This is a repost of a piece that I did for BMJ's doc2doc blog.
There is a familiar adage: "There are two things in life that you can't avoid -- death and taxes". The opponents of the US healthcare reform clearly tapped into this adage to formulate their anti-Obama strategy. Since the Americans seem to fear death and taxes more than anything, even being swindled by insurance company executives or losing their healthcare coverage if they lose their jobs, this has been a supremely effective way to shape the counter message. The cherry on top is that it leverages the perennial paranoia of socialism, so familiar to the generation that grew up during the cold war.
The message goes like this: This healthcare reform is going to broaden government powers, so that it will intrude in your lives. This newly empowered government will take away not only your money (as in raise your taxes), but your life as well (hence the "death panels" talk). Here you go, a tidy message combining all of our primal fears -- death, taxes, socialism. Who could ask for a better marketing tool? And who could ask for a more gullible audience accustomed to dealing with complex issues in fortune cookie sound bites?