American People vs. Politicians: Group Vitality Achieved Through the Construction and Realignment of Political Cultural Identity in Online Comments About “Obamacare”

American People vs. Politicians: Group Vitality Achieved Through the Construction and Realignment of Political Cultural Identity in Online Comments About “Obamacare”

Anastacia Dawn Kurylo (St. Joseph's College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3784-7.ch010

Abstract

To study political identity construction, a thematic analysis is used to explore online reviews of the book Beating Obamacare. Themes that emerged construct four political identities relevant to the construction Obamacare, the American public, President Obama and politicians, and those in opposition to Obamacare. The construction of these identities contributes to group vitality. This process is facilitated by the juxtaposition of the construction of the American public with those who oppose Obamacare versus politicians. Notably, this construction is accomplished with the near absence of reference to political party affiliation creating a realignment of political identity in a way that provides stronger group vitality than would be achieved across traditional partisan lines. This chapter has implications for understanding how identity is constructed online to demonstrate group vitality in ways that facilitate intracultural and intercultural communication.
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Introduction

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010. This controversial legislation has been received with mixed reviews and has been a lightning rod for political ideological debate and grandstanding from those espousing various political perspectives (e.g., Goldzwig, 2013; Johnston, Hillygus, & Bartels, 2014). In this way, the Affordable Care Act is more than a law; it provides a talking point that can help establish political alignment as evidenced by its politically loaded nickname ‘Obamacare’ that references, or rather attributes blame to, Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States (Hopper, 2015). As a construct used for political alignment, the way in which the Affordable Care Act is discussed can inform about current American political identities. This chapter exposes how communication about ACA constructs political identities. This construction process has high stakes because it facilitates the group vitality (Giles, 1978) of political groups within the American political system as they vie for power and compete to exist within the current American political climate.

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