Here is a conservative joke (one of four in existence, I believe): Two right-wing dudes are flying to China. First Dude asks second Dude, “Have you ever been to a socialist country before?” Second Dude replies, “No, but I’ve been to Massachusetts.” Har, Har, Har!
But, of course, in the right-wing pantheon of values, Massachusetts has always held a place somewhere below France.
So it is depressingly obvious that the path former governor Mitt Romney is taking to squirm out of the paradox he has constructed on health care reform is going to be: demonize Massachusetts.
Steve Benen puts it concisely:
Romney’s pitch, in effect, asks Republicans to focus on one small problem rather than his larger problem. His argument boils down to, “That radical, communistic health care policy you hate so intensely? Don’t worry, I only did that at the state level.” I’m still not sure how or why GOP primary voters would find this compelling.
Jonathan Chait explains in TNR: the logic that this entails:
So the argument here is that health care policy, like real estate, comes down to three things: location, location, location. Some states will choose health care systems that promote freedom, and other states will choose health care systems that destroy it, like, um, Massachusetts.
Hmm. I don’t think this argument is going to hold up. I think Romney needs to try another tack. He should say that he destroyed the freedom of the people of Massachusetts because the people of Massachusetts do not deserve to live in freedom. This would be in keeping with the long-standing Republican position that Massachusetts is not part of America. Indeed, he destroyed freedom in Massachusetts as a warning to the rest of America that it should cherish its freedom to show up the emergency room without health insurance and pay for their life-saving treatment by handing over their entire net worth, as the Founders intended.
This is yet another one of those cases where Chait’s Swiftian exaggerations may turn out not to be exaggerations at all.
But, given the field of his competitors, DON’T put up the blimp yet. This is one of the craziest presidential melees since 1948 when the Democrats had the crazies (Strom Thurmond, Henry Wallace the darling of the fellow-travelers). And yet the Democratic candidate, Harry Truman, ended up winning. I’m thinking that despite this health care conundrum Romney has a very good chance of ending up as the nominee, given the level of derangement in the Republican party.
We need to modify Lord Acton’s famous dictum: “Power corrupts, but, having tasted power, the prospect of more corrupts absolutely.”