Opinion: Stop Saying the Individual Mandate is a Republican Idea, it's Not.

Thursday, May 03, 2012 - 03:39 PM

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) is applauded after signing the Affordable Health Care for America Act during a ceremony with fellow Democrats in the East Room of the White House (Getty Images)

It's time to dispel this silly little myth, that Democratic talking heads continue to push, that the individual mandate is a conservative piece of legislation.

Several years ago, the Heritage Foundation, and several other prominent Republicans, were among those that pushed the idea of requiring people to buy health insurance, but that doesn't make it a conservative idea. Let me explain why...

I'm a centrist. I have a fairly popular centrist blog, and I have connections at most of the noteworthy centrist and moderate organizations out there. Lets say I, or someone like me, went out and was able to convince the moderate moderate think tank New America Foundation (where two former bloggers for my site work) and No Labels to pen some posts on their sites about a new idea I came up with. Bully on us... we got a conversation started.

Then some other centrist and moderate bloggers pick the idea up, and later some even bigger columnists and pundits give it some time in their columns. It's gets some more play in the news after some politician of note mentions it in an interview, and it's now really out there, in the marketplace of ideas. A few months later, after pundits who both like it and don't like it have talked it to death, pollsters find that most centrists and moderates don't like it after all.

Is it a centrist idea, just because some centrist bloggers and think tankers came up with it? Of course not... that's a ridiculous definition. Something is a _____ idea if most _____s actually like the idea. That a bunch of conservative thought leader types liked the individual mandate years ago does not make it a conservative idea, or not a conservative idea for that matter, and a bunch of liberals cartoonishly hawking the idea as a dig against their opponents makes even less sense as a way to plot it on the ideological spectrum. The fact that a majority of conservatives polled after it had been in the marketplace of ideas for a while don't like it does, however, show that it can't be fairly called a conservative idea.

No small group of people get to decide what ideas fall into the left, right and center of the political spectrum. The American people get to decide that. And as much as the inflated egos that populate the halls of power in Washington would like to pretend otherwise, none of them own the terms liberal, conservative or libertarian either. People can try to change the minds of the groups of people that fall into those segments, and they're constantly trying to do just that. But they're just as liable to fail as they are to succeed. You never really know how something is going to play out until it's in the wild.

It's also important to note that the individual mandate used to be seen as far from a liberal stance. But again, it's an issue that never really was widely debated and it wasn't until the last few years that it got the play it needed to be chewed on by a wide portion of the left. The concerns that some liberal thinkers had lost out when the wider liberal community got to thinking about it. Now the overwhelming majority of those who still support the individual mandate are on the left, even if they'd prefer something like single payer even more.

Ultimately though, this sort of attack is no more than a run of the mill mischaracterization, trotted out because the Democratic spin machine has run out of real arguments in their attempt to convince the rest of us that the mandate is the right thing to do.  If they want to convince the American people that the position they've recently come to themselves is the way to go, they're going to have to come up with much better talking points than this.


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Comments [7]

dsimon from Manhattan

Yes, it's true that just because some ___s like an idea does not make it a ____ idea. But it's indisputable that the mandate used to have not just some but considerable conservative support.

The proposal that Republicans offered in response to Clinton's plan had a mandate and 20 Republican cosponsors in the Senate. Gingrich, Romney, and others are on record as saying that the mandate was a way of requiring "individual responsibility" for health care. As the post says, the Heritage Foundation and others supported the idea.

Now, I agree that the origins of the idea are immaterial as to whether it's a good idea. But it is amazing to see so many former supporters of the mandate simply flip on the issue without much of a good reason. Regardless of the ideological conservative/liberal label, there's not much of an excuse for pretty blatant hypocrisy. A good question might be not whether the mandate is conservative, but why so many conservatives now oppose it when they used to support it.

Jul. 21 2012 01:04 PM

@Marcello from Brooklyn Dude You ROCK! Excellent comments. Also, one thing that @Solomon Kleinsmith doesn't address is that Governor Romney used the same "Mandate" when he was Guv'nor!

