He built his career in large part by plastering his name on skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, books, wines and steaks, but there appears to be one place President Donald Trump does not want his favorite five-letter word -- the Republican health care bill.Before Obamacare, there was Romneycare. Back in the 1990s, there was Hillarycare. For a brief moment in the 2012 GOP primary, there was even Obamneycare (Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty quickly abandoned the phrase and, in August 2011, his campaign for the nomination). But the White House, for all its messaging woes and infighting, has settled on the fact that -- for the time being -- it's steering clear of Trumpcare.
Kellyanne Conway, one of Donald Trump's top White House advisers, appeared on Fox News yesterday and touted the new Republican health care plan, which, she said, enjoys the president's full support. There was, however, some quibbling about what to call the GOP proposal.Conway says the Republican plan enjoys "presidential leadership," explaining that Trump has personally taken it upon himself to push the bill through. She added that the president is "really husbanding" the legislation through the process.But when the discussion turned to the bill's name, TPM reported that Conway insisted this is"serious business" and "isn't about branding according to someone's name." She added, "I'll call it Trumpcare if you want to, but I didn't hear President Trump say to any of us, 'Hey, I want my name on that.'"A White House spokesperson struck a more emphatic note with Politico, arguing "It's not 'Trumpcare.' ... We will be calling it by its official name," the American Health Care Act.If only it were that simple.
I can think of a thousand important angles to the health care fight, and I'll gladly concede that legislative nicknames don't deserve a high ranking on the list. That said, dismissing rhetoric, names, and labels as trivia isn't quite right, either -- because what something is called affects public perceptions.The Obama White House spent years pushing back against "Obamacare," precisely because the Democratic president and his team didn't want support for the law to hinge solely on personal attitudes about Obama.It didn't matter. Republicans were obsessed with the "Obamacare" label, the media soon followed, and much of the public started assuming that this was the official, or at least semi-official name. To this day, seven years after the law was signed, many Americans have no idea that the Affordable Care Act and "Obamacare" are the same thing.With that in mind, opponents of the GOP's American Health Care Act, of which there are many, have a built-in incentive to ignore the White House's pushback and push the "Trumpcare" name with great vigor. After all, the Republican president is not popular; the ridiculous legislation has few allies; and calling it "Trumpcare" will likely depress public support further.Trump may not want his name on this, but it's not really up to him which nicknames stick.