Yes We Can! (if Mitt Romney did it first)

Few weapons are more effective in politics than well-placed ridicule. Used incompetently, however, political mockery is just cringe-inducing.

Case in point: the event the Iowa Democratic Party staged yesterday to make fun of Mitt Romney.

Iowa Democratic Party press release, April 12, 2011:

State Senator Jack Hatch, IDP Chair Sue Dvorsky, Iowans Thank Mitt Romney on 5th Anniversary of Mass. Health Care Reform

Call On Romney To Come To Iowa, Discuss His Accomplishments In Reform

DES MOINES – Today State Senator Jack Hatch, Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky and Iowans in support of health care reform gathered on the 5th anniversary of Mitt Romney’s health care plan being signed into law to thank Romney for providing the critical momentum necessary to get President Obama’s vision of health reform through Congress and signed into law.

Video of the event will be available shortly at: www.youtube.com/iowademocraticparty

Tanya Keith, Des Moines small business owner

“We want to thank Mitt Romney on the 5th anniversary of health care reform passing in Massachusetts… we are so grateful to Mitt for being an advocate and inspiration to Democrats across the country”

State Senator Jack Hatch

“Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have really done more for health care reform than anyone in my generation… Governor Romney signing that bill opened up the flood gates, states now are participating in a national plan to provide health care to everybody in their state.  As a Democrat we’ve been talking about this for 50 years, but never were we able to do anything substantive with health care reform… it all stemmed from the fact that we had an opening, Governor Romney provided that – he’s the only Governor that signed such a progressive type of health care.”

Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky

“This accomplishment by Governor Romney was really groundbreaking.  It was a seminal move that got us moving and allowed President Obama some room to stand on… Governor Romney needs to come here and talk to us about this… this is an important part of the national conversation.”

I get the joke. It’s laughable for Romney to run for president denouncing “Obamacare,” even though the health care reform Obama signed in 2010 looks a lot like the system Romney helped create in 2006.

Still, I am stunned that Democrats think this message helps them in any way. How many things are wrong with this picture?

Romney wasn’t the key force behind the Massachusetts plan. Health care reform was a 20-year project in that state. For various reasons, insurance providers and health care advocates started working on proposals for universal coverage before Romney filed legislation outlining his vision for reform.

Continuing the revisionist history, early Obama endorsers Hatch and Dvorsky now ask us to believe that the president and Congressional Democrats could never have enacted health care reform without Romney’s “groundbreaking” and “progressive” accomplishment, which gave Democrats the “opening” they needed.

I saw a few Obama stump speeches in person and many more on video. I don’t remember hearing that “change we can believe in” is possible because of what a Republican governor did in Massachusetts.

By the way, Senator “Yes We Can!” didn’t campaign on following Romney’s example. The centerpiece of “Romneycare” is the individual mandate to purchase private health insurance. During the Democratic primary campaign, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards both made an individual mandate part of their health care reform proposals. Obama argued vigorously against that policy.

In fact, the federal judge who struck down the Affordable Care Act because of the individual mandate cited candidate Obama:

“I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that, ‘If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house,’” Judge Vinson wrote in a footnote toward the end of his 78-page ruling Monday.

Also, candidate Obama made a lot of promises on health care reform that didn’t end up in the Romneycare-resembling bill he signed. Such as: if you like the policy you have you can keep it; the plan will allow re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada; Medicare will be able to negotiate for lower drug prices; a national health insurance exchange will increase competition among insurance providers; through the exchange, Americans will have the option of enrolling in a public health insurance plan; large employers that don’t provide health insurance will have to “contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan”; the government will cover catastrophic health care costs.

Romney is not and should not be an “inspiration to Democrats across the country.” Hatch knows it, Dvorsky knows it, everyone knows it.

Democrats should be ashamed that despite a huge presidential election victory and historically large Congressional majorities, the Affordable Care Act turned out to be Romneycare writ large.

But no, we are going for a cheap laugh, celebrating Romney as a progressive hero for our generation.

In fairness to the Iowa Democratic Party, they didn’t invent this stunt. Democrats nationally and in other states with early nominating contests have been demonstratively “thanking” Romney for health care reform. This joke is the White House/DNC strategy to throw Romney off message the week he formed an exploratory committee for a presidential bid.

Romney’s incoherent stand on health care is foolish, but so is advertising how thoroughly the Democratic Party sold out its base and its stated principles to pass a conservative, industry-friendly bill.

Full disclosure: Tanya Keith is a personal friend. Since our friendship survived many Obama fan/Obamaskeptic dialogues during months of being precinct captains for rival candidates, I’m betting it can survive this post.

  • Amen

    Republicans have controlled the political dialogue for many years.  Democrats have been reduced to “Me, too!” status, a description that once applied to Eisenhower Republicans

  • Do you have any sense of sarcasm?

    Was the rally a genuine celebration of Mitt Romney’s progressive health care agenda? Obviously not. It was a tongue in cheek mockery of his decision to act in accordance with the political currents in Massachusetts and out of step with the national Republican platform. The rally was intended to underscore the reality that absolutist Republican rhetoric is disingenuous.

    However, I agree that the rally was counterproductive. By communicating a legitimate message in the context of a comedic performance, the Iowa Democrats forced people not to take it seriously.  

    • I get that

      which is why I said in the second sentence of the post that political mockery can be cringe-inducing if it’s not done well.

      Ostensibly the joke is on Mitt Romney, but Democrats who supported (and genuinely hoped for) real health care reform are the punch line here.

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