In A Nutshell
The Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) is one of the most divisive policies ever pushed through by an American president. Designed to ensure everyone is insured in the event of illness or injury, it’s sent the Republican Party mad with rage—with prominent conservatives calling it “the end of freedom.” Yet the concept of Obamacare was originally proposed by Nixon Republicans in the 1970s, and fully supported by the GOP while Democrats campaigned against it.
The Whole Bushel
Depending on where you get your news from, Obamacare is either a nice idea badly implemented, or a terrible idea that will strip away the freedom and wealth of ordinary Americans. For those on the right, it’s become the boogeyman of the Obama administration—a policy so inimical to conservative values that Republicans actually broke the government to stop its implementation. But 40 years ago, things were very different. Forty years ago, it was Republicans who were trying to push a near-identical bill through while Democrats loudly and bitterly railed against it.
In 1974, Richard Nixon and his inner circle revealed their plans for a bill that would provide healthcare to all Americans via a system of employer-sponsored insurance. Large-and-medium sized employers would have to provide insurance to their workers or pay a penalty, while small employers and low-income citizens would receive a subsidy. At the same time Medicare and Medicaid would be expanded; all concepts that Obama later “borrowed” for his Affordable Care Act. Looking at the two proposals now, they’re not just similar: They’re identical. And Nixon’s bill was hugely popular with fellow Republicans. This was helping the poor, conservative-style, and everyone expected it to sail through into law.
Of course, that’s not what happened. Horrified that the bill wasn’t liberal enough (or just looking to do some petty point-scoring), Democrats torpedoed it and affordable healthcare vanished for the next 40 years. Fast-forward to today and the same Republican Party that proudly created the bill is howling at its implementation, while the Democrats who once campaigned bitterly against it are now its biggest champions. If anyone’s still looking for final proof that Western politics has descended into nothing more than inane tribalism and petty point scoring, this is surely it.