Jul. 14 2012 10:49 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

You conclude your post by saying that "if (the Democrats)want to convince the American people that the position they've recently come to themselves is the way to go, they're going to have to come up with much better talking points than this”.
So I listed a few "talking points" that might help frame the "individual mandate" issue in the largest contest of the disaster that is the American health care but, judging, from your response that was out of the topic.
Ok...I can see that.
But then I really don't understand what your whole post was about!!... The ideological label of the Individual mandate?... Whether it's a right idea or a left idea?!...
Who cares??!!...
I don't know if anybody in America noticed but the issue of health care in most of the world's advanced nations has been solved and put to rest a long time ago. No other developed country is still struggling to figure out how to care for its citezens or avoid to have their budgets devastated by the continuous raise of health care cost.
So here is another funny thing: I don't like the individual mandate either! I would have preferred a public option or, even better, the expansion of Medicare. But I guess that would have been "too socialist" for Americans...
So instead we got this thing and we'll see if and how it works. But, in the meantime, anything that could move us away from the current scandal that is the American health care system is better than the NOTHING that has been done so far. Even something as convoluted as the the individual mandate is better than the status-quo because at least shows the willingness to bring some change about, even if in a painfully incremental way.

May. 27 2012 11:58 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

And I don't worship at the altar of the founding fathers, so I don't know what that has to do with any of this. Like most people, I don't think the mandate is right. That some people over two hundred years ago thought it was okay doesn't have any effect on my opinion, one way or the other.

May. 12 2012 06:53 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

What's funny about Marcello's "response" is nothing he mentioned has anything to do with the individual mandate. He's playing that same childish game that a lot of people on the left are playing in saying that being against the individual mandate is the same as being against health care reform.

It isn't. I think the democrats should have had to raise taxes to pay for the health care reform bill, and I would have paid higher taxes myself to do so (and I'm in the lower middle class right now), rather than forcing people to buy something - which I hope the Supreme Court overturns. I also think that the majority of the rest of the bill is good, even though I'd tweak some things.

Par for the course Marcello, and sad.

May. 12 2012 06:50 PM

I think I can settle this debate conclusively.
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have had an idea in decades.
Therefore, the individual mandidate is not a Republican idea any more than it is a Democratic idea.

When you hear people talking about the 'dood' ideas that [Republicans|Democrats] have, you should be asking yourself: "When was the last time you heard this?", because it is inevitably a recycling of some time-honored theme the party partisans get all giddy about.

May. 05 2012 04:48 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

“If they want to convince the American people that the position they've recently come to themselves is the way to go, they're going to have to come up with much better talking points than this”.

Ok... How about the fact that the American “health care system” is the only one among advanced countries that leaves 16% of the population without any sort of coverage?
How about the fact that even those who have insurance can see their claims denied on the basis of frivolous technicalities made up by insurance companies?
How about the fact that the raising costs of health care represent one of the biggest threats to the fiscal stability of the country?
How about the fact that private insurance administrative costs amount to more than 10% of their total operating cost which are then passed on to the consumer?
How about the fact that administrative costs of Medicare amount to only 3% of their total operating cost and that they are NOT passed on directly to Medicare beneficiaries?
How about the fact that the American private insurance-based “health care system” is designed to deny medical coverage specifically to those who need it the most through the 'pre-existing condition clause?
How about the fact that no other civilized country in the world adopts a system such as the American one?
How about the fact that, left to conservatives, this disaster would remain exactly the same (if anything they would further dismantle Medicare/Medicaid and undo even the modest experiment of the Affordable Care Act?)
How are these as “talking points”?

And here is a little bonus for you. According to study by Professor Einer Elhauge of Harvard Law School discussed in the New Republic, three times (in 1790, 1792 and 1798) early Congresses - in which a significant number of founding fathers served - proposed bills containing mandates that were then signed into law requiring people to buy stuff exactly as the current health care mandate does.
Here it is:

May. 04 2012 11:33 AM

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