Sometimes I find myself feeling sorry for Mitt Romney. No, seriously. In another time and place, he might have been respected as an effective technocrat – a smart guy valued (although probably not loved) for his ability to get things done. In fact, that’s kind of how it worked when he was governor of Massachusetts, a decade ago.
But now it’s 2015 in America, and Romney’s party doesn’t want people who get things done. On the contrary, it actively hates government programs that improve American lives, especially if they help Those People. And this means that Romney can’t celebrate his signature achievement in public life, the Massachusetts health reform that served as a template for Obamacare.
This has to hurt. Indeed, a few days ago Romney couldn’t help himself: He boasted to The Boston Globe that “Without Romneycare, we wouldn’t have had Obamacare” and that as a result “a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.” And it’s true!
But such truths aren’t welcome in the GOP. Ben Carson, who is leading the latest polls of Iowa Republicans, has declared that Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to America since slavery; 81 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers say that this statement makes him more attractive as a candidate.
Not surprisingly, then, Romney quickly tried to walk his comments back, claiming that Obamacare is very different from Romneycare, which it isn’t, and that Obamacare has failed.
But you know, it hasn’t. On the contrary, the Affordable Care Act has been a remarkable success, especially considering the scorched-earth opposition it has faced.
Oh, and have you noticed how those ads featuring people supposedly hurt by Obamacare have disappeared? That’s because none of their stories held up.
Meanwhile, none of the bad things that were supposed to happen have. Employment growth since the “job-killing” law went into effect has been faster than at any time since the 1990s. Employers have not, in fact, eliminated full-time jobs to avoid the act’s provisions. And the budget deficit keeps falling.
You have to wonder: Does Romney really think that his party would look more favorably on Obamacare if it worked even better than it has, if it cost no money at all? If so, he’s delusional. After all, the great majority of Republican-controlled states have turned down free money, refusing to let the federal government expand Medicaid (and in so doing pump money into their economies.)
The point is that from the point of view of the Republican base, covering the uninsured, or helping the unlucky in general, isn’t a feature, it’s a bug. It’s not about how much it costs in taxpayer funds or economic impact: the base is actually willing to lose money in order to perpetuate suffering.
And a movement with those values has no use for technocrats. Ask Ben Bernanke, who has given up on a party in thrall to the “know-nothingism of the far right.”
Maybe Romney still imagines that a desperate party will call on him to save it from Donald Trump. Or maybe he just can’t bring himself to admit that he picked the wrong group of people to hang out with. Either way, one hopes for his sake that he eventually gives up his illusions. Trust me, Mitt: It will be a liberating experience.