allowed to make a killing. So yes, it's uniquely American. How about Americare? It's the creation of a unique American system of health care. Then the media can say things like, "Americare means your insurance company can't drop you." Or, "Americare means that this girl, who would have died under the old system, will now get her liver transplant." Americare needs concrete deliverables, too. Letters in the mail. A Bill of Health Care Rights for all Americans. A website. Make it simple, make it real for people.
I would suggest the Republicans jump on the Americare bandwagon. Because there is one gigantic lurking danger out there that just might sink the party for all time. Since this historic health care restructuring has passed without any Republican support (so far -- it's still possible a Republican in the House or Senate might actually jump in). What would happen if the Democrats took real ownership of their revolution and call it what it is: Democare.
Imagine how that would work for the Republicans throughout the ages. What if the Dems had branded Social Security, Democratic Security. And what if Medicare had been Democrat's Eldercare?
Your choice, Democrats. Democare or Americare. But call it something! And do it now.