Last year, at the University of Michigan, Mitt Romney gave a speech on health care to address his prior support for the individual mandate—the linchpin for the Affordable Care Act and Romneycare in Massachusetts. The core of his speech—and of his message on health care since then—was that it’s unacceptable for the federal government to require health insurance for its citizens. As he said:
Our plan was a state solution to a state problem. And his is a power grab by the federal government to put in place a one size fits all plan across the nation.
Of course, this isn’t true. The Affordable Care Act maintains the private health-insurance market and requires people to buy into it if they don’t have insurance or qualify for Medicaid. If the ACA is a “one size fits all" plan, than by dint of similarity, Romneycare is the same.
It’s for that reason that, at the time, I was skeptical of this whole maneuver. There was no way that conservatives could really believe Romney when he made the bogus distinction between his plan and the administration’s. In the same way that discrimination is discrimination, whether it’s practiced by local, state, or federal authorities, if the requirement to purchase health insurance is tyranny, then it’s tyranny everywhere, regardless of how it’s implemented.
As it turns out, I was completely wrong. Not only has Romney escaped any serious harm for his (huge) role in setting the template for “Obamacare” but his constant denunciations of the law have given him credibility with actual conservatives, who now endorse the former Massachusetts governor’s logic on Romneycare. Here’s Ann Coulter, for example:
As The New York Times put it, “Mr. Romney’s bellicose opposition to ‘Obamacare’ is an almost comical contradiction to his support for the same idea in Massachusetts when he was governor there.” This is like saying state school-choice plans are “the same idea” as the Department of Education. […]
As Rick Santorum has pointed out, states can enact all sorts of laws—including laws banning contraception—without violating the Constitution. That document places strict limits on what Congress can do, not what the states can do. Romney, incidentally, has always said his plan would be a bad idea nationally. [Emphasis mine]
It should be said that, before he flipped to the right in preparation for a presidential run, Romney insisted that his plan would make a good model for the country.
That aside, it’s simply incredible to me that conservatives would buy Romney’s ridiculous logic. But it seems that they trust Romney enough on health-care repeal to let the issue slide. Which should put a damper on liberal hopes that, if elected, Romney won’t try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. For as much as the public is skeptical of politicians—especially presidential aspirants—students of the presidency have found that presidents genuinely try to fulfill the promises they made as candidates.
If you want to know how Mitt Romney will govern, all you have to do is listen to him. And in that case, a President Romney would cater to the rich, return to the bellicose foreign policy of George W. Bush, and dismantle the social safety net, Obamacare included.