There is an onerous practice among professional politicians which I call political denial. It takes place when a politician running for office denies a legislative success, speech, or other public action which characterized (his) previous political life, but which is currently embarrassing. It represents a “flip flop” in principles and is employed primarily to gain votes which might otherwise be jeopardized by the previous action.
A perfect case in point is that of Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. The seminal accomplishment of Romney during his tenure as Governor was the signing of a comprehensive Health Care bill which put in place one of the best pieces of legislation on the topic in America. At the time, Romney lauded the action as being groundbreaking, and speculated that it was only a matter of time before every State in the Union would endorse the same, or similar legislation. It was that good!
One of the outgrowths of that Massachusetts legislation was the Comprehensive Health Care law which is one of the most significant accomplishments of the Obama administration. It is clear (and has been stated many times) that the law enacted is nearly identical to the Massachusetts Health Care law, and that it was modeled on that law.
However, the Republican Party has chosen to make rejection of that federal law a keystone in the Republican agenda for the 2012 Presidential campaign. The Republicans call it Obamacare, and say that it is socialistic, illegal, and rejected by the voting public. Any candidate who expects to be on the Republican slate for 2012 needs to support that flawed concept.
The problem is that Romney wants to be the Republican candidate for President. Obviously, his problem is that he cannot claim victory for his game-changing Massachusetts legislation and appease the leadership and voters within the Republican Party. So what can Romney do?
- He could be a strong, independent-thinking Republican and work hard to convince the voters in the Primaries that objection to the health care bill is not a direction for this country to pursue. It would mean bucking the leadership of the Party and bucking the Tea Party element who have chosen “Obamacare” as their political target for 2012. Or,
- He can deny the strength of the Massachusetts legislation, therefore over-riding all the positive political points he garnered for shepherding the bill through the Massachusetts legislature. He can blame it on all kinds of things, and stipulate that the legislation was specifically for one state at one point in history, but would be bad for the rest of the country. That’s called political denial.
The second option appears to be the direction in which Romney has chosen to move. He spent a lot of time this week identifying the Massachusetts bill as good for that State but bad for the nation. He is playing a “state’s rights” agenda, saying that it should be the province of each state to decide for itself how to handle the issue of health care. It’s an old GOP mantra, and it’s kind of worn at the seams. The fact is that the Massachusetts law has been received by the people of Massachusetts as being revolutionary and life-saving, and its components are exactly what is needed at the national level.
The truth is that the current law, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, is a major step forward for this country. It is a bill which has many great points, some good points, and … like any ground-breaking legislation … points that need revisiting and revising. If the Republicans in Congress really cared about health care for all Americans they would abandon this flawed agenda to rescind President Obama’s health care legislation. Instead, they would be working with the Democrats in Congress to adjust and improve upon the existing legislation, the first significant health care bill in decades to pass through Congress.
Political Denial, such as being employed by Romney, is disingenuous, and does not add a positive quality to the criteria of a candidate. The American people are smarter than they are being given credit for, and they can see right through the political ramifications of Romney’s game. He is someone who may have had an opportunity to represent his party in the Presidential election of 2012, but his embracing of denial and manipulation of history is, in all probability, a death blow to that possibility.
Other candidates (from both parties) can take a lesson from Romney on this. Consistency in political ideals is a valued criterion for the selection of national leaders. All the rhetoric, campaign splash, and media spin in the world cannot shield the truth about a candidate’s past. Social media is a factor in politics at a level that it overrides an Iowa stump or a New Hampshire campaign. When the lights have been turned off and the doors locked after a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Internet is in full blaze.
Photo Credit: Romney