This has been the question that has haunted Romney since he began his half-decade campaign for the Presidency: Why don’t conservatives trust him? Why don’t they support him with wild-eyed abandon? One of the fundamental problems is Romney-care, but more than this alone, there is a general sense among conservatives that Mitt Romney isn’t one of us. He doesn’t view the world or the role of government in the same way as conservatives do, and inasmuch as this may be true, he won’t be willing to reverse any of the socialist programs with which we’ve been saddled. More, it is his indefinite pronouncements on the direction of our country that give conservatives reason to worry: He tells us we’re heading in the “wrong direction,” but without ever telling us what is concretely the “right direction,” except in similarly vague terms. Conservatives have heard all of this before, and we’re not enamored with where it has landed us. Let us consider the issue of Romney-care, and what it may tell us about what drives Romney’s thinking.
Romney-care is the Massachusetts health-care program that was begun under his leadership. He stands by that program, arguing that states may do such things as impose mandates on their citizens, but the federal government may not, and that this nuanced difference is his escape clause. Of course, the first printing of his book told readers it was a program with national potential, but that line has been removed from subsequent printings. Let us first assume he is correct (though he isn’t,) and that the concept of federalism lets him off the hook, and that on such a basis, it was permissible for the state of Massachusetts to do a thing the Federal government may not. That a thing may be done still doesn’t mean that it should be done. What the Massachusetts health-care program’s mandate and his willingness to enact it tells us about Mitt Romney is that at some fundamental level, he doesn’t believe individuals should have sovereignty over their choices, their lives, and their bodies, even as at the same time, he held the view that women should be able to abort their children as a matter of free choice.
If you consider this contradiction, it is astonishing at first blush, and you might wonder how he reconciled the two views. The simple answer could be that he didn’t, but instead treated them as different matters in different contexts, however this is only possible if he has no principles whatever. The other answer for this contradiction is that you and I are evaluating this through our lenses, but not through his. What could make the difference in this question is that while you and I consider it under the microscope of individual liberties and rights, Mitt Romney scrutinized it under a very different lens with entirely different filters: He viewed it as a question of what was in the best interests of the state. Only under that sort of lens can this contradiction be erased. From the point of view of the statist, the government has a vested interest in controlling health-care costs irrespective of individual wishes, desires or needs; likewise in the interest of the state, tamping down reproduction by any means is a good method to restrain all costs across the board.
Once you have been equipped with this alternate lens, Romney’s apparent contradiction on the matter is eliminated, but in its place is something remarkably worse: An abiding consistency to serve the interest of the state over individual rights. In Mitt Romney’s view, the rights of individuals are fine unless and until they come into conflict with the state, at which time he defers to the governmental interest. This is the precise problem with Romney’s Massachusetts health-care reforms, in precisely the same way as it is the problem with Obama’s.
Of course, all of that is only valid insofar as we accept his argument about federalism, and that Massachusetts has the right to violate the individual liberties of residents to a greater degree than does the Federal government. In confronting Obamacare, various constitutional scholars are quick to point out that there is no precedent for the Federal government requiring the purchase of anything. Romney’s crowd adheres to that position, and instead points to various states’ mandates to purchase auto insurance. This too is a lie, because it ignores something fundamental about the nature of the car insurance policy that the state requires you to purchase: They can only require that you purchase liability insurance. They cannot compel you to purchase collision, comprehensive, or any other form. Instead, all they can compel you to do is buy insurance to cover the damage or loss you and your car may impose upon others. They can do nothing to compel you to insure against your own losses.
This is precisely what a health-care mandate requires you to do, and it’s the reason that even the phony argument about federalism falls by the wayside in this instance. What Romney’s Massachusetts health-care plan does is to compel individuals to insure their health on the premise that the state should avoid the costs, but the problem with this is that a state’s health-care spending is entirely permissive: There is no requirement under law or logic that a state pick up any health-care costs. Thus is it that in order to justify the necessity of the mandate, the state must first exceed its proper role and function, and make of it a mandatory role. This too is a consistent position of the statist, and it’s why on the issue of Romney-care, no actual conservative can support Romney in good conscience: His is a view of individuals ultimately in compulsory service to the interests of the state. Just like Obama.
Translating this view across every conceivable issue, what conservatives can very easily imagine is another president who casts the long shadow of the state across every aspect of their lives. This is precisely what we do not need, and yet this is who the party establishment and the media now offer up as our “inevitable nominee.” Conservatives are right to distrust anybody who comes to the podium and offers vague answers about the direction of the country, because what Romney dare not reveal to you is the set of lenses through which he views our problems. Romney doesn’t see big, socialistic government as a problem, but instead only quibbles about this particular implementation of it. That is the fact with which conservatives are now confronted, and it’s no secret that they’re almost uniformly unhappy about it, although neither do they possess a single alternate solution. Romney-care is just one issue among many in which Romney can be seen as little different from Obama, but his view on TARP and other matters is not dis-similar either. In the end, he said of the various bail-outs undertaken by Bush and Obama that they were necessities. For whom? The answer they always disguise is the same: These actions were in the “interests of the state.”
If you want to know why conservatives don’t trust Romney, you really need look no further than this. His reflex to accommodate the interests of the government at the expense of individuals lies at the heart of the matter. In this respect, he’s no different from every other “big government liberal” who are really just socialists, but in less “divisive” language. Statism is a disease that grows like a cancer in the hearts of lesser men, because they do not trust to others the proper self-governance even of their own lives. If we want a candidate who will meddle in our lives, and ignore individual liberties in the interests of the state, we might just as well re-elect Obama, because after all, if the interests of the state are to be the supreme yardstick in all cases, then all we need do is shut up and pay for it. This is why conservatives don’t trust Mitt Romney, and it’s why we ought not nominate him, much less elect him.