The Affordable Care Act
With the financial crisis finally getting under control, Obama turned his attention to health care. Ted Kennedy, Obama's mentor, had gifted the Obama family a Portuguese water dog named Bo. Unfortunately, Kennedy had also been diagnosed with a late-stage brain tumor. He would only return to work in order to vote on one important issue: health care.
By 2009, 43 million Americans were uninsured and the cost of premiums had risen by 97 percent. The entire health care system needed to be revamped, and Obama believed the way to do it was by introducing universal health care. But Obama was worried about the political risks of such a monumental undertaking. Attempting to push healthcare legislation through a partisan Congress was risky, but Obama decided the benefit of potentially helping millions of Americans get health care was worth the risk.
Making one of his last public appearances, Kennedy spoke with Obama at a press conference addressing the issue of health care. Once again, Obama was set on trying to shape a bill that could garner both Democrat and Republican support, but Republicans opposed the Affordable Care Act immediately.
Not only were Republicans not planning on voting for the bill, they market-tested around 40 advertisements that would make sure Republican voters were against health care reform, too. They settled on the most successful phrase: describing Obama's new health care plan as a “government takeover.” The public galvanized around this issue, and in the summer of 2009, the right-wing Tea Party movement emerged.
The conservative Tea Party movement magnified voters' fears around what they had nicknamed “Obamacare.” They used social media to extend their message and began spreading rumors about Obama. They became fixated on the rumor that Obama was an illegitimate president because he had really been born in Kenya.
For his part, Obama decided to direct his focus on shoring up Democratic support. He organized a prime-time address before a joint session of Congress but was interrupted in the middle of his speech when a South Carolina congressman shouted “You lie!” at him. Despite all the opposition, the Affordable Care Act finally passed in the Senate on Christmas Eve of 2009, following a full 24-hour debate on the Senate floor, and just a few months later, it passed the House as well.
Understandably, Obama was thrilled with his big win. He also decided that this was the time he would quit smoking, this time for good. However, he and his team couldn't rest just yet. The midterm elections were coming up, and they had managed to accomplish quite a few things with the Democrats controlling Congress and holding a supermajority in the Senate.
However, the economy was still down, and many Americans were still suffering financially. Americans were not feeling the benefits of the Obama presidency's accomplishments, and they expressed that fact with their votes. In the midterms, the Democrats endured the worst loss a party had endured since the 1930s, losing 63 seats in the House and their Senate supermajority.