Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner: Romney, Republicans & Obamacare

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July 14, 2012 by Nash Riggins

Following the Supreme Court’s heavily contested ruling on Obamacare, Mitt Romney has once again found himself between a rock and a hard place – and he’s got his conservative supporters to thank.

On the one hand, the Republican presidential candidate is being less-than subtly urged by a vast majority of his conservative supporters in order to condemn all aspects of Obamacare as a socialist raid on a justly privatised industry by way of a totalitarian, federalist autocracy. Meanwhile, on the other hand, the Supreme Court’s ruling simultaneously leaves little room for any distinction whatsoever between Obamacare and the healthcare mandate which was passed by Mitt Romney whilst he served as Massachusetts’ governor in 2006.

Indeed, the Massachusetts Health Care Insurance Reform Law – commonly referred to as Romneycare – mandated that all residents of Massachusetts obtain a minimum level of government-regulated health insurance coverage, whilst concurrently ensuring that all state residents living near or below the poverty line received free, government-subsidized health insurance. What’s more, the very successful piece of social legislature also featured the threat of a monetary penalty for all those who did not invest in affordable health insurance – the very aspect of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that the Supreme Court had been summoned to rule on.

Although conservative Republicans have attacked Obama’s policy from a number of angles, Mr Romney has attempted to maintain the argument that healthcare reform is an issue that should be decided upon at the state-level, and an individual mandate is indeed acceptable so long as it does not undermine the federal government’s Commerce Clause. Unfortunately for said argument, the Supreme Court ruling last month suggests that the Commerce Clause need not be involved in Obamacare at all so long as the monetary penalty of the mandate maintains the appearance of a tax.

Romney unsurprisingly chose to respond to the ruling by reasserting his wary conviction that the mandate is not a tax, but an unmitigated unconstitutional penalty being imposed upon hard-working individuals. Unfortunately for Mr Romney, the majority of his conservative supporters begged to differ by continuing their assumption that Obamacare’s mandate is a tax – and as a result have now pushed their presumed presidential candidate into making a very unpopular decision.

Mitt Romney must now choose his stance on Obamacare; however, given the utter lack of regulatory distinction between Obamacare and Romneycare, the decision boasts no favourable outcomes. On the one hand, Romney can choose to maintain that the Act’s individual mandate is not a tax – therefore tossing out the majority of arguments his supporters have compiled throughout the past several months and admitting that he wrongfully penalised the people of Massachusetts. Meanwhile, on the other hand, he can choose to side with his supporters by asserting that Obama’s mandate is a tax – in which case he inadvertently declares that he broke his promise to the state of Massachusetts by raising their taxes.

If anything, Romney’s conservative advisors should have predicted that taking such a resolute stance on this issue could have potentially backed the presidential candidate into a corner. Indeed, it would have made far more sense if someone had encouraged Romney to take issue with the moral implications of the Act rather than its legality – after all, at least the Supreme Court does not have the ability to prove the legality of whether or not federally funded birth control aligns with Christian values.

Either way, Romney hasn’t made any concrete arguments as to the latter – so he is simultaneously left with the bitter realisation that his base of support knowingly pushed him into a corner. Why? Well, given the amount of flack Romney continues to face from many right-wing publications, evidence suggests that numerous conservatives are still unsure as to how much faith they place in the former governor and his social policies; however, those same supporters must now be forced to deal with the cards they have been dealt. If conservatives are able to compromise enough of their values in order to fully align with those of Romney, he just might have a real shot at taking the Oval Office in November – yet if conservatives continue to bully Romney into corners, they will soon find themselves reliving the ‘unmitigated horror’ of four more years under Barack Obama.

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