'Grubered': How did MIT economist become buzzword for Obamacare woes?

Why is 'Grubered' a new favorite buzzword for conservatives? Jonathan Gruber's video remarks appear to signal that Democrats knew that President Obama's signature health-care law was terrible all along.

Charles Krupa/AP/File
Jonathan Gruber, an adviser in drafting President Obama's health-care law, poses in his home in Lexington, Mass., on Feb. 8, 2011. Newly surfaced videos featuring comments by the MIT economist on how the 'stupidity of the American voter' helped politicians pass the law have revived the push by congressional conservatives for its repeal.

A new eponymous phrase favored by conservatives, about misleading the public on a prominent political issue. For critics of President Obama and his administration, the similarity of “Grubered” in spelling and rhyme to pejorative words like “grubby” and “snookered” enhances its appeal.

“Grubered” refers to MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, a 2009-10 architect of the Affordable Care Act. In November 2014, videos surfaced of Gruber lamenting the public’s “stupidity” and ignorance over the specifics of Obamacare. Conservatives are using the controversy to show that Democrats knew the law was terrible all along.

“If you have a law that makes explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed,” he said in one video. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage, and basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

Once the videos emerged, the previously braggadocio academic suddenly went quiet, refusing media interviews. But not before conservatives turned his name into a verb – on health care and a range of other perceived Obama administration misdeeds.

The Club for Growth said in an e-mail that what it calls misleading data from the Export-Import Bank may have been “Grubered.” A headline on conservative Newsbusters blared, “AP Fact Check Finds Obama Grubered Immigration Speech.”

Gruber is hardly the only public figure in 2014 to have his name involuntarily turned into a verb. As previously noted, Rep. Eric Cantor's epic failure to win his June GOP primary spawned a new term synonymous with the unforeseen dethronement of a powerful politician. During the 2014 election cycle, "Cantored" came to supplant the longtime phrase "getting primaried," which represents the threat of an incumbent facing a primary challenger who deems his or her opponent to be insufficiently conservative.

Just weeks after the then-House majority leader’s primary defeat, New York magazine mused about 42-year incumbent Rep. Charlie Rangel’s (D) of New York intraparty challenge: “6 Primaries to Watch – Rangel’s Rematch and Who Might Be ‘Cantored’” (Rangel survived, and is pledging to retire after the 2016 elections.)

Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark write their "Speaking Politics" blog exclusively for Decoder Voices. 

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