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